Meet the Startups: Xpert AI Seeks Impact Through Augmented Vision

Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket.

XPert AI founder Justin Anderson’s grandfather was the optician to the Queen. “He actually made her spectacles,” says the Brit. “He ground the lenses for her.” Instead of glasses, Xpert AI’s vision-enhancing software works through headsets and other devices, but it could be said that Anderson is carrying on the family tradition. Xpert AI’s product can sound inaccessible; one explanation says it “develops next-generation Augmented Vision technology using computer-generated perceptual information combining Computer Vision and Augmented Reality technology to use deep learning to recognize visual patterns in video.”

Justin Anderson, founder of XPert AI

Translation to plain English: In areas as diverse as healthcare and banking, it gives clients better “sight” and that leads to better perception. Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket. Techonomy spoke with Anderson about why his company is unique in the world of AI startups and the reason his passion for Xpert is personal as well as professional.

Techonomy: Xpert AI’s mission can sound very “tech-y,” for lack of a better term. Can you put the company’s aims and basic product in layman’s terms?

Justin Anderson: We link a recording device of any sort—whether that’s a video recorder, an audio recorder or a headset that’s picking up your brainwaves—with artificial intelligence. And the reason we’re doing that is in order to create augmented vision. If you’re a surgeon looking at an X-ray or an image of a scan of some sort, for example, you can’t afford to be missing things. So we’re looking to give them more information than they would have had otherwise. And we’re doing that in other industries too.

Techonomy: You’ve characterized XPert AI as being in Skunk Works mode, using a term that originated in World War II and refers to a high speed fighter jet being created by a small team with expert efficiency. Can you talk about this business philosophy?

JA: Especially in the tech space, people will go out and promote like crazy to try to build the market and connect, and then worry about delivery later on. Frankly, that’s the way that Microsoft made their fortune in the first place and set a blueprint for the way that many technology companies continued thereafter. But our focus has been on ensuring that the core underlying technology is really doing what we want it to do first and foremost, but also keeping speed top of mind. I’ve always had a view that you want to make sure you’ve developed the right level of credibility before you increase your visibility.

Techonomy: You’re a member of Oracle for Startups, which partners with companies like yours to foster innovation. Aside from free cloud credits, are there other aspects of the program you’ve found particularly valuable?

JA: As an entrepreneur, there are a number of different resources that you require to be able to build a business. And some of that is only available to be done with hard cash. There’s only so much goodwill that you can create before you need to put people onto payrolls. But there’s another whole soft currency, something that I like to think of as “startup capital,” which is all of those other resources that you’re able to bring to bear around what you’re building and selling. A lot of that comes down to being introduced to the right people at the right time, whether that’s a client or an investor. Through Oracle for Startups’ Market Connect I’ve sat on stage at the Global Artificial Intelligence Summit and been able to raise Xpert’s profile significantly with both VCs and potential clients. So an association with Oracle gives you many different kinds of capital.

Techonomy: Xpert AI hopes to improve healthcare and strengthen institutions through efforts like lessening fraud in banking. Does this reflect an interest in social justice as well as business?

JA: I like to look at the world through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. There are 17, each of them broken down into sub-objectives, and they’ve put the challenge out there to solve them by 2030. One of them is to be able to have peace, justice and strong institutions, so Xpert’s focus on the banks reflects that. When it comes to healthcare, my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his late teens and part of my interest in neurological disorders is that I know just how devastating that can be for individuals and families. But whether or not Xpert ends up being more helpful in healthcare or an area like strengthening institutions, that is less important. I would just like to be able to say I made an impact.

(This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Oracle for Startups is a global program offering hands-on and self-service journeys to help startups scale. Free and easy to join, Oracle for Startups offers business-boosting resources such as cloud credits, mentoring, technical support, and access to customers – giving startups a real-world advantage.

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Meet the Startups: Xpert AI Seeks Impact Through Augmented Vision

Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket.

In Praise of Positivity: GeoSure Uses Psychology to Market Hope Over Fear

Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket.

The Modern Mindset for Business: Tech is Not the Issue

Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket.

Plastics: “The New Coal”

Xpert’s AI-enhanced technology shows promise in areas ranging from health care, where epilepsy diagnosis and treatment is one focus, to banking, where fraud detection is on the docket.

In Praise of Positivity: GeoSure Uses Psychology to Market Hope Over Fear

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, psychological science and evolutionary theory show that human hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.

Inspiring people to do what is best for themselves and the community is never easy.  We wish it were.  But human beings are messy and complex organisms. Unlike the computer generated algorithms that pervade our lives, we are not made of programmable bits and bytes.

That’s why there have been so many attempts – and many failures – to encourage people to behave well.  The billion dollar anti-drug campaigns of “Just Say NO” and “This is Your Brain on Drugs” of the 1980s are well-known failures. And it keeps happening. Recent vaccination and masking efforts have been less than an unqualified success.

Most of those attempts used fear.  Simply put, if you use drugs, your brain will rot; if you don’t get jabbed, you will get sick and die – but their effectiveness has been questionable at best.

On the other hand, positive messages  have been shown to convince people to avoid illicit drugs.  Likewise, communicating that getting vaccinated and wearing masks shows that you care about your loved ones and others can help convince people to wear masks (and roll up their sleeves.

GeoSure chooses positivity, safety and confidence over apprehension and danger. This is something we envisioned from GeoSure’s inception at. A data-driven startup that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning, GeoSure generates real-time safety data for over 65,000 neighborhoods around the world. Safety scores – which cover eight categories including measurements for women, for LGBTQ, for nighttime movements – could easily be marketed from a fear perspective.

From the beginning, we wanted to flip the model upside down.

We choose hope, not panic. We choose empowering people with accurate data that enables them, and the larger community, to make smarter decisions.

We market to large enterprises – and to federal, state, and local agencies, including tourist boards – based on the empowerment, self-assurance, and emotional and physical well-being our data provides. The experience has been intentionally designed for the end user.  That’s different too.

There is strong evolutionary science behind our approach. After all, if we are well-meaning but scientifically off-base, we will not succeed in our mission.

GeoSure understands that human beings are  information processing organisms. Humans evolved with the ability to quickly identify and assess information that determines if they will survive or perish, whether it be the sound of a wooly mammoth or the odor of lethal mushrooms.  We no longer live in a thrive or die environment, but our biological legacy still responds as though we do.

