Where's Waldo? GE knows!

December 26, 2001

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.comAfter 18 years of searching for executives in the backwaters of RSNA exhibit booths, I thought it would be easier this year to find

By Greg Freiherr, Editor, gfreiherr@cmp.com

After 18 years of searching for executives in the backwaters of RSNA exhibit booths, I thought it would be easier this year to find my quarry. Attendance was expected to be down, cutting the crowd to a more manageable size. But the people attending the RSNA meeting, it turned out, were just as apt to carry away the folks I wanted to interview as they always had been. Making matters worse, the size of some booths actually got bigger, thanks to merger mania.

More than a few times it felt like I was looking for Waldo, scouring the crowd, searching through dozens of faces for the one I needed. At times like these, the guides some companies provide as part of their public relations effort are godsends. Unfortunately, even these highly trained professionals sometimes get lost. When that happened at the GE booth, my guide had a ready answer‹technology.

We moved to what appeared to be an ordinary flat-panel monitor hanging on a side wall. Several clicks revealed a layout of the booth. Typing the last name of the GE executive revealed a blinking white light.

"There he is," said my guide. "Let's go get him."

And sure enough, there he was, around a corner, out of sight from us‹but not from GE's Waldo Finder.

I was impressed. Usually, I get pretty excited the first time I run into a new piece of equipment, but this was special even to me. After interviewing the exec, I asked my guide how he did it. What amazing piece of technology had GE come up with to track its people?

"Actually, we use it more to track equipment," he said.

Reaching into his pocket, he took out a small rectangular box stamped with the name "IntelliMotion." Typically, hospitals put boxes like this on equipment like mobile C-arms and portable x-ray machines. Radio signals sent by the boxes are picked up by ceiling-suspended antennae and relayed to a computer, which plots their location.

I looked up and there they were, hanging from the McCormick Center rafters. Antennae.

"Wow," I said (or something similarly deep).

It was like a high-tech epiphany. Finally, a medical technology that directly affected my life. Too bad I didn't find it earlier.

A few weeks before the meeting, the editors of Diagnostic Imaging (SCAN's mother publication) had asked me to vote for the most outstanding innovations in medical imaging. If only I'd known.