Siemens Diverse Innovation: Medical Devices, Alternative Energy

By Steve Brachmann
November 11, 2013

Siemens AG, a multinational conglomerate of engineering and electronics developers, is a major source of innovations in a wide array of fields, including medical technologies, communications, power generation and industrial automation. Recently, subsidiary Siemens Water Technologies announced a partnership with Texas A&M to develop more efficient systems of removing heavy metals from industrial wastewater. The next few weeks will be interesting ones for Siemens as they chart a course under a brand new CEO who has only been serving since August.

We’re taking a look once again at Siemens here in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series to get an idea of how the corporation is applying its research and development to medical technologies and other industries. As always, we’ve pulled up a number of patent applications and issued patents assigned to Siemens by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that should interest our readers.

Our featured patent application today discusses improvements to methods of ultrasound therapy in medical settings. Ablation therapies in this system would have better safeguards that keep a patient’s skin from becoming uncomfortably warm during the procedure. Another medical technology innovation is discussed in a patent application focused on imaging a patient’s tongue for speech therapy. Other applications include more secure telecommunications systems and protocols and a system of detecting short circuits in the charging systems of electric vehicles.

Energy generation and medical technologies are featured in a group of issued patents we’re exploring here today. Two medical patents were issued recently by the USPTO, one for better organization of patients and connected medical devices in hospital settings and another for more efficient biochips in use for genetic therapies. Siemens was also issued patents protecting improvements to systems of maintaining wind turbines as well as one protecting a solar thermal power plant.

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Skin Temperature Control in Therapeutic Medical Ultrasound
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130281877

Ultrasound therapy is used in medical settings to assist in transdermal drug delivery, thrombolysis and even some cancer therapies. High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a medical procedure that uses ultrasound therapy to destroy damaged or diseased tissues in patients. HIFU requires the heating of patient tissues through the skin using an ultrasound transducer to deliver acoustic energy directly to the patient.

The localization of acoustic energy during HIFU and other ultrasound therapies is highly desirable so as not to needlessly damage unaffected tissues. A patient may also be uncomfortable because of skin heating caused by transducer use. Pulsing the acoustic energy entering a patient’s body from the transducer can mitigate these effects, but it can also reduce the effectiveness of the therapy.

Siemens filed this patent application with the USPTO to protect a system of analyzing the temperature of a patient’s skin during HIFU. This system utilizes the addition of a standoff layer between the ultrasound transducer and a patient’s skin. The transducer is capable of sensing acoustic echoes reflected back by the standoff layer. These echoes are analyzed in order to determine the actual temperature of the skin.

This system of temperature feedback can help provide more effective control of HIFU and other ultrasound therapies. Instead of pulsing acoustic energy intermittently, energy levels can be lowered in direct response to increased skin temperature. Besides acoustic echo analysis, other methods of determining temperature can be used to inform the feedback system, such as thermal expansion of the standoff layer.

Claim 1 of this Siemens patent application would protect:

“A method of determining skin temperature in medical ultrasound therapy, the method comprising: positioning a standoff between a therapy transducer and skin of a patient; applying a thermal dose from the therapy transducer, through the standoff, through the skin, and into the patient, the thermal dose focused at a region in the patient such that the region is heated in response to the thermal dose; acquiring, with the therapy transducer, ultrasound data representing acoustic echoes from the standoff adjacent to the skin; determining the skin temperature as a function of the acoustic echoes; and controlling the applying as a function of the skin temperature.”

Other Patent Applications

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20130281856, titled “Tongue Imaging in Medical Diagnostic Ultrasound.”

This week, a lot of Siemens patent applications detailing improvements to communications systems have been published by the USPTO. These applications deal with security in communications systems, whether during an emergency or a transaction authorization process. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130273876, entitled Method and Apparatuses for Multimedia Priority Service, would protect methods of enabling more people to access multimedia priority service (MPS) communication systems during a time of emergency, even when a natural disaster may have caused damage to existing telecommunications systems. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130290722, which is titled External Authentication Support Over an Untrusted Network, describes a system of carrying user credentials for a web service across an untrusted network. Current communication methods over untrusted networks are poor at conveying this data.

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Other medical technology innovations are also the focus of a number of Siemens patent applications. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130281856, titled Tongue Imaging in Medical Diagnostic Ultrasound, discusses a system of ultrasound imaging for the tongue that can aid in the creation of individualized speech therapies. Electric vehicles improvements are also being developed by Siemens, as evidenced by U.S. Patent Application No. 20130278273, filed under the title Method and Device for Detecting Short Circuit. The system outlined in that application would be enable vehicle charging stations to detect short circuits in the electrical charging systems for these vehicles.

 

Issued Patents of Note

From U.S. Patent No. 8565500, titled “Automatic Patient and Device Recognition and Association System.”

The patent portfolio held by any corporation is the best indicator of its strength in intellectual property. In recent weeks, Siemens has been the recipient of a number of issued patents from the USPTO, some with very intriguing implications for the future of this company.

Medical technologies are also at the center of a couple of issued patents that we’re noticing here today at IPWatchdog. Patient organization in hospital settings looks like it will get a helping hand from U.S. Patent No. 8565500, issued under the title Automatic Patient and Device Recognition and Association System. This system would use video image processing to determine patient identity and any connected medical device. This will improve the ability of hospital staff to coordinate movement of patients throughout the facility. We’re also intrigued by U.S. Patent No. 8551424, entitled Apparatus for Processing a Sample Comprising a Biochip and Reagents Embedded in a Biodegradable Material, and Processes Thereof. This elaborately titled patent protects a system of better decontamination of biochip reagent samples used in DNA detection without those reagents dissolving in liquid.

Alternative energy generation technologies, including wind and solar, are the focus of a trio of patents issued to Siemens recently. U.S. Patent No. 8567833, titled Blade Lifting System with Saloon Doors, protects a system of removing blades from wind turbine hubs that is more time-efficient and requires much less manual labor. U.S. Patent No. 8568103, issued under the title Wind Turbine Rotor Blade, protects the design of an improved wind turbine rotor blade with increased aerodynamic qualities that doesn’t increase production costs dramatically. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 8544273, which is titled Solar Thermal Power Plant, protects the design of a solar power plant that operates in two solar heating modes. It should be noted that the incredible length of Claim 1 may make the patent protections too narrow to be of much use to Siemens.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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