For those hard-wired reasons,  not positioning GeoSure to deeply appeal to our fear instincts may seem counterintuitive. After all, there is a reason that the mantra of local news has long been “If it bleeds, it leads.”  Peril captures attention.

But let’s go one step deeper. In treacherous situations – whether the threat in our immediate environment comes in the form of a pachyderm or as data from a digital platform –  we are programmed to react in one of three ways:  fight, flight, or freeze.

But if you want to know if it’s safe to travel to a local restaurant at 9 PM in a strange city, the three “Fs” aren’t going to help.  What will help is the reassuring, authoritative, confidence-building experience that GeoSure provides. This emotional context is just as aligned with our evolved brains as waving the flag of fear.

In fact, we are programmed to both avoid danger and seek opportunity, both of which GeoSure makes possible. Opportunity is connected to pleasure and reward centers in the brain. GeoSure can reach those with its message about the adventure that motivated you to take this journey. Are you taking the trip to minimize danger?  Or to maximize positive experiences while feeling empowered and safe? GeoSure believes it is the latter.

What’s more, GeoSure encourages people to contribute to community safety.  There is a great deal of research that shows that people derive pleasure by pitching into the common good.

In short, we replace the short-term marketing of fright with the long-term promise of well-being.  Fear is toxic, the anxiety it causes results in emotional and physiological damage, including the release of cortisol which triggers inflammation.  By contrast, the positivity associated with GeoSure will generate what’s called “chronic positivity”. Are not employees and customers more composed, constructive, better decision-makers in a confident frame of mind than when disturbed and uneasy?

The arc of positivity extends from GeoSure to everyone in our network – the companies who offer our platform to employees and customers of partners cities, local tourist boards; and, of course, end users.

In some ways, this comes down to a cognitive bias known as the “availability heuristic”: whatever is familiar or comes easily to mind is assumed to be common or typical.  So when we are bombarded with negative information about something, we will think of that something as negative.  If we are instead presented with positive information, we will think of that something in a positive way. Which would you rather experience?

It’s that simple and profound.

GeoSure has proven, in the marketplace, that the psychological basis of hope versus disquiet, of confidence versus chaos, works.  We are accessible to more than 14 million users, made available through major employers and partners like AIG, SAP Concur’s, Tripit, Nike, and Deem.

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, we have proved – using sound psychological science and evolutionary theory – that our hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.  We choose positivity over negativity.

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Meet the Startups: Xpert AI Seeks Impact Through Augmented Vision

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, psychological science and evolutionary theory show that human hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.

In Praise of Positivity: GeoSure Uses Psychology to Market Hope Over Fear

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, psychological science and evolutionary theory show that human hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.

The Modern Mindset for Business: Tech is Not the Issue

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, psychological science and evolutionary theory show that human hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.

Plastics: “The New Coal”

In a world where too many people are monetizing fear, psychological science and evolutionary theory show that human hard-wiring also responds to messages of agency, confidence, and trust.

The Modern Mindset for Business: Tech is Not the Issue

Don’t focus so much on the technology, but rather on the problems you’re trying to solve. What you’re trying to accomplish matters more than the tech you use.

When I was a kid in New England, we figured out what clothes to wear on a winter day by scraping frost off the window and looking at the thermometer. Today I just ask Siri or Alexa. The weather report may be more accurate and easier to obtain, but the outcome is the same–I know how to dress for the day.

Today we have powerful new technology tools at our disposal. With the help of machine learning and AI, software can figure out things we would have had to figure out on our own in the past. But it would have taken forever.

When I talk to Cognizant’s clients, many of them are overwhelmed by all the possibility out there. They ask, “Where do we start?” What they don’t understand is technology is no longer the problem for business. For all the rhetoric, the purpose of AI, analytics, and modern software is simple: it’s to make our lives easier.

At Cognizant we’re in the business of helping clients achieve great things with technology, and we are certainly passionate, even obsessed, about doing that elegantly.  We tell the companies we work with not to focus so much on the technology, but rather on the problems they’re trying to solve. What matters more than the tech you use is what you’re trying to accomplish.

What is harder than getting the technology right is changing the managerial and employee mindset. Organizational structure and ego–that’s the struggle most leaders face. The challenge is getting your organization aligned for the business results that really matter. It’s all about adopting a modern mindset.

It’s understandable that so many businesspeople remain intimidated by technology. The industry has mystified everything with acronyms and noise. But the technology is basically the same as ever. Applications don’t work without data, and data doesn’t accomplish anything without software applications. If the graphical user interface is terrible, nobody’s going to use it.

By doing such a good job of mystifying it all, the tech industry is actually slowing down business progress. We’re not having the honest conversations about what’s real. We spend more time instead with religious debates about things like whether to use the AWS cloud or Google’s version.

So what is the modern mindset? It’s not about being right all the time. The modern mindset is to be empathetic, non-judgmental, and to understand and appreciate diverse ideas and concepts from both your employees and your customers in order to uncover unexpected solutions.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said it best: “the only way you get to real innovation is by being empathetic.” You must try and understand what people need, even when they can’t articulate it.  For those companies and institutions that can figure this out, there’s going to be a massive release of innovation capability, and exponential growth.

When you begin a project, the key question is: What outcome do you want? Are you trying to make a transaction feel easier for customers? To reduce the cost or increase speed in a business process? Maybe you’re in insurance, and you want to speed up how a claim gets adjudicated. Or you may want to find ways to drive down the cost of some kind of healthcare transaction. Those are the things that matter.

All of that can now be reinforced and done better with technology, but the business outcomes have never changed. Either you acquire the customer, or you don’t. What changes is how you acquire that customer, and what format or channel you use. Someone may chase a prospect down in the airport, trying to get them to sign up on an iPad for a credit card. Or you might place a Facebook ad or send a direct mail piece.

The large tech and software firms have solved many of the tech challenges we had to wrestle with years ago. The tech superpowers like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, coined “hyperscalers,” are spending many tens of billions a year to build data centers and cloud services. Every company can take advantage of that enormous investment and simply pay by the month. No longer does a technology manager have to go sit on the loading dock waiting for trucks from Dell to show up with 500 servers. All that complexity is gone, and the industry keeps on making it easier and easier.

