A Different Kind of Engineering

Nathan Silberman

2000 feet above and 3 minutes from touchdown on the moon, a 1201 alarm sounded in the Apollo 11 lunar module. The cause? Executive Overflow. The Apollo guidance computer was out of memory. Whoops.

While neither Neil Armstrong nor Buzz Aldrin identified the source, guidance controllers in Houston recognized the alarm, kept their cool, and made the decision to continue. In this high-stakes environment, decisions needed to be made quickly with severe consequences for error. Underlying each decision were signals from a dizzying array of well crafted, precision engineered systems. Alien as this environment was, fast-paced, high stakes, systems-driven decision making isn’t foreign. It’s probably happening within several miles of you. Right now. And it’s in this environment that Butterfly Engineering shines.

Emergency rooms are staffed with life-or-death decision makers trained from years of experience. Doctors, nurses, support. Each play a role in the hectic orchestra that characterizes urgent care. When a patient comes in from a car accident, or is suffering from blunt trauma, emergency room physicians must rapidly gauge cardiovascular health, check the abdomen for internal bleeding, and examine pulmonary systems for blockage. Such fast-paced actions require hardware and software that supports critical decision making without fail.

Butterfly’s first product, the iQ, is a pocket-sized, mobile-connected Ultrasound that provides an indispensable window into the body. It’s the world’s first and only Ultrasound that can scan any part of the body with one device. Within seconds, a clinician can pull it out of their pocket, place it anywhere on the patient and begin answering diagnostic questions. Our mobile app, among the most sophisticated in the Apple App Store, decodes raw Ultrasound signal and displays it to your mobile phone in real-time. The Butterfly Cloud enables rapid, de-identified sharing of clinical images facilitating clinical collaboration. Our Telemedicine platform allows a remote scanner to dictate to a learner how and where to place the device to acquire the right image. And our Deep Learning suite of products enables real-time measurements of anatomical structures.

Butterfly’s engineering culture is built of folks with a passion and love of engineering mixed with visible, real-world impact. Most of us have personal stories of how modern medicine has deeply affected us or people we care about. Our goal is to democratize Ultrasound - to make it more accessible, more affordable and more accurate. We’re made of device engineers focusing on GPU optimization, mobile engineers working on display and user experience, Cloud engineers who geek out on beautiful distributed systems that painstakingly protect vital patient data, and Machine Learning Researchers working on putting intelligent algorithms into the doctor’s pocket.

In this blog, we’ll share our experience and insights building an incredible product that has already made an immense impact in the medical world. We hope you’ll enjoy it and that it motivates you to think about how you can make a similar and positive impact on the world around you.

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