The fundamental electromechanical relay may not have experienced significant innovation in the past 50 years, but that could change in 2017 if GE Ventures and two partners have anything to say about it.

GE Ventures recently launched Menlo Micro, a new spinout from GE’s Global Research Center, an entity that it says has “reinvented a fundamental building block of electronic systemsthe electronic switch,”  according to the company.

Menlo Micro’s Digital-Micro-Switch platform enables end products serving multiple industry verticals, including mobile communications networks to future next generation 5G mobile networks and industrial IoT markets. Menlo Micro is backed by semiconductor solutions provider Microsemi Corp., Corning, and Paladin Capital Group.

“While superior high-power handling and electrical performance have allowed electromechanical relays to continue to flourish in many market segments, their limitations in size, speed, cost, and reliability present major challenges to system designers,” the company says.

The company says that Menlo’s approach to solving problems through advanced material science allows it to offer power handling (kilowatts) and electrical performance in a micromechanical device with the size, speed, cost, and reliability of a solid-state device. This enables high-value applications such as dc, ac, and RF products in a variety of applications and markets including battery management, home automation, electric vehicles, medical instrumentation, and wireless base stations.

Focused on developing advanced materials, MEMS processing, and high power system design, GE has invested over 12 years of R&D into the Digital-Micro-Switch technology, producing over 60 patent families, and a series of GE-qualified DMS products. Now, the company says Menlo Micro will focus on bringing this technology to the broader market, expanding development of the technology and its reach across industries.

“Menlo Micro’s DMS technology allows us to create something which is as close as possible to the ‘ideal switch,’” said Russ Garcia, Menlo Micro’s CEO, in the release. “Not only has it been proven to be reliable, with tens of thousands of units already shipped in the field, but it truly is a scalable design platform. This will give us the ability to address applications from milliwatts to kilowatts, and bring disruption to many different end markets.”