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You don’t have to be a die-hard geek to start assembling your holiday list of the future today. We will help you. Over the last year, we visited a number of GE labs and talked to the scientists and engineers working there. The result is a short list of goodies that could make it to market soon.
Superfast Mobile Devices
Keep your eyes peeled for a tiny piece of technology called the digital micro switch. It works a thousand times faster than the current generation of switches. When it shows up in mobile devices and fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, it could boost data transfer rates into the gigabits per second. That should be enough to download an HD movie in seconds flat. The switch was developed at GE Global Research, and GE spun it out into a company called Menlo Microsystems. The technology could start rolling out in the early 2020s.
A Talking LED Lamp
The GE LED lamp is the first time Alexa has been embedded into a lighting product without the need for a hub, a smart phone or even a physical Amazon Echo unit . Image credit: GE LightingYou can put this gift on your 2017 holiday list. GE combined a sleek LED lamp with Amazon’s Alexa intelligent personal assistant. Alexa can answer questions about weather, sports and news. It also can play music, read audiobooks and control the temperature inside your home. There’s no need for other hubs, software or speakers — the lamp has everything Alexa needs. “This is just the beginning of what can be possible in the smart home space," says Jeff Patton, general manager for connected home products at GE Lighting. "Our goal is really about unleashing the ultimate living experience, and this is a giant leap forward.”
This Sensor Passes The Sniff Test
Above: An example of a wireless, battery-free RFID sensor tags that can be used for detecting explosives, oxidizers and other chemicals at very low concentrations. Top: Heat and chemicals can alter how the jagged structures on Morpho wings reflect light and change butterfly’s color. Images credit: GE Global Research
GE researchers are working on stamp-sized sensors inspired by butterfly wings that can detect the presence of explosives and chemicals and report results over radio waves. The first applications for the technology probably will be in the security space, but scientists are already talking about teaching it to sniff for chemicals produced by bacteria in food. And for your future gift list? Perhaps a fridge that can spot spoiled milk and email you to toss it. Or, for the Brooklyn hipster who sells artisanal pickles, the sensors could monitor fermentation via smartphone.
This Car Is Powered By Water
Unlike traditional batteries, which use solid materials to store and release electricity, flow batteries use charged liquids kept in separate tanks. Image credit: GE Global Research
A team of innovators at GE Global Research and the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is developing a water-based battery. A version of this “flow battery” has already proved successful for stationary electric-grid-scale energy storage. It could lead to a new type electric vehicles that are cheaper to make and faster to recharge.