GE acquires Argonne-UChicago start-up SmartSignalBy Eleanor Taylor • January 6, 2011
ARGONNE, Ill. — GE Intelligent Platforms has purchased SmartSignal, a company started by the University of Chicago based on technology developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.
The GE acquisition demonstrates why the University of Chicago creates start-up companies to prove new technologies, said Alan Thomas, director of UChicagoTech, the university’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property. “It’s great to see technology from Argonne that was incubated through the University of Chicago be adopted in a much wider way by such a prominent company. This is the innovation process at work,” he said.
“Part of Argonne’s mission is to partner with industry and promote the economic interests of the United States,” said Argonne Director Eric Isaacs. “This is an excellent example of how research investments can lead to new opportunities, new industries and new jobs as technology developed in the laboratory is transferred to the marketplace."
SmartSignal provides software and services that monitor machinery and equipment, analyze data, and diagnose developing problems before they become serious. It continuously monitors approximately 12,000 assets at more than 300 sites worldwide.
“SmartSignal provides GE with proven analytic software technology that delivers real results,” said Erik Udstuen, Vice President of Software & Services for GE Intelligent Platforms. “At GE, we are always striving to solve the world’s toughest problems, and today the reliability and efficiency of the world’s infrastructure — from energy to water to transportation — is an important problem to solve. We are excited to bring SmartSignal’s advanced technology to help a broad set of customers improve their operations and proactively address problems across a wide range of their assets.”
SmartSignal, its customers and its employees have received many honors for developing and using its technology in a variety of industrial applications, including the following:
- Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards, Software Division Runner-Up, SmartSignal;
- Illinois Technology Association 2009 Lighthouse Award Winner, SmartSignal;
- M2M Magazine 2008 Top 100 Leader in M2M, SmartSignal;
- Edison Electric Institute 2007 Edison Award Winner, Great Plains Energy subsidiary Kansas City Power & Light (a SmartSignal customer).
The company is based on patented smart technology that Argonne scientists developed in the early 1990s to predict pump failures at nuclear facilities. When SmartSignal was legally incorporated in 1995, the company consisted of two employees and eight patents. The company became fully financed in 1999 and became profitable in 2007.
Based in Lisle, Ill., the company now has approximately 100 employees. The company focuses its business on the power and oil and gas industries, serving scores of clients in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, including Chevron, GenOn, Constellation Energy, Entergy and Delta Airlines.
The research that created the patented technology was originally funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy.
Argonne, which is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, owns the license for all power-generation applications of SmartSignal’s technology. A minority shareholder in SmartSignal, the university owns the license for all other applications. Both organizations will continue to receive royalties on the patents covering the technology.