So, we’re at a Zeitgeist-shifting moment. All the things you always wanted to do or could imagine doing can now be done. But still, I worry a lot about the Fortune 1,000. Too many of them have antiquated processes. They’re not modernizing them fast enough. They are approaching the challenge with the same mindsets and wondering why there is no breakthrough.

The way to get more out of tech is often to focus on changing the company’s culture. Too many companies are still organized vertically, with functions in silos. Yet business processes generally work horizontally, across functions, even across industries. It’s a central problem that’s both cultural and organizational.

It is possible to address that and operate differently. For example, one major bank turned its credit card division on its head and began putting people in charge of customer journeys. They turned the processes horizontally, because they realized that in the old vertical structures there were just too many handoffs inside the organization. They redesigned the incentives and the cost structures. They realized that what really mattered were things like – how successful were people when activating a credit card? Or what did it feel like to make a payment?

Some new companies can offer car insurance to a consumer in literally two minutes. The people who identify with that kind of service are millennials, Gen Zs, or younger. But 15 years down the road, they will be the most profitable customers. These are the people that new digitally savvy companies are picking off. The big insurance giants may be fine now, but in 10 years they will feel the pain.

Among the Fortune 1,000, few have mastered this. The newer firms can come in and pick off very specific products and features, and build on the back of that. For example, where’s Venmo going to go? It’s all that kids use for payments these days. Soon enough, Venmo will become a bank. And younger people will just use it.

But if a company’s leaders want to move their organization into the modern tech-driven and connected mindset and reality, it’s not going to be just about adopting the right technology. First, they have to get their corporate structure right, and their metrics. And to change an organization, it is fundamentally all about leadership. You have to bring people along for the ride. Leaders have to take the time to engage and listen, to understand, empathetically, people’s concerns and problems. You don’t have to agree with everyone’s views. But if you don’t listen and take the time to understand them, how do you help them change?

As systems all around us become more accurate and faster, that’s going to push progress faster. If a medical claim that used to take 30 days to be adjudicated, for example, now only takes two minutes, what will that mean for society in health care?

After a hurricane, an insurance company can fly a drone to assess the damage to a home. They can put different types of sensors on the drone to give a better view of the damage. Otherwise, someone has to get up on a ladder and try to figure it out. It’s still the same outcome, which is to adjudicate the house claim. Now you just make it happen faster, with more accuracy. But guess what, you also did it more safely. You didn’t put an adjuster in harm’s way. But now that adjuster can go onto his or her laptop and get a feed from an AI application that assesses the damage. The result will be happier home owners, because they got their money faster.

People worry that jobs will be threatened. But these new systems will open up a whole new set of jobs. Who’s going to be the drone fleet administrator? Those skills and people don’t yet exist. And we’re going to be able to unleash all this human mind power. Today, too much of that capability is being wasted on mundane tasks. Going forward we’ll be able to solve big and important problems that today nobody has time to address. With a modern mindset, you’re going to be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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Meet the Startups: Xpert AI Seeks Impact Through Augmented Vision

Don't focus so much on the technology, but rather on the problems you're trying to solve. What you're trying to accomplish matters more than the tech you use.

In Praise of Positivity: GeoSure Uses Psychology to Market Hope Over Fear

Don't focus so much on the technology, but rather on the problems you're trying to solve. What you're trying to accomplish matters more than the tech you use.

The Modern Mindset for Business: Tech is Not the Issue

Don't focus so much on the technology, but rather on the problems you're trying to solve. What you're trying to accomplish matters more than the tech you use.

Plastics: “The New Coal”

Don't focus so much on the technology, but rather on the problems you're trying to solve. What you're trying to accomplish matters more than the tech you use.

Plastics: “The New Coal”

Plastics have yielded life-saving medical advances, supercharged technological advancements, helped send us to space, and transformed our lives in innumerable ways. But they are poisoning our people and our planet.

Plastics are ubiquitous. They’ve yielded life-saving medical advances, supercharged technological advancements, helped send us to space, and transformed our lives in innumerable ways. But they are poisoning our people and our planet. Move over, Industrial Age. Welcome to the Plastics Age.

The Human Cost

You, yes you, literally consume a credit card’s worth of plastic each week. Each. Week. Most of it comes from our drinking water (found in 90% of bottled water and 83 % of tap). Microplastics, first identified in the 1970s, don’t only contaminate the water and air, they’re also found in the fruits and vegetables we eat, deep in our lungs, our bloodstreams, and even in the placentas of human fetuses. Phatalates, which make plastics flexible, are linked to breast cancer, asthma, type 2 diabetes, obesity, autism spectrum disorders, reproductive issues, and a myriad of other health problems. And beyond that, certain compounds found in plastics have recently been found to release far more toxic chemicals than previously thought, causing cancer, memory loss, disrupting our endocrine systems, and who knows what else.

Plastics are an environmental justice issue. The resulting pollution and ill health more acutely affects Black and brown people and low-income communities around the world. According to a 2021 report from the United Nations, “the impacts of plastics on marginalized populations are severe, and exist at all stages of the production cycle, from extracting raw materials and manufacturing, through to consumption and disposal.”

We dispose of plastic in unjust ways. The U.S shipped 1.4 billion pounds of plastic trash overseas in 2020, largely to developing nations where it is often burned in public, discarded in waterways, or dumped into open pits due to insufficient waste management infrastructure. Sometimes called “waste colonialism,” this practice damages the health of local communities and carries a heavy carbon footprint.

And domestically, petrochemical and plastics manufacturing plants cause similarly unjust burdens on disadvantaged communities. Nearly 90% of reported pollution from U.S. plastics manufacturing is released into just 18 communities located mostly in Louisiana and Texas. Residents of the predominantly Black and low-income communities in “cancer alley” along the Mississippi River, for example, face severely elevated risks of cancer and report an unusually high incidence of miscarriages.

Environmental Impact

Plastic pollution and plastic production both continue to accelerate. Every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck filled with plastic is dumped into our oceans. During that same minute more than 1 million plastic bags are used – each with a “working life” of only 15 minutes. Half of all plastics ever manufactured were made in the last 15 years, and production is currently expected to double by 2050. The depressing statistics just keep coming. The Unites States produced 35.7 million tons of plastic waste in 2018, more than 90% of which was dumped in landfills or burned.

