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The future is full of possibility, and UL is ready to help guide its customers to a safer, more secure and sustainable world.
What’s a new year without a guessing game? Articles abound in print and code, each offering its take on the trends to watch. We spoke with three of our top scientists, engineers and executives to learn their predictions for 2019.
Bill Hoffman, a senior scientist and corporate fellow, has worked on environmental issues for more than 25 years and helped UL define its mission in sustainability and the circular economy.
Ken Boyce is a corporate fellow and principal engineer director for the Energy and Power Technologies division who has been with UL for more than 30 years and has developed Standards, safety programs and thought leadership efforts.
Christian Anschuetz is a senior vice president and chief digital officer who is helping UL customers cut through the information overload that complicates the regulatory, compliance and supply chain landscape, and turn them into insights that deliver competitive advantage.
Hoffman predicts issues regarding sustainability, including sourcing from supply chains and chemical use, will accelerate in the new year. But the area of circular economy, defined as a more sustainable approach that keeps materials in productive use longer, represents a growth opportunity for UL’s customers, as the circular economy will have a better environmental impact while also offering more control over revenue streams.
“There continues to be a lot of opportunity with sustainability. It’s a growing business as a whole, and people are becoming more interested in the sustainability of their products and how it affects their lives,” Hoffman said. “There are a lot of reasons behind that, including environmental, business, regional and national issues. It’s forcing companies to change their thinking on how they are providing products and services.”
Opportunities exist in this new model to have a greater positive environmental impact. For example, instead of selling new products, businesses can choose to maintain and upgrade existing products.
“For people working with the circular economy, 2019 is going to be a busy year,” Hoffman said. “I’m going to be spending most of my time helping companies demonstrate the sustainable use of materials in their supply chains to get better information and improve transparency for their successes.”
Learn more about UL and the circular economy.
Boyce sees 2019 as a year of possibility. internet of things (IoT) technologies, smart cities and advanced grid technology offer new ways to sense and analyze what’s happening and even handle issues autonomously. But that’s not the only area where he sees this technology advancing worldwide.
“We certainly see a real global commitment to advanced energy technologies, which includes grid solutions, renewable energy and energy storage, on a global scale,” he said. “We are seeing a bigger focus on advancing transportation technologies, including more electrification of the transportation fleet and how it can serve as a specialized, dispatchable element of the energy infrastructure that can also get you from place to place.”
As for after 2019, he predicts the future to be more automated as robotics, drones and autonomy are used more frequently and in more applications. For example, a piece of production equipment may use its automation ability to notify the plant manager of the need to be offline for maintenance; or a palletizer may be able to move by itself through a warehouse. Boyce reinforced that it’s critical for these technologies to be safely introduced into their ecosystems.
Learn more about UL Energy and Power Technologies
Anschuetz sees big breakthroughs coming in 2019 to alleviate the information bloat that has been affecting every industry in recent years.
“The data deluge phenomena has left many companies feeling not just overwhelmed but vulnerable,” Anschuetz said. “There is a visceral fear that companies are sitting on valuable information that is just outside of their grasp.” Instead of making things clearer, the excessive amount of information has actually prevented companies from developing a clear picture of their business. But with recent advancements in the advancement and adoption of data science methodologies, Anschuetz believes this is about to change.
“We have been honing our data science capabilities to scale our unique view of the product ecosystem, providing customers with opportunities to engage UL, our science and knowledge in new and different ways,” Anschuetz said. “UL can draw from a client’s information ecosystem and merge it into our own, allowing us to apply UL expertise to any problem the client may be having.”
Anschuetz predicts the new year will see the start of a brand-new ecosystem that will enable a truly collaborative approach to solution development. “It’s going to become this exponential value-driving network,” he said. “We will help companies and consumers solve the biggest problems on this ecosystem.
I think this will cause companies around the world – maybe even those who have worked with UL for decades – reason to pause and say, ‘Whoa. This is different and highly relevant to me.’ The first two to three major steps to bringing this ecosystem together and making this a reality will take place in 2019.”