Home » You’ll Never Guess The Technology That Hospital Beds And Premium Cars Share, And For Very Different Purposes

You’ll Never Guess The Technology That Hospital Beds And Premium Cars Share, And For Very Different Purposes

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My recent hospital stay exposed me to a number of things that have eluded me in my normal, non-hospital-based life, most notably bottles that you can pee in while in bed without everyone calling you lazy and disgusting, and also modern hospital beds. It’s the hospital bed that I’d like to discuss now, because the modern hospital bed I was in, a Hillrom Centrella, utilizes a certain kind of lighting technology that I’d previously only seen in the mass market on premium cars and SUVs — but the bed uses the tech for a very different purpose and context. I’ll explain.

First, I should note that the Centrella may very well be the most advanced bed I’ve ever had the pleasure of dampening. It’s a remarkable machine, capable of keeping my aching body in multiple comfortable positions while simultaneously monitoring various aspects of my well-being, and being ready to alert the nursing staff should I have decided to make a break for it.

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I mean, this thing had everything: a USB charging port, integrated speakers connected to the wall-mounted television, powered casters for transport, full articulation, sensors all over the place and so much more. A technological tour-de-force that I slept on, and, I’m not proud to say, soiled on more than one occasion. (I was in ICU, cut me some slack!)

One of the most notable things the Centrella had, the feature most likely to be commented on by people who came to visit me, was this:


Bed Lights

See those projected images on the floor by the bed? Those are part of the SafeView+ system, designed to let caregivers see some basic status information about the bed at a glance, from a distance, without having to, say, get all the way up to the bed and peer at some little screen.

It’s extremely clever, and if you’re curious, those icons tell, from left to right, the bed side rail condition, the bed exit alert status, and the right one tells that the bed is in its lowest position.


Now, to a car person, these sorts of images projected on the ground are actually quite familiar, as they have been a staple of premium cars and SUVs for nearly a decade or so now, and we call them “puddle lamps.”


Mustang Otto

There’s a puddle lamp on a Mustang, being admired by my son Otto when he was, jeez, like nine years younger. These use the exact same simple and bright projector technology as the Centrella SafeView+ projection system, though an informal conversation with a Hillrom representative revealed that the engineers on the Centrella project were not inspired by the automotive puddle lights, though if they were it sure would make this story a lot better for a car website like ours.

Still, that’s not going to stop me, because I still think what is going on here is pretty cool: we have the same fundamental technology, but used in wildly different context and for purposes that are about as removed from one another as possible.

In the automotive world, this technology is used to broadcast to people in the vicinity of your car, at night, that you’re a person of refinement and taste who was more than happy to throw around a few extra bucks to get exciting light shows like this every time you approach your car:


And in the case of the Centrella bed, this lets a passing nurse know at a glance if there’s an alarm set in case you try to sneak out of bed, like some kind of miscreant with tubes connected to your abdomen.

These really couldn’t be more different applications for the same project-a-bright-image-on-the-ground tech, and yet here we are, in the unexpected and beautiful convergence of fancy car and hospital bed tech.

You want to know another little detail I liked on the Centrella? It was this indicator of bed angle:


I like that it’s indicated with that little metal ball instead of some LED-based indicator I would have expected. I’m not sure why it’s done this way, and I suspect there must be a good reason – perhaps so this can still be read in unpowered situations? But there’s something quite satisfying about it.


Also, that indicator with the two down arrow buttons forms a sort of sassy face, which was a big help keeping one company on those lonely nights in the ICU. Miss you, Sassybedface!

[Ed Note: Not to hijack Jason’s blog, but I’d like to note another medical-auto industry crossover: The pressure sensitive mat! Check this out:

Screen Shot 2024 01 05 At 2.28.55 Pm

I remember seeing a “pressure sensing floor mat” like the one above when I visited my Oma at a nursing home during her final days on this planet. Here’s a description of what it’s for, via Val-U-Care:

Quiet, Wireless and Cordless – Pressure Sensing Floor Mat 24″x48″ by Smart Caregiver (PTFM-07C, Gray) works with wireless and cordless fall prevention monitors, place next to a bed or in a door way to monitor a resident getting up or leaving a room.