From the peaks of the Himalayas to the deepest trenches in the ocean, plastic contamination is found everywhere. We’re all familiar with the haunting images of sea turtles with straws jammed in their noses, seagulls strangled by six pack rings, and whales stuffed full of plastic trash. That’s just the tip of the melting iceberg.

But if nature isn’t your thing, consider the economics. The UN estimates the societal cost of plastic used in the consumer goods sector is $75 billion each year, because of “financial impacts resulting from issues such as pollution of the marine environment or air pollution caused by incinerating plastic.”

“The New Coal”

Plastics are not only a pollution and people problem, they’re a direct contributor to the climate crisis, contrary to what many seem to believe. A sobering report from Beyond Plastics details the greenhouse gas emissions of the industry, and calls plastics “the new coal.” To provide context, if plastics were a country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, surpassing all but China, the U.S., India and Russia. The U.S. plastic industry’s contribution to climate change is on track to exceed that of coal-fired power generation by 2030. According to the report, the U.S. industry is responsible for at least 232 million tons of CO2 emissions per year – equivalent to 116 average-sized coal-fired power plants.

And of course using plastic means using fossil fuels. By 2050, plastics are projected to account for 20% of global fossil fuel consumption.

So Where’s the Regulation?

Governments, unsurprisingly, have been slow to act. But glimmers of hope are emerging. In March, UN member states endorsed a landmark agreement that “addresses the full lifecycle of plastic from source to sea” and agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee that will forge a global agreement on plastic pollution. In California, the attorney general just issued a subpoena to ExxonMobil for information on its role in causing the global plastic waste crisis. Inspired by an NPR and PBS Frontline report revealing that the fossil fuel industry financed a decades long, multi-billion dollar advertising campaign to mislead the public about recycling, the AG’s move is part of a broader investigation into “half-century campaign of deception and the ongoing harm caused to the State of California.” And more than a dozen states are considering laws requiring manufacturers, rather than taxpayers, to cover the cost of recycling, following Maine’s lead.

Where’s the Innovation?

Plastics are an inextricable part of human life at this point. To achieve the kind of “de-plasticization” we need will require major changes in products, business practices, and everyday lifestyles. A shift this massive will take time. We need to start now.

The global plastics market accounted for $621.9 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach $758.6 billion by 2025. Plastic is big money and the entire sector is ripe for innovation. Startups are beginning to revolutionize packaging, recycling, and waste management, using bio-tech, AI, robots, and innovative circular economy models. Venture capital is starting to wake up to the opportunities.

Next week, we’ll continue examining plastic, taking a look at some companies disrupting the industry.

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Meet the Startups: Xpert AI Seeks Impact Through Augmented Vision

Plastics have yielded life-saving medical advances, supercharged technological advancements, helped send us to space, and transformed our lives in innumerable ways. But they are poisoning our people and our planet.

In Praise of Positivity: GeoSure Uses Psychology to Market Hope Over Fear

Plastics have yielded life-saving medical advances, supercharged technological advancements, helped send us to space, and transformed our lives in innumerable ways. But they are poisoning our people and our planet.

The Modern Mindset for Business: Tech is Not the Issue

Plastics have yielded life-saving medical advances, supercharged technological advancements, helped send us to space, and transformed our lives in innumerable ways. But they are poisoning our people and our planet.

Plastics: “The New Coal”

Plastics have yielded life-saving medical advances, supercharged technological advancements, helped send us to space, and transformed our lives in innumerable ways. But they are poisoning our people and our planet.

How Catastrophe Bonds Help Mitigate the Impact of Climate Change

By transferring the risk of natural disasters, countries improve economic resilience and have greater access to capital to provide relief to citizens if an extreme weather event does occur.

While the effects of climate change are severe and interconnected, collaboration among global stakeholders is growing to lessen its effects, and that can only be positive. In the financial sector, the best-kept secret may be a relatively young asset class known as catastrophe bonds.

Catastrophe bonds (or “cat bonds”), which mark their 25th anniversary as an asset class  this year, were created to diversify risk for insurers and increase coverage after the dual disasters of Florida’s Hurricane Andrew and California’s Northridge earthquake. The effect on the entire insurance industry could have been disastrous if Andrew had hit just 25 miles south in the city of Miami. Some might assume the insurance industry could have achieved sufficient insulation from too much loss through the use of reinsurance (i.e., the insurance of insurance by specialized players) and retrocessional insurance (that’s the insurance of insurance of, yes, insurance). Those tools helped, and in many cases still do, effectively. But in a time of increasingly severe weather events, an even deeper level of protection is necessary. As a result, cat bonds have become increasingly popular.

Last year, the insurance industry faced $343 billion in climate-related catastrophic losses, making it the third costliest year on record. The differential between economic losses and insured losses (aka the “protection gap”) was 62 percent. In total, there were over 400 environmental disasters—fewer than in 2020 but they were generally more extreme and more expensive. Also in 2021, Death Valley in California experienced the highest temperature on Earth ever recorded. Cat bonds meet the moment by transferring insurance risk to the wider capital market, which can absorb exponentially more losses.

The structures of this insurance-linked security (ILS) are sophisticated, and Aon, a leading global professional services firm, is leading the way. Says Paul Schultz, the CEO of Aon Securities, the largest structurer of catastrophe bonds, which, since the market’s inception in 1997, has provided its services to clients in 39% of all issuances: “We spend a lot of our time talking to and educating the markets about catastrophe bonds.”

So here’s how they operate, in relatively simple terms: Working with institutional clients, for the most part (deals typically start around $100 million) Aon and other structuring agents act as an investment bank in the transaction. They collaborate with clients to create a Special Purpose Vehicle, or SPV, that issues the bond, to develop the structure of the bond—which specifies which risks, whether hurricanes, earthquakes, floods et al., are covered—–and to determine how they will place it in the marketplace. Then, they communicate with investors to complete the deal. During the term of such bonds, usually three years, the funds are kept in a dedicated account. If the insured catastrophic event occurs, the money goes toward covering losses. If it doesn’t, investors get it back with interest attached. There are roughly three types of “triggers” for payouts: “indemnity,” which is closely aligned with actual losses incurred by the transaction’s sponsoring insurance company or insured; “industry loss,” which is similar to indemnity but aligned with losses incurred by the insurance industry as a whole; and “parametric,” which is based on a catastrophe’s physical characteristics, like a windstorm that occurs within a certain number of miles from a particular city, at a particular velocity. Those on both sides of the transaction like such vehicles because they have low correlation to financial markets, offering diversification from other types of investments, and historically they’ve offered better returns than conventional high-yield bonds.

