Sensors Mag

The Sleeping Giant Soon to Grow

May 11, 2006 By: Barbara G. Goode, Sensors

E-mail Barbara Goode

One of the largest sensor companies in the market today is one you're likely not familiar with. A sleeping giant, my colleague Bob Ohlsen calls it. A company with an abundance of application and technology expertise, a broad range of products, and even fierce customer loyalty. One whose focus is to become a "major force in key industries" such as oil and gas, aerospace, automotive, healthcare, according to Mark DeNovellis, recently appointed manager of global commercial programs.

This colossus, which after a number of name changes recently settled on the sensible GE Sensing, went on a major buying spree a few years ago, acquiring some of most respected companies in the sensor industry: Druck, Panametrics, General Eastern, Thermometrics, Novasensor, and Ruska among others (see the company's product matrix on its homepage). Since then, GE Sensing has pretty much gone dark, and it's decided to stay that way for the rest of this year. You won't hear much from GE Sensing in the trade press or see much of GE Sensing at industry events.

And yet, the company has a goal of doubling its business by 2010. And that goal will likely have far-reaching effects.

Repurposing Technology

So the giant is set to make a major impact in our realm soon. How will this happen? For one thing, GE Sensing is taking technology that's succeeded in one area and applying it elsewhere. This tactic is fairly standard for sensor companies, but many times it happens accidentally: A company releases a product targeted to a certain application, and then at a trade show meets an engineer who sees a way to use the same technology for another purpose. The engineer becomes a customer, and a new direction is born.

But GE is taking the approach more proactively than that-which makes sense for a company so rich in resources. For example, GE Sensing took inspiration from technology that another division, GE Security, used to detect trace explosives and narcotics in airport security settings. With some retooling, GE Sensing repurposed the product to detect contaminants in pharmaceutical processing, and released it as part of Kaye Validator IMTS.

Leader in Green

For another thing, GE Sensing's parent company has a focus on "green," or environmentally responsible, products. This is one of the ways in which GE's CEO Jeff Immelt is distinguishing himself from his famous precursor, Jack Welch, explains Lynne Cybulak, manager of marketing communications. You can see this direction reflected in television ads that the parent company runs. And you can see it in GE Sensing's energy-harvesting tire pressure monitor.

Thank goodness for that. I've long admired the example Compaq sets with its choice of materials for computer manufacture and its "product take-back" plan. We need such a leader in the sensor industry, and GE Sensing is in a perfect position to be that. I'll be further heartened to see the company reap financial reward with its environmentally sensitive direction.

When GE Sensing is ready to talk more, I'll be listening.

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