It’s all about monitoring vulnerable people and attending to them if they leave when they shouldn’t or if they fall out of bed. It works in a similar way to this “pressure-sensitive safety mat” similar to the one I stepped on when I was an intern visiting Jeep’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant (where they build the Grand Cherokee), thereby shutting down the entire assembly line (I got chewed out! Every few seconds of down-time cost the company thousands!):


Screen Shot 2024 01 05 At 2.27.10 Pm

Here’s the description of its purpose, via Rockford Systems, LLC:

Pressure-sensitive safety mats are intended to be used as auxiliary or additional safeguarding equipment to protect operators and other employees in the machine area. They must not be used as primary safeguarding except when all other means are not applicable.

These mats can safeguard many types of machines. When considering their use, the following should be asked:

  1. How is the mat to be interfaced to the existing motor control or equipment? Does a new control or starter need to be added?
  2. Can the motion of the machine that is creating the point-of-operation hazard be stopped quickly? If it can, what kind of clutch and brake arrangement does it have? Is the machine hydraulically or pneumatically operated? Is it operated by any other means?

Anyway, there’s lots of crossover between the medical and auto fields, apparently! -DT]




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3 months ago

I’m pretty sure Disney uses those pressure-sensitive mats to find out if anyone jumps off the slower rides too. I know you used to be able to see them on the ride into The Living Seas at EPCOT (before they ruined it by covering up the cool glass tunnel).

3 months ago

It would be pretty interesting to chase the origin of focused lights with gobo symbols. They’ve been used in theater for ages. Maybe this is theater technology adapted for use in the automotive and medical sectors?

3 months ago

Do they have pee,poop and vomit symbols as well? I mean you want to let the nurse know these things without everyone hearing about it ,right?

Last edited 3 months ago by Ron888
Jesse Linch
Jesse Linch
3 months ago

Glad you didn’t have to use Hill-Rom’s other business… They are out in Indiana, and they also make caskets.

Grayson Williams
Grayson Williams
3 months ago

so, Torch… between pooping in a bedpan, and pooping like an Apollo astronaut, which is more degrading/humiliating?

3 months ago

I am a nurse by trade and until recently I worked in a test lab that develops and integrates technologies for clinicians. The team adjacent to mine oversaw the development and implementation of these Hillrom beds for use in the hospital system I work for. They have some amazing capabilities, and these lights are absolutely the coolest thing. I remember the first time I saw them, I thought about all the times as a bedside nurse that I could have assessed the status of the bed settings without bothering the patient. These beds have the capability of interfacing a significant amount of data real time to clinicians to assist in their care. It’s pretty amazing how far beds have come just the last 20 years.

One of my favorite beds is an oldie but a goodie called the Clinitron. It suspends the patient on a breathable surface supported by silicone coated glass beads circulated by what I can only imagine is a huge amount of circulating air. The beds will heat up a small hospital room in short order, but were excellent at helping prevent bedsores and helping existing bedsores heal.

My other favorite bed is the Rotoprone bed, which is used to turn the patient into a prone (stomach lying) position easily. It was used with patients suffering from ARDS and I can only imagine that every Rotoprone in the nation was booked up during the pandemic to help turn patients in respiratory failure. Cool bed, but when I had a patient on one of these I knew it’d be an extraordinarily busy shift.

3 months ago

Going to look up Clinitron now.I dont quite understand it yet.Sounds kinda magic

*edit. Ok i get it.So it really is a fluidized bed bed.
But what is the top layer like?A stretchy fabric? The patient doesnt lie directly on the balls do they?
Yes this last one is probably the dumbest question ever but wanted to make sure

Last edited 3 months ago by Ron888
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron888

Top layer is a Goretex fabric. Then they usually have Goretex sheets that go over that and can be changed. Keeps the beads dry and easy to clean since the patients on those usually have little control of waste management function and/or massive oozing bedsores that need dressing changes frequently.
There are also a number of pressure mats that go on the bed or chair next to the bed. Those alarm once pressure is removed from them to alert the staff to a possible fall.
Clinitron’s are usually a rental bed, because they are so specialized and most facilities don’t need them constantly. the more typical hospital bed, like the one Torch talks about being in, and depending on the options, can cost more than David Tracy has ever acknowledged spending on a car. And I am including his i3 in this list.

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