To keep this investment as safe as possible both for protection buyers and for investors, sound analytical methods to calculate risk are necessary. And in the case of cat bonds, these are again novel. The traditional insurance industry credo that the-past-is-the-best-predictor-of-the-future isn’t as applicable when so little historical data exists for the kind of increasingly severe weather and climate events that were previously considered rare. Floods are one example. For perils that have data quality issues, there are non-indemnity triggers (i.e. parametric and index based solutions) that can help fill the gap. Predictive forward-looking modeling, which uses thousands of data points to assess a catastrophe’s probability and cost, is also key to helping shape better decisions. Aon is also a leader on this front.

Schultz notes that his division uses multiple commercial modeling types but that Aon also has its own “Impact Forecasting” team, a catastrophe modeling center of excellence that can help create a “better and a tighter fit for clients than you could if you relied on one single data point.” Aon, which advised on over half of the cat bonds issued last year, also has a strategic alliance with artificial intelligence and machine learning company Zesty.ai to develop first-of-their-kind models for severe convective storms and floods.

Among Aon’s clients is Arch Capital Group, which worked with the firm to structure a $150 million deal that covered a wide range of catastrophe types globally—and was Arch’s first such bond in the property arena. Emmanuel Durousseau, head of retrocession and ILS at Arch Reinsurance, says, “This deal is a good complement to our overall strategy. The multi-peril, multi-region and multi-year aspects make it more capital intensive for traditional solutions, which are subject to the annual fluctuations of their market. This is where ILS can bring value to the overall picture. The cat bond allows some syndication by delivering size that would have been constrained under a private structure.”

Commenting on Aon and its role in the deal, Durousseau says, “From a sponsor point of view, as the structuring agent and bookrunner, Aon brings knowledge, market relationships, and a global presence within the investor community.”

Some might ask, in the event of a significant climate event, how would this burgeoning asset class fare? “Hurricane Katrina is actually a good example of how the market expanded after a catastrophic event,” says Aon’s Schultz. “The market was still pretty small [before it] and the traditional insurance markets and reinsurance markets couldn’t provide enough capacity for all those that were looking to hedge hurricane risk in the U.S.” Cat bonds quickly grew to a $14 billion market and that growth has continued. A landmark $12.5 billion in cat bonds was issued in 2021, and there are now $32 billion of active cat bonds in the market.

When it comes to future development and trends, Schultz highlights opportunities for social impact, via relationships with governments, humanitarian organizations, and academic institutions. Aon has worked with the World Bank on several deals including the largest ever cat bond covering earthquakes, in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, and another covering tropical cyclones that was sponsored by Jamaica—the first sponsored by a Caribbean country. The World Bank’s participation in issuing cat bonds highlights the fact that cat bonds are beneficial to governments and countries as well. By transferring the risk of natural disasters, countries improve their economic resilience and have greater access to capital to provide disaster relief to their citizens if an extreme weather event does occur. Particularly for underserved and emerging markets, cat bonds can offer an important economic lifeline.

Such structures are also groundbreaking because they allow investors across the globe to support economically disadvantaged countries, while potentially strengthening individual stakeholders and the broader industry as well. “We want to grow the entire market,” Schultz sums up. “But we also want to maximize the social impact from these transactions.”

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Globalization Isn’t Dead in Software Engineering

How can businesses harness the collective power of global engineering teams? Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when extending your engineering capacity.

Jamie Dimon, Larry Fink and the many others proclaiming the death of globalization haven’t been in Zus Health’s ‘virtual’ engineering room. And it’s not just us – the age of cross border engineering teams and talent has never been more vibrant. Aside from being cool and smart, engineers from outside the U.S. are often humble and lower key with zero sensationalism. At the same time, they are firm in their beliefs and savvy enough with English and U.S. culture (usually) to argue points. A winning combination.

Zus Health is an early-stage startup focused on accelerating digital health builders with a platform of healthcare-oriented, API-first services aimed at eliminating the current data siloes of today’s healthcare system. This is both an extremely visionary and challenging mission, and it will require a small army of world-class software engineers (along with many other talented teammates) to pull off – which is why along with our growing team of in-house engineers, we also work closely with an international team based in Poland.

However, there are indeed tricks of the trade (best practices some would say) in harnessing the collective power of global engineering teams. While these have evolved in the last decade or so, here are some guidelines to dig into when thinking about extending your engineering capacity. And of course, many of these apply for any sort of remote work, today’s new reality:

  • The value of ongoing customer-facing interactions cannot be overstated. While cultural, linguistic and geographic obstacles (flights are expensive!) can be challenging, exposing global engineers to customers in a shadowing environment is valuable because all engineers should build direct customer understanding and empathy.
  • Exploratory prototypes and new market definition are often best done in-house. Steel threads that fail are often more valuable than those that succeed – initial learnings are foundational to building what is actually useful for customers. If you do not intimately understand how you made it and why you made it, you do not get the benefits of knowing what to learn from the failure. Even with a perfect understanding of what went right and wrong, if offsite you will still miss the smell or the internet pop-up ad or whatever other accident that inevitably leads to inspiration. Total ownership by an external team can possibly play here, but generally the cultural, linguistic and geographic constraints make that more difficult.
  • Objectively knowable work is fertile ground for external service partners. For example, here at Zus we are building all our products based on the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, a modern standard defining how electronic health information can be exchanged. Within this framework, we find that it is difficult to meaningfully reduce the tax associated with a digital health builder working in a FHIR-native environment by mapping data fields into the FHIR standard or prospecting alternatives that preserve their ability to network-connect their data in the future. FHIR is lovely in so many ways, but it is really immature as a production framework for many use cases. However, the ability to make it invisible and effortless to builders is huge. So, the possibility of an international team standing up the ability to parse wild amounts of incoming data from across the industry and refactor it for FHIR is super valuable.
  • Iteration, improvements and extensions are where the team can shine. Once you have workflows and data, if you are in a product-centric ecosystem, anyone should be able to get into the sandbox and offer alternative microservices that are faster or that do more than older ones. The future possibilities here are exciting, but obviously there must first be an ecosystem with results. External teams can build wonderful ecosystems on top of some initial proof of product-market fit, if you open up that door.

