Headquartered in Schenectady, NY, the multinational conglomerate General Electric is a corporation which is heavily involved in research and development in many industry sectors, including capital finance, energy, technology infrastructure and consumer appliances. Interestingly, reports indicate that GE is trying to sell its consumer home appliance businesses, marking a major shift in the corporations focus towards industrial operations. General Electric’s activities in fuel cell technology development may be shifting the market if a pilot manufacturing plant is successful. GE, which already owns 60 percent of the U.S. locomotive market, may pull further ahead of Caterpillar and other companies in the industry by designing trains with pollution-reduction systems within the engine, meant to meet rigorous exhaust systems established by the U.S. government.
IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series checks in with General Electric every few months to see what recent patent activities have been supported by this company’s research and development. Our recent perusal of the dozens of patent applications and issued patents filed at the halls of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and assigned to GE showed us an incredible swath of innovation in fields from medical care to electrical energy generation. Below, we’re sharing some of the inventions which we felt were most interesting with our readers.
Our exploration of General Electric’s recently published patent applications confirms the idea that this corporation is increasing its development in the field of locomotives. We feature a couple of patent applications in this field, including one that would protect a system for detecting the order of rail cars for cooperative braking and tractive operations. We also sharing some patent applications related to consumer appliances, such as one directed at a new design for a dishwasher filter media that can collect a wider range of particulate without clogging.
General Electric has been awash in recently issued patents pertaining to medical technologies, and we discuss an intriguing collection of these inventions. One patent protects an improved anaesthesia delivery system that monitors oxygen levels in patients undergoing anaesthesia. Another protects a system for recognizing family relationships among patients for better tracking of medical histories. Finally, we look at a couple of patents protecting technologies for energy generation systems, including one protecting a method of monitoring communication networks in wind farms to quickly identify network issues which need to be fixed for accurate energy production reporting.
General Electric’s Patent Applications: Railway Technologies and Consumer Appliances
General Electric is one of the most highly valued corporations in the entire world, and its operations span a number of industrial, business and consumer sectors. In the Companies We Follow series, General Electric is always one company we can look to for an incredible scope of technological development in fields from energy generation to home appliances. For energy generation systems, many innovations are directed at more cost-effective turbine assemblies, such as the invention described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140205435, which is titled Inner Casing for Steam Turbine Engine. This patent application would protect a steam turbine with an inner and outer casing; the features of the inner casing in this configuration are designed so that assembly costs are reduced while improving the ability for seals within the turbine to prevent fluid leaks. A more intelligent system of responding to alarm situations in power generation facilities has also been developed by GE, as evidenced in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140203934, entitled Dynamic Alarm System for Operating a Power Plant and Method of Responding to Same. The dynamic alarm system disclosed within this patent application uses a processor to analyze alarm signals coming from sensors within the power plant. The processor analyzes the information so that a priority can be attached to the alarm situation, as well as notifying power plant developers of issues so that they can design power plants in the future which mitigate these risks.
We noticed a fair number of innovations related to vehicular technologies, especially for transportation systems involving rail cars. Improved methods of detecting a fault condition or damage within a series of railway route sections are disclosed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140207317, filed under the title Route Examining System and Method. This patent application would protect a system which includes an application device on the first vehicle of a vehicle system which can analyze electrical characteristics of the railway to identify potentially damaged sections of the route and assess the level of damage. A method for organizing a series of rail vehicles for cooperative driving and braking operations is explained within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140197281, which is titled System and Method for Determining Order of Vehicles. This patent application describes a rail car system with communication modules within each car; the system is capable of ordering the vehicles so that a lead vehicle can coordinate tractive and braking operations among a series of rail cars. Recent General Electric vehicle innovations also relate to hybrid electric vehicles, including the technology expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140207321, entitled Method of Operating Vehicle and Associated System. This system of correlating the amount of energy used by a vehicle to the amount of fuel consumed by the vehicle. It would allow hybrid vehicle drivers to see the amount of fuel saved because of energy recovery systems on these vehicles, such as through regenerative braking systems which reuse the heat created by braking.
