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Business Impact

New Products on the Market

Everything from a $125,000 genome analyzer to a credit card featuring a touch pad.

  • January 3, 2013

Flexible Gas Power Plant: 7F 7-series turbine
Company: General Electric
Price: $1,000 per megawatt
Availability: Now

Solar and wind energy are clean but intermittent. To overcome that limitation, General Electric has come up with a way for power plants to quickly fire up natural gas when wind or solar energy isn’t available and dial it down again when it is. The key ingredient is a 30-foot-long gas turbine (pictured) with improved compression and combustion systems. These make it possible for the turbine to ramp up from 50 megawatts to its full capacity of 250 megawatts in 10 minutes while meeting emissions standards. Using this technology instead of running a coal plant would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2.6 million metric tons per year, GE says. The company has received $1.2 billion worth of orders for these turbines from around the world.


Smarter Credit Card: Display Card
Company: MasterCard
Price: Free for certain cardholders
Availability: January 2013

Unlike the humble check, the credit card is adapting to the world of online commerce. To improve the security of Internet banking services, MasterCard has upgraded some of its familiar plastic cards with a number pad and small display. To access their accounts online, cardholders must enter a string of numbers on their card’s touch pad. The card’s display then produces a one-time pass code for use online. The same basic design can support more sophisticated features; for example, it might display the remaining balance on a card after each use. It’s initially being offered to customers of Singapore’s Standard Chartered bank.


Memory Upgrade: Spin-torque MRAM
Company: Everspin Technologies
Price: Undisclosed
Availability: Test samples available now

Processor speeds get more attention but many computers are actually limited by the performance of their memory. A new data storage technology, spin-torque magneto-resistive RAM, combines the best features of the two most commonly used forms of memory: DRAM and flash. DRAM, used as short-term memory in laptops and servers, is fast and packs data densely into tiny spaces. But flash, used to store data in cell phones and some hard drives, requires less energy and is “non-volatile”— it retains information even when powered off. These new modules store bits of data as magnetic states in a way that offers fast, non-volatile storage. They could make cloud computing services more responsive.


Genomic Insights: knoSYS100
Company: Knome
Price: $125,000 and up
Availability: Now

A computer that comes with genome analysis software could simplify the task that doctors and researchers face when trying to glean medically useful information from an individual’s DNA. Sequencing costs have fallen precipitously in recent years; now interpreting the resulting data is the major challenge. Knome, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, developed its hardware-and-software package to help labs spot genetic variations that may be linked to disease. Unlike rival products that are available or in development, Knome’s system does not rely on remote servers in the cloud, which may reduce privacy concerns.


Reflecting Rays: OptiMax Wave
Companies: Hanwha Solar/tenKsolar
Price: Undisclosed
Availability: Now in the U.S.

To squeeze more energy from solar panels, Korea’s Hanwha Solar will sell a system with unique solar-cell ­wiring and low-cost reflectors. The OptiMax Wave, made by tenKsolar of Minnesota, can boost the electricity generated by solar panels on a flat roof by 30 percent. Inside the panels, solar cells are wired in a mesh-like grid, rather than in series, so current from all the panel’s cells isn’t constrained by shaded cells. The mesh setup also means that light bounced onto the solar panels by reflective films can hit unevenly and still boost the panels’ performance. Finally, onboard electronics maximize the cells’ output.


Implantable Pain Fighter: Eon Mini Neurostimulator
Company: St. Jude Medical
Price: Undisclosed
Availability: Now in Europe

Patients with severe chronic migraines that do not respond to medication can now seek relief with the world’s smallest rechargeable device for neurostimulation. In September, the European health regulatory agency approved the Eon Mini to help patients manage the pain associated with these difficult-to-treat headaches, known as refractory migraines. The device, which surgeons implant under the skin, delivers mild electric pulses to nerves in the back of the head. A company study found that after one year of use, 65 percent of patients reported significant pain relief. The device already has approval in the United States, Europe, and Japan for treatment of chronic back and limb pain.


Magic Book | Wonderbook: Book of Spells
Company: Sony
Price: $39.99 standalone or $79.99 with PlayStation Move hardware
Availability: Now

This video game for the PlayStation3, based on J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, combines augmented reality with gesture control so that players appear to be wizards casting spells. When the players hold up the pages of a book with specially marked paper, the PlayStation Move system captures their movements; these are translated into animated on-screen images. For instance, the system’s stick-like controller appears on screen to be a magic wand. Sony plans to use the same technology in other new releases. Games with dinosaur and detective themes, among others, are now in the works.

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