Times have changed dramatically both recently and over the last decade. There is the swagger and imagination of veterans of modern, product-centric tech business available everywhere. By adding experienced, diverse minds, companies can build a better product in ways that would otherwise be impossible. Anyone who does not consider this is not only a laggard – but they are completely missing the boat.

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Fortifying Global Supply Chains Against Sanctions and Stresses

The lack of visibility in the supply chain has a cascading impact on sustainability, and inflationary pressures as well. IoT could enable an interdependent economy with intelligence and efficiency.

It took decades to build today’s complex world of interdependence. It’s a world of global supply chains linked by technology and delivered by connected modalities of land, sea and air transportation. We have exquisitely-tuned distribution and replenishment models. Or so it seems.

Now, unfortunately, the work of those decades of painstaking, layer-by-layer construction can be unwound with dramatic and consequential rapidity.  It can happen sometimes in months, as we saw with the slow-roll of the pandemic, and sometimes even in days and hours.  And we are now seeing that with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the global oil market – and on the billions of products that are petroleum derived, in one form or another. Global agriculture supply chains are also in turmoil as a result.

Other supply chain jolts can emerge with expected ferocity: Just recently the world’s deficit in neon, of all things, starting flashing red.

There is no way for global business to predict such black swan events – although technologies are emerging, like GeoQuant, that can apply machine learning and AI to geopolitical risk.   The New York Times headlined one article on March 12 – “Russia Sanctions Snarl Shipping as Pandemic Pressure Eases.”

But black swans don’t require abject surrender.  Business leaders can and often do empower their supply chains – and hence, their entire operational models – with the ability to better cope with – if not triumph over – exogenous events like these that shake the foundations of the global economy.

The most fundamental–and newly fixable-flaw in the global supply chain has been the case over many decades––it is fundamentally a black box.  Or more accurately, it is a linked series of black boxes. While they might appear to be marvels of technological sophistication–the Harvard Business Review and others have celebrated Walmart’s supply chain prowess, for example–but most of them still give participating companies little real visibility into what is happening to the trillions of items moving through them.

This lack of visibility has a surprising and cascading impact on sustainability, and inflationary pressures as well.

The internet of things (IoT) has long promised to be the solution to such supply chain opacity. But it has failed to scale, as supply chains grew from just a few billions of items to the trillions that today must be tracked to bring the supply chain from dark to light.

The depth of the problem is no secret. One well-known supply chain solutions company, iGPS, recently noted: 

Storing pallet loads of products in an improper environment will result in the products having to be disposed of even if the packaging remains intact. Cold chain products, like certain foods and pharmaceuticals, are very sensitive to temperature. A small oversight–like failing to secure a cooler door–can cause temperatures to spike and render a product unsafe and unusable.”

This lack of intelligence at the level of the pallet–let alone at the level of the item––is a problem every day, in tens of thousands of cases.  In short, the black box crises – and I use the phrase literally – has been a longstanding,  intractable problem that the industry has come to accept. It’s a form of learned helplessness.

The good news is that existential problems are a trigger for innovation.  Intractable problems that are seen as insurmountable obstacles are catalysts that make us ask the most challenging questions – and then, sometimes, developing light-year-jumping technology to answer them.

Here are four “why didn’t someone ask them before” questions. They have been around for as long as the IoT has been.

  • Why can’t we create a scalable sensing solution that enables trillions–literally––of “things” to communicate essential data about their circumstances, to turn shadows into substance? Everything from a zucchini to a vial of vaccine to a favorite hoodie could then be smart and fully communicative.
  • Why can’t these “circumstances” include environmental awareness of these “things”? It should include information about not just location, but temperature and humidity, as well as broader sentience: who touched them, and where are they in the first in/first out calculus?
  • Why can’t this awareness start with the factory – or farm – and extend through the entire supply chain and its logistical footprint, all the way to retail? And perhaps even then to the refrigerators of consumers, creating a “brainiac replenishment economy”.
  • Why can’t this enlightenment make it possible for the IoT to become the Internet of Trillions – empowering “things” ultimately to fix supply chain breaks themselves? Can’t we address the 40 percent of food that’s wasted because our dinosaur kale has a dinosaur brain? We definitely do not yet have smart cruciferous veggies.

Those “what if” questions might appear to drift into H.G. Wellsian science fiction.  They also point out the limits of today’s RFID tags, which have been around for decades and have failed to scale to the trillions required to significantly impact the global economy.

Even active RFID tags – as opposed to passive – are limited in the data they can gather and transmit, and lack a critical cloud component. And they require batteries.

It was the challenge of a creating a new paradigm – a postage-stamp-sized computer that could harvest energy without a battery and send it to the cloud – for pennies – that led to the creation of company called Wilot.

Could such IoT Pixels – with the ability to illuminate every dark element in the supply chain – be able to compensate for and neutralize all the tectonic disruptions caused by a global pandemic and war in Europe?

Of course not.  But massive disruptions have second- and third-order effects which a smarter and full-sensing IoT can address.

As the world grapples with the impact of the sanctions on Russian oil exports, consider, for example, the range of items produced from oil.  They include everything from diesel fuel to vitamin capsules, lipstick, and contact lenses, as well as thousands of other consumer and industrial products.

So no single innovation can solve the consequences of the oil shock by itself. But in our interdependent economy we can bring intelligence and efficiency to those elements of the supply chain that are facing inflationary pressures and shortages based on the underlying price of oil, or pandemic disruptions to the global economic system.

If manufacturers can actually see the inventories of their product in stores, continuously in real time, be it a pallet of Lady Danger lipstick or a shelf of organic Alpha Omega fish oil, this will enable them to balance their inventories and not overbuy or oversupply when commodity prices spike.  Being able to ascertain the precise location of an item has a vast economic impact for individual companies and the global economy.

Similarly, you might not think there is a connection between the temperature at which a zucchini is warehoused and shipped and what happens in the Ukraine.  But the cost of produce is dependent on the cost of agricultural inputs, which include urea – the primary ingredient in fertilizer. And urea is in turn driven by commodity costs which are reactive to sanctions and the macro economy.

