GE Seeks Patent on Using Social Media to Detect Power Outages

When it comes to global technological innovation, there are few companies in the world that produce the level of intellectual property of General Electric, a multinational conglomerate in energy, technology infrastructure, consumer appliances and more. In the United States, this company is involved with many energy infrastructure projects, including the installation of hundreds of miles of natural gas pipeline across North America/a>. Even though the company is more than 100 years old, General Electric recently beat out many other tech firms at the Shorty Awards, which recognizes excellence in brand use in social media. A major manufacturer itself, General Electric is posed to help usher in a new future of prototyping and factory manufacture through the use of 3D printing.

As we get deeper into the month of April, the Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog wanted to take a little time to review the databases of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for inventions from this corporation. Over the past month or two, we’ve found many intriguing patent applications and issued patents describing a wide array of new technologies. We’re noticing some real activity on behalf of GE regarding medical and wind energy generation, among other developments.

Today’s featured patent application would protect a novel system of addressing power outages when a utility network doesn’t receive notification of the event directly from customers. This system allows a utility network to scan social media posts for relevant information about outages, and then turn those posts into instructions for maintenance crews. We also discuss a few inventions related to wind turbines, including a new method for measuring lightning strike damage on wind turbine blades, and a couple of patent applications filed to protect medical monitoring technologies.

Medical and healthcare innovations were a main focus during our recent search of General Electric’s recently issued patents. We were greatly interested in a couple of inventions allowing for upgrades to various medical systems and procedures, including fetal heart rate monitors and virtual colonoscopy techniques. Another GE patent protects a system of authorizing ownership of an electric vehicle during charging to prevent auto theft. We also wanted to share a final patent we noticed that discusses means of treating sour water and removing contaminants like cyanide which could be useful for communities lacking effective water treatment.



Utility Management Analysis Through Social Network Data
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140081998

In order for a utility company to respond quickly to an electrical outage, it must be notified, usually by customers who are experiencing the outage. This can pose a problem if the power is cut to landline phones at the property, preventing a customer from reporting an outage in a way that can be easily traced. Non-landline phones, such as a cell phone, can report outages, but are more difficult to trace. Other methods of monitoring a neighborhood typically require a multitude of sensors, the purchase and operation of which can be very expensive.

Utility companies are also finding that younger customers don’t prefer to contact their utility providers by telephone. Instead, many will connect to social networks like Twitter and Facebook through their mobile devices to let others know about an electrical outage in a certain area. It may therefore be advantageous to find a way for a utility company to analyze social media posts related to utility outages.

General Electric filed this patent application with the USPTO as of September 2012 to protect methods of filtering social media posts for identifying posts of relevance to a utility network. This system would be capable of determining that an outage event has occurred by analyzing social media posts for related terms and information. Once the relevant posts have been identified, they can be further analyzed to determine the location of the individual posting the outage information.

The utility management service described within this patent application would be able to easily convert social media posts into readable instructions that are distributed to operators and dispatch crews. The application also discusses a method of incentive that could be used in conjunction with this social media analysis system. The system would be able to identify the source of an individual post reporting an outage so as to provide an incentive, like a discount on utility services.

As Claim 1 states, General Electric is seeking the right to protect:

“A system comprising: a storage configured to store instructions executable by a processor; and a processor configured to execute the instructions stored by the storage, wherein the instructions comprise instructions to: filter social media posts of a social media network to ascertain social media posts relevant to a utility network; and associate the relevant social media posts with locations on the utility network.”


Other Patent Applications

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140093373, entitled “System and Method for Detecting Lightning Strikes on a Wind Turbine.”

General Electric is heavily involved in developing practical improvements to the energy infrastructure of our country. In the past, our Companies We Follow series has talked about patented technologies assigned to this company dealing with wind turbine technologies. Today, we’ve noticed a great deal of patent applications filed to protect some intriguing upgrades to turbines for electrical energy generation. U.S. Pat. App. No. 20140093373, entitled System and Method for Detecting Lightning Strikes on a Wind Turbine, would protect a lightning strike detection system for the turbine blades and hub of a wind turbine. This system allows a wind farm operator to monitor damage to components as well as lightning strike intensity, which is important in establishing manufacturer warranties on equipment. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140077420, which is titled UV Curing System and Method for Wind Blade Manufacture and Repair, describes faster methods of performing repairs on wind turbine blades for reduced downtime. This patent application would protect an ultraviolet cured resin composite capable of adhering thicker laminates to a blade during in-field repairs.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140094679, titled “Systems and Methods for Performing Organ Detection.”

Medical technologies are another area where General Electric has been looking to increase its intellectual property holdings, to judge by its recent patent application filings. Our readers may be intrigued by a couple of technologies we saw today for medical management purposes. A more specific method of medical imaging is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140094679, filed under the title Systems and Methods for Performing Organ Detection. This technology enables physicians to focus on a single organ of interest during several types of imaging procedures, including ultrasound, x-ray, computed tomography and magnetic resonance. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140081957, titled Patient Monitoring System and Method, would protect improvements to typical patient monitoring systems that enable more meaningful feedback to medical staff for clinical decision support. Interestingly, many of the claims involved in the above patent applications are very short, establishing the broadest possible protections for the technology and potentially creating a very valuable patent, especially considering the role of software in the prior two patent applications.



Issued Patents of Note

Whenever we check the recent publications from the USPTO for General Electric, we notice that this company is issued a great number of patents every time. In 2013, the Schenectady-based company was awarded 1,739 patents from the USPTO, the 14th-most during that year and sixth-best in the United States. A quick perusal of the patents recently issued to General Electric show an array of medical, wind energy and electric vehicle innovations that this company has developed.

From U.S. Patent No. 8686686, entitled “System and Method for Use in Charging an Electrically Powered Vehicle.”

Medical technologies are again a focus of General Electric intellectual property, and a trio of issued patents in this field caught our eyes here at IPWatchdog. Better methods of monitoring the development of an unborn child are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8694081, which is titled Fetal Monitoring System and Method. The abdominal electrocardiography and phonocardiography system is designed for greater accuracy of fetal heart rate monitoring. U.S. Patent No. 8692774, entitled Virtual Colonoscopy Navigation Methods Using a Mobile Device, protects methods for more mobile, Web-based platforms for performing virtual colonoscopy techniques. This increases access to virtual radiology techniques, which are often superior to conventional colonoscopy techniques for polyp detection. U.S Patent No. 8686851, issued under the title System and Method for Rapid Location of an Alarm Condition, protects better systems of locating a patient who has triggered an alarm condition. This system is specifically designed for coronary care, intensive care and other health care units where alarm conditions may be difficult to locate quickly.

We also wanted to share a few General Electric patents that protect some interesting technologies related to global sustainability that we felt were very forward-looking. Smarter systems of authenticating ownership of electric vehicles are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8686686, entitled System and Method for Use in Charging an Electrically Powered Vehicle. This system could be used to create an alarm notification if it detects that an unauthorized user may have stolen the car. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 8685236, which is titled Methods and Systems for Treating Sour Water, protects a novel system for treating contaminated water. This system can remove cyanide, ammonia, hydrocarbons and other contaminating chemicals from sour water for treating wastewater from gassification systems.


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