General Electric is also renowned for its decades of development in consumer appliances used throughout the home. A few recently published patent applications show that this corporation is still heavily involved in development in this field. A technology for an improved design for cooktop controls is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140204557, filed under the title Illuminated Knobs for an Appliance. This would protect an assembly for illuminated knobs on a cooktop, which can inform a user about the status of a particular burner, that prevents food or liquids from contaminating the components within the cooktop surface and knob assembly. We also noticed an innovation designed to improve the service life of a filtration system within a dishwasher in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140202502, titled Fine Filtration for a Dishwashing Appliance. The dishwasher appliance which would be protected by this patent application includes a cylindrical, rotatable filter cartridge. The cartridge holds filter media which can remove particulate of varying sizes. This filter system can remove particulate in a range of sizes from a fluid stream while reducing the chances that filter media will become clogged and require changing.
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Issued Patents of Note: More Medical Inventions and Alternative Energy Systems
For many years, General Electric has been at the forefront of American technological development and has one of the more robust patent portfolios in our country. During 2013, General Electric was the recipient of 1,739 patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This total was the 14th-most U.S. patent grants issued to any corporation, and the sixth-most patents for that year among American organizations. The scope of GE’s patented technologies is just as wide as what we saw in this corporation’s recently published patent applications, although we noticed many more patents in recent weeks for medical technologies.
Methods for the better organization of a patient’s medical records, especially when those records are generated at diverse medical facilities, are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8788287, entitled Systems, Apparatus, and Methods for Developing Patient Medical History Using Hierarchical Relationships. This patent protects an apparatus providing electronic health information to a first patient. The first patient can use the apparatus to establish relationships with other patients to indicate family relations. This connecting of health records among family members can improve the ability for medical professionals to provide more effective healthcare services tailored to a patient’s family history. Improvements to medical diagnostic systems for detecting cancer in patients are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8785869, which is titled System and Method for Providing Emission Mammography. The medical imaging system protected by this patent includes multiple gamma detectors, often used in mammography techniques such as Positron Emission Mammography, to create multiple views which will better reflect the thickness of a breast tumor and surrounding anatomy. The patent application for this invention was first filed in November 2005 and faced four final rejections before a patent was issued. The last final rejection, issued in November 2011, rejected patent claims for obviousness based on a patent issued in May 1996 for a similar system of emission mammography.
A few other U.S. patents recently issued to General Electric protect medical inventions which are actually designed for use during medical procedures. A better method for delivering anaesthetic agents to patients prior to surgical procedures is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8783248, which is titled Inhalation Anaesthesia Delivery System and Method. This patent protects a system of delivering anaesthesia through inhalation which can better measure a patient’s oxygenation state while anaesthesia is being applied. We were also intrigued by a system designed for more accurate tracking of multiple surgical instruments within a patient’s body during a procedures, which is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8781556, entitled Interchangeable Localizing Devices for Use with Tracking Systems. This patent protects a system which increases the range of a tracking system through the use of multiple localizing devices. This system has been designed for surgical procedures like total knee reconstruction or fractures in long bones, procedures during which tracking systems with greater range are needed to detect rods or other instruments located at diverse points on a patient’s body.
Again, consumer home appliances are a development focus for GE, and we found a patent protecting another technology related to cooking appliances. U.S. Patent No. 8783243, issued under the title Lockout System for Surface Burners of a Cooking Appliance. The improved cooking appliance protected by this patent would have a lockout control system which would confirm a lockout state for disabling operation of cooking features based on a lockout device. This invention has been designed to prevent against heating elements from turning on unexpectedly when the lockout state has been de-activated.
General Electric is a major developer of energy systems, whether those systems involve wind energy or fuel cells, and we’ll wrap up our coverage of this company’s recently issued patents with a look at some which protect innovations in this field. U.S. Patent No. 8782187, titled System, Device, and Method for Monitoring Communication in a Wind Farm Network, protects a system for monitoring wind farm networks using a central server connected to network nodes contained within individual wind turbines. This system is designed to detect communication failures within existing wind farm networks quickly to ensure accurate energy production reporting. We also noticed an invention for boosting the performance of solid-oxide fuel cells in use by electrical systems, protected by U.S. Patent No. 8778545, entitled Recirculation Complex for Increasing Yield from Fuel Cell with CO2 Capture. This patent protects a fuel cell recirculation complex for capturing exhaust gas from solid-oxide fuel cells and convert the carbon dioxide contained within that exhaust into a fuel stream comprised mostly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, both of which can be used as fuel by some solid-oxide fuel cells.