This transformative future, which companies like Wiliot are bringing to life, is one that CEOs need to internalize and act on. They shouldn’t, in fact, need much prompting, since a recent survey found that a monumental and Everest-ian percentage of them – 72 percent  – say they are worried about getting axed because of “supply chain woes.”

Those travails will only intensify. And the need to turn supply chains light and bright with every twist and turn of their now-shadowy journey will only intensify. Bloomberg in fact warns that climate change will be the next “supply chain pain.”

As Wiliot brings peak intelligence to what it calls “IoT2”–the Internet of Trillions of Things–it will only make those who’ve chosen the discipline as their career even more delighted by their choice.  Survey after survey (after survey) find the overwhelming majority of those who work across supply chains feel rewarded by what they do.

Trillions of self-aware things moving successfully through their supply chains will create undreamed of levels of resourcefulness, resilience, and self-correction. That should make supply chain professionals even happier to come to work every day.

About the Authors:

Adam Hanft, CEO of Hanft Ideas, is a globally-known expert in strategy, marketing, branding and messaging; he is also a prolific cultural critic and journalist. This combination of skills and experiences is the confluence of disciplines that define the future of marketing.

Steve Statler is the author of Beacon Technologies, the presenter of the Mister Beacon podcast and SVP of Marketing at Wiliot, a company he joined shortly after it was founded. Wiliot is a Sensing as a Service, cloud and semiconductor company, providing “Intelligence for Everyday Things” using its IoT Pixel tags.

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How Tech Is Mobilizing to Confront the Climate Crisis

Can technology help solve the climate crisis? A lot of smart money is betting that it can.

Can technology help solve the climate crisis? A lot of smart money is betting that it can. Taylor Francis, co-founder of Watershed, has raised $70 million dollars in venture capital, putting the startup’s estimated value at $1 billion within a year of establishment.

Watershed aims to be a leading software platform that helps businesses cut down their carbon emissions by providing tools for companies to measure where their carbon emissions are coming from, as well as devising plans to reduce them and reporting on the progress. Francis said his clients want to consider all of the things they can change as a company to get to zero emissions. “That’s where companies can have an impact here,” he said at a recent conference. “I think there’s a real power for networks and aggregation and pointing dollars together at the low-carbon solution.”

Francis was one of dozens of speakers at the 2022 Techonomy Climate summit last month in Silicon Valley. Buzzing with entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, and experts on climate and data science, the event showcased innovative companies and new concepts ranging from carbon accounting to climate justice. The players from Big Tech were there too, including IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce, as sustainability becomes a major imperative across corporate America. Among the highlights:

Saving Us: The Case for Climate Hope

Katherine Hayhoe, author of Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, kicked off the event by raising issues about how we tackle the political divide when addressing climate change. Hayhoe addressed two central themes that she has spent decades trying to unpack in her work as a researcher: Why so many people feel distanced from the issue and why they feel that we can’t fix the problem.

“Many people feel like the cure is worse than the disease–that the solutions they feel would leave us worse off than just coping with the impact,” she said. “A hurricane does not knock on your door and ask who you voted for in the last election before it floods your home and rips off your roof,” Hayhoe added. “Climate change affects all of us to the point where to care about it, we only have to do one thing. And that one thing is quite literally being a human being living on planet earth.”

Building Microsoft’s Foundations to be Carbon Negative by 2030

Microsoft sees climate change as an existential threat that needs to be measured, tracked and forecast, according to Chief Environmental Officer Lucas Joppa. “Without the predictability of climate change, we can’t further build and develop enduring socioeconomic structures,” Joppa said. Seeing climate change as not just a danger but also a business opportunity, the company has launched Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability to help companies record, report and reduce their environmental impact.

Microsoft is making strides toward its goal of being carbon negative by 2030. To do that, the company plans to reduce its emissions by half or more by 2030 and then physically remove the remaining amounts in small portions from the atmosphere. Joppa said that the steps to this process start with defining what net zero means for every organization and individual, maturing the carbon-removal markets, and by doing a much better job of figuring out how to measure carbon.

James Newsome of Persefoni

Carbon Accounting: The Invisible Cost of Doing Business

Persefoni, a company founded in 2020, is a climate-management and accounting platform designed to help  companies and financial institutions to meet stakeholder and regulatory climate-disclosure requirements and requests. In that role, Persefoni has been growing at a fast clip, with a  global team of more than 240 employees. Said James Newsome, the company’s chief data officer: “There is one thing that is consistent: Without being able to measure something, then how do you even manage it? We cannot get to where we need to be if we do not have proper accounting for it.”

Accelerating Breakthrough Technology for a Lower-Carbon Future

General Electric, the 130-year old company founded by Thomas Edison, is still leading the way in energy innovation, according to Roger Martella, the company’s chief sustainability officer, who was interviewed by David KirkpatrickTechonomy’s founder and editor-in-chief. “The state of energy transition that we’re in is significant,” Martella said. “I think history will look back and say ‘This is the era of climate innovation.’”

According to GE, the company is responsible in one way or another for creating one third of the world’s electricity, in 175 countries. The giant company is collaborating with international governments including Germany and Canada as well as smaller energy companies to develop new technologies.

As the war in Ukraine is shedding a new light on the world’s energy resources, Martella said that GE is working to accelerate solutions that will reduce solve multiple challenges at the same time. “It’s not only about climate change,” he said. “It’s about energy independence; it’s about access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable electricity beyond Ukraine.”

“Why I Think Tech Can Solve Climate Change”

Bill Gross, founder and CEO of Idealab, not only believes that the world can be saved from climate disaster with technology, he recently launched three companies–Heliogen, Energy Vault, and Carbon Capture–to address the crisis from several different angles. “Renewable energy is freedom energy,” Gross said. “It can give access to people all over the planet and it can end the geological lottery.” What the companies aim to do:

•Heliogen will concentrate solar energy to supply steel and mining companies with clean power and zero carbon emissions. Envisioned to be built on-site at steel and mining plants, the technology has two cameras that control 400 mirrors to accurately direct light from the sun.

•Energy Vault stores wind and solar energy. Designed to mimic hydro-electric systems that pump water up mountains and let it flow down to release energy, the two large-scale structures would store energy by lifting and stacking 35-ton boxes.

