The General Electric Company is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Fairfield, CT, which is involved heavily in various technology sectors, including energy, consumer electronics and technology infrastructure. Recently, the company has been profiled for its development of what some have called an “Industrial Internet,” which supports large streams of data for the automation of industrial machines in manufacturing settings. Even as the company plans to downsize by 400 workers in Upstate New York, including at facilities at the corporation’s former headquarters in Schenectady, many believe that the company will be a major player in the resurrection of American manufacturing.
General Electric’s operations in various sectors of the technology industry make it a regular fixture at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where many of the company’s developments are submitted as patent applications and protected through patents issued by the USPTO. This week on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we return after a few months’ hiatus to see what GE has been up to at it’s research facilities.
We’re noticing right away a great deal of patent applications and issued patents pertaining to medical technologies. Today, we feature one application that discusses an improved system for detecting the location of surgical instruments during a medical procedure. This improvement over image-guided surgery, which relies on video feeds from surgical instruments, informs medical professionals of the exact location of an instrument within a patient. We also look at an application for an improved pulse oximeter that provides a higher degree of portability over current devices, which are largely tethered to hospital settings. We also look at applications discussing systems of predicting cloud movement and an eco-friendly dishwasher that cuts down on current water and energy usage by half.
A number of medical patents have also been issued recently to General Electric from the USPTO. Of the ones we noticed, we feature a trio of patents that protect more accurate systems of completing a medical transaction through billing software, improved predictive models for identifying risks of age-related disease and a more accurate pulse oximeter for the finger. Other patents give GE the right to protect smart home energy usage systems and improved analysis of natural gas streams to determine levels of moisture.
Automatic Instrument Detection for Surgical Navigation
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130267833
Image-assisted surgery gives a surgeon a clear view of what organs or tissues are being operated on with medical tools. Video feeds can be captured live during surgery and displayed on a monitor so that a surgeon can see what a surgical tools is doing when it would otherwise be obscured by layers of tissue. This has contributed greatly to a cutdown in medical errors during these procedures, as well as the ability to perform even more complex surgeries for patients.
Electromagnetic tracking systems, such as those used in aviation and motion tracking industries, have an enhanced ability to determine the exact location and configuration of appliances that can be electromagnetically detected. This is a fairly sizable improvement over image-guided surgery, as a surgeon is still limited to what can be inferred from a video stream. However, the tracking system must be calibrated to detect each instrument individually, which can be a time consuming process.
This patent application, filed by General Electric with the USPTO, describes an enhanced system of electromagnetic tracking for surgical applications. This system would be capable of automatically detecting medical instruments in use during surgery, returning data to a surgeon about their exact location within a patient. This means of automatic detection would be used to inform a surgical navigation system that increases the effectiveness of surgical procedures.
This system uses an instrument assembly that includes a coil which can receive electromagnetic signals and a prong within that coil that corresponds to the length of the medical instrument. This coil receiver can gather data on an instrument’s position within a body as long as the length matches the prong inside of the coil. Additionally, a sensor can be implanted into a patient’s body to aid in instrument detection.
Claim 1 of this patent application would give General Electric the right to protect:
“An instrument assembly, comprising: a coil having an interior space; an instrument configured to be removably coupled to the coil; and a prong affixed to the instrument and configured to be at least partially disposed within the interior the coil when the instrument is coupled to the coil, wherein the prong has a length corresponding to the physical dimensions of the instrument.”
Other Patent Applications
IPWatchdog has pulled up a number of other intriguing patent applications that showcase the amazing breadth of innovation for which General Electric is currently striving. Along with medical technology, GE also has its sights set on home appliances, energy generation and even meteorological developments. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130258068, entitled Methods and Systems for Predicting Cloud Movement, discusses a system of detecting the movement of clouds, typically made difficult by the wide range in altitudes across which clouds can move. This system uses a customized lens that can view clouds on multiple planes coupled to a computer processor that can predict a cloud’s path based on captured movement.
General consumers may also be intrigued by U.S. Patent Application No. 20130263892, filed under the title Eco-Dishwasher System and Methodology. This new eco-friendly dishwasher would halve the amount of water needed for a soiled load, down from 7.2 gallons to 3.6 gallons, and cut the required energy for the same dishwasher load from 2.17 kilowatt-hours (kWh) down to 0.94 kWh.
General Electric also has plenty of applications out to protect other medical developments that the corporation has been working on. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130261415, titled System and Methods for Physiological Monitoring, would protect an improved pulse oximeter for detecting levels of oxygenation within a patient’s blood. This pulse oximeter would be much more portable than current medical devices, with the potential to be used in several operating environments. We also noticed an interesting innovation in U.S. Patent Application No. 20130259697, entitled Enhanced Wind Turbine Blade. This application describes a new design for a blade winglet structure on a wind turbine that would reduce the loss of energy because of wind drag resistance. For more GE wind energy patents see GE Wind Patents Focus on Blade Design, Bird Protection.
Issued Patents of Note
As we profile the General Electric Company and the potential future of that company’s technology offerings, we also want to take some time to look at interesting recent additions to the company’s patent holdings. Every week, GE is issued a fair amount of patents from the USPTO. We at IPWatchdog have gone through the past few weeks to determine which of these our readers should be aware of.
As we saw above, General Electric is greatly interested in developing innovations in it’s medical technology divisions, and recent issued patents may prove to be a coup for the corporation in this industry. For example, U.S. Patent No. 8554580, which is titled Automated Management of Medical Data Using Expert Knowledge and Applied Complexity Science for Risk Assessment and Diagnoses, protects a better system of predictive medical modeling for determining those who at risk of developing age-related disease, especially heart disease. This system is designed to be more responsive to at-risk symptoms, aiding in the prevention of disease and not just disease management. U.S. Patent No. 8543181, issued under the title Sensor Holder for Medical Sensor, describes further improvements to pulse oximeters, specifically those used on a patient’s fingers. This oximeter design would conform more closely to a patient’s finger, providing a more accurate pulse reading.
Also, U.S. Patent No. 85548426, entitled Method and System for XML Message Based Transactions on a Medical Diagnostic System, protects a system of reducing calls needed between software to place a prescription transaction based on information gained from medical imaging software, reducing the risk of software error.
Other issued patents recently gained by GE protect developments in the energy sector, both in the creation of fossil fuels and smarter household energy systems. Improvements to absorption spectrometry for natural gas analysis are outlined in U.S. Patent No. 8547554, issued under the title of Method and System for Detecting Moisture in Natural Gas. This system of analysis can more accurately determine the level of moisture existing in a stream of natural gas. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 8548635, entitled Energy Management of Household Devices, protects a system of smart energy management for home appliances that can be configured for use with appliances that already exist in a home.