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The GE Brief: June 23, 2020

GE Reports Staff
June 23, 2020

For centuries, Italy has relied on dedicated volunteers to help its ambulance corps during nights and weekends — and for the last 20 years, one of those volunteers has been Alberto De Monte. By day De Monte is a sales manager for GE Healthcare in his hometown of Milan. But volunteering in the ambulance corps, including as a driver in the last decade, has given him another kind of healthcare education: “I have been exposed to stories of poverty that, if I didn’t do this kind of service, I would never see,” he said. Still, nothing could prepare De Monte for what he’s witnessed in 2020, as Italy has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It takes courage: The country has seen well over 200,000 coronavirus infections since the beginning of the outbreak, and more than 30,000 deaths. Doctors and nurses at Milanese hospitals fought to save as many of De Monte’s neighbors as they could — and De Monte, tasked with getting those neighbors to the hospital, has also played a crucial role in that fight. But first he had to protect himself and his colleagues. “It’s not like going to a big car crash where you have the evidence of what is happening,” he said. “Here you must operate as though everyone is a possible COVID-19 patient. You need to take care of yourself.” Face masks and other protective gear meant that those riding in De Monte’s ambulance couldn’t always see his reassuring smile — but they felt his warmth anyways.
Learn more here about Alberto De Monte’s experience of COVID-19 in Italy. 
For more than a century, the electrical grid was a one-way street, with current traveling from power plants to consumers. But two decades into the 21st century, it’s rapidly becoming more like a busy highway, with lots of on-ramps and off-ramps: The rise of the renewables age, with tech like rooftop solar, storage batteries and electric vehicles, is adding a new layer of complexity for grid operators. Vera Silva, chief technology officer of GE Renewable Energy’s Grid Solutions unit, says utilities must “operate the grid like a Swiss clock” — and that her business is there to help: “If you think about the transition to decarbonization, how do you convert that ambitious goal, in a way that keeps the grid rock-solid all the time, but deals with this rate of change?”
Numbers game: The answer is digital technology. That’s why Silva’s business is working to solve the challenge in partnership with GE Digital, GE’s software and analytics arm. During everyday operations, the grid generates a mammoth amount of data that can be mined for insights. Past outages and weather data, for instance, can help locate future spots of vulnerability during a storm — so utilities are prepared to speed up repairs and minimize downtime. The ultimate goal? An autonomous grid that can not only fix but predict problems on its own. “Our vision is that we will provide the technologies that enable the grid to continue to be highly reliable, but also resilient — so that it actually becomes even better-performing, more energy-efficient, and renewables-centric,” said Patrick Byrne, CEO of GE Digital. “That’s a tremendous technology opportunity and challenge for us to take [on].”
Learn more here about how GE is helping build that grid of the future.
1. Brain Gains
A team at the U.K.’s University of Nottingham created a wearable scanner that can produce detailed images of patients’ brains, and may help researchers better understand conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s.
2. Having A Gas
Researchers at Australian National University have designed a superefficient solar cell that splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The cell could allow operators to store solar energy as hydrogen.
3. Blowing Bubbles
As the numbers of bees and other natural pollinators decline, Japanese researchers found a whimsical artificial delivery method to bring pollen to fruit trees: soap bubbles.
Learn more here about this week’s Coolest Things on Earth.



“You do feel fear, but also a feeling that you can be part of the solution.”

 — Alberto De Monte, volunteer ambulance driver and sales manager at GE Healthcare


Quote: GE Reports. Images: GE Healthcare.