•CarbonCapture, which has support from Microsoft, aims to take carbon out of the atmosphere at a cost-effective price. To do this, CarbonCapture is constructing machines that will directly remove carbon from the atmosphere by using low-cost, renewable energy.

The Climate Justice Imperative

Three powerhouse organizations are leading the charge in fighting for climate justice and bringing marginalized voices to the table. Heather Tony, VP of community engagement at the Environmental Defense Fund, started this conversation by defining climate justice as “the social justice issue of our time.” She continued: “Recognizing the importance of climate justice and focusing on people is going to be a key to solving the biggest problems of climate change in the future.”

Justine Lucas, executive director of the Clara Lionel Foundation, asked: “Where are all the people in the room that are being impacted?” She followed up by emphasizing that philanthropy needs to recognize that there is a need for investment in climate resiliency now. “[Funding] needs to be spent in communities that are affected and that are not responsible for climate change in the first place,” Lucas said.

Suzanne DiBianca, chief impact officer and EVP of corporate relations at Salesforce, took the stage to explain her company’s sense of purpose about the issue. “We’ve been thinking about what kind of levers we have that can move the needle as a company,” DiBianca said. Salesforce took action by placing policy and regulation as as an important focus within the company. To carry out its mission, based on three three principles, Salesforce fought for climate regulation by supporting mandated climate disclosure and putting a supplier program in place that would require 60% of the company’s suppliers to have science-based targets within three years.

“There’s just not enough money going into this space,” DiBianca said. “We have to think about who we’re investing in–whether it’s through venture, whether it’s philanthropy–that we’re really supporting leaders that have a diverse and robust point of view.”

Josh Kampel with IBM’s Deborah Magid

Tech Rises to the Challenge

Deborah Magid, director of software strategy in the venture-capital group at IBM, highlighted ways that the company engages with the VC community to spur innovation. When IBM started doing so more than 20 years ago, the goal was to simply build relationships and to learn from each other.

But today, the company is taking new steps to further conversation and work with VCs and their portfolio companies to work together and enhance each other’s businesses. “Being in Silicon Valley is really important because most of venture capital’s high volume in deals and dollars is here, it’s just a fact.”

IBM’s search for novel solutions can lead to acquisitions as well. IBM recently bought Envizi, a company that helps corporations navigate their “sustainability journey” by getting a better look at climate risk and climate management.

How Policy Can Spur Climate Innovation

Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, talked with Catherine McKenna, Canada’s former minister of Environment and Climate Change, about the impact on government policy in finding answers and scaling up ventures. “Policy innovation is going to be extraordinarily important,” said McKenna, now the founder and principal of Climate and Nature Solutions.

The most effective policy, Krupp said, is carbon pricing. “By taking something that’s an external cost and putting it inside the balance sheet, it drives decisions in places like California, right down to the entrepreneurial level and creates a hunt for the lowest-cost ways to solve these problems,” he said.

Krupp and McKenna also addressed the impacts that the invasion of Ukraine and sanctions on Russia will have on climate policy. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a horrendous humanitarian disaster with people dying and it demands a response,” Krupp said. “But at the same time, we have a second humanitarian crisis in that people are dying every year now from climate change, from weather disasters, from floods. These are twin imperatives. What are the solutions that answer for both?”

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Innovation For the Planet: How GE Tech Helps Address Climate Change

To celebrate Earth Day, GE created an interactive map showing 60 global projects that help reduce carbon emissions and use hydrogen fuel, carbon capture and sequestration, small modular nuclear reactors, wind turbines with superconducting generators, sustainable aviation fuel and other technologies.

In 2020, GE made a commitment to become carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2030. And last summer, the company went even further. It plans to be net zero by 2050 — including the Scope 3 emissions that result from the use of products it sells. Making this more urgent is the fact that roughly one billion people around the world lack access to reliable electricity, and overall demand for energy, healthcare, and aviation — the three core industries in which GE operates — continues to grow. Meeting this demand while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require innovation, and GE is ready for the challenge, says Roger Martella, GE’s chief sustainability officer. “We want to solve this for the whole world, not just the United States or North America,” Martella says. “Our ability to shape our technology, to tailor it in all parts of the world, is key.”

To celebrate Earth Day, April 22, GE pulled together an interactive breakthrough energy technologies map listing some 60 global GE projects that can help reduce carbon emissions. They involve the use of hydrogen fuel, carbon capture and sequestration, small modular nuclear reactors, wind turbines that use superconducting generators, sustainable aviation fuel and other technologies. Take a look below.

GE’s Breakthrough Energy Technologies for a Lower-Carbon Future

In a recent conversation with Techonomy’s founder David Kirkpatrick at the Techonomy Climate conference, Martella highlighted the work of GE Research and the company’s longstanding work in breakthrough technologies. For example, GE scientists are developing the flexible transformer, which could become a kind of superhero for the grid. It could help protect power lines from failures or extreme weather, help prevent severe outages, and restore power faster when such problems happen. At the same time, it could also make the modern grid cheaper to build and maintain.

But the research work goes far beyond the grid. A demonstration project on New York’s Long Island last fall temporarily replaced a portion of the natural gas that runs a power plant’s so-called “aeroderivative” gas turbine with a blend of green hydrogen and natural gas. And in Alabama, GE and the Department of Energy are partnering to explore ways of lowering the cost of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) while reducing CO2 emissions from natural gas power plants by up to 95%.

Says Martella: “If you go into our labs, it’s like a time machine: You’ll see people working on a piece of a future jet engine that we may or may not use in five or ten years, to get a fraction of a percent of efficiency. But we have to be doing that today — if we’re not, who else is going to do it?”

He also pointed out the gains GE has made with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and its investments in hybrid electric engineshydrogen-fueled engines, and open-fan designs that have the potential to reduce emissions. And he outlined a future where even fully electric flight may not be out of reach.

Martella also cited nuclear energy as “the turnaround story” of the past few years. “We’ve seen a strong trajectory on the next generation of small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) being part of the solution.” An SMR, he explained, is a classic nuclear reactor, shrunk down and modularized to have a 90% smaller footprint. One can be built in two to three years, compared to well over five years for a conventional nuclear plant.

You can learn more about GE’s work to promote sustainability and resilience by visiting www.ge.com/sustainability or by subscribing to GE Brief: Energy.

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