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The tipping points: Digital acceleration and climate change

Every five years, DNV GL looks ten years ahead to understand trends and technologies and their impacts on our world. The most recent Technology Outlook reviews emerging technologies that are likely to create opportunities related to the long-term value of assets and technologies that could help improve risk management.

DNV GL’s Technology Outlook 2030 covers a broad range of topics grouped into three different categories: enabling technologies, transforming technologies and sustaining technologies. Topics include: accelerating digitalization, virtualization and automation, precision materials, future transport and logistics, low-carbon energy systems, harnessing health data, precision food, the new space race, engineering ecosystems and the ocean space. While the technologies reviewed in the outlook are each in different phases of development, all are expected to have an impact on industry and society over the next decade.

Climate change

According to Pierre Sames, Senior Vice President, DNV GL Group Technology and Research Director, evolving technologies have always played a critical role in how government, industry and the public interact to form functioning societies. “However, the Technology Outlook 2030 is being released at a time when the threat of climate change is far-reaching,” he says. “This will have a profound effect on every aspect of our world, including shipping.”

Sames notes that as an essential part of the global economy, shipping has a unique role to play in helping manage these challenges. “In addition to reducing its own contributions to greenhouse gases, the maritime industry is in a strong position to leverage its expertise to help access resources from the ocean space.”

A cross-industry challenge

Sames is convinced that meeting climate change challenges will require multinational, cross-industry cooperation. “For example, in order to embrace new carbon-neutral fuels and electrification, the maritime industry must work with relevant authorities and energy companies to ensure fuel availability and access to the appropriate infrastructure where renewable energy such as wind, hydro or solar is available,” he says. “A more holistic approach to the existing energy value chain, enabled by new sensor and communication technologies, would allow regulators to track net-carbon gains and losses over multiple industries.” The Technology Outlook 2030 focuses on the acceleration of technology development and how digitalization will transform the industry on a global scale. “From automation to artificial intelligence, robotics to advanced algorithms, these new technologies will be woven into our lives and business models as never before.”

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A double-edged sword

While these technologies may help address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, the report also acknowledges that new technologies can create new risks. “Just as the introduction of the internal combustion engine revolutionized society in the early 20th century, it also created environmental challenges. New technologies are a double-edged sword,” he says. “While they can enhance our well-being, uncontrolled and poorly governed technologies can also cause intentional and unintentional harm.”

Many of these new technologies have already shaped how the shipping industry functions. As more owners embrace automated systems, analytics for performance management based on sensor data, low-carbon solutions and high-speed Internet to improve environmental and business performance, they become more vulnerable to software malfunctions, cyber attacks and data breaches.

“These anticipated changes will shape DNV GL’s service offering, especially related to the assurance of digital assets such as sensors, communication networks, algorithms, digital twins, digital ledgers, tokens and, most importantly, control systems for safety-critical functions,” says Sames. “By leveraging emerging technologies to provide new and enhanced assurance services and addressing the related new and emerging risks, DNV GL aims to support customers seeking to understand and leverage new technologies to create value and manage their risks.”

The new market reality

For the maritime industry, growing public and regulatory pressure to decarbonize will encourage more owners to embrace renewable fuels. At the same time, the digitalization of the industry will create both opportunity and risk. Some industry players may explore performance-based contracts or digital business models based on additive manufacturing, while others will seek value in sensor-based fleet services, condition-based monitoring and autonomous shipping. “To advance into the future, the industry should also consider working seamlessly with ports, cargo owners and other industries to optimize logistics and apply its ocean space expertise to access the resources required to support the world’s growing population.”

Collective action to common challenges

The Technology Outlook 2030 provides a structured and comprehensive view on the trends and technologies that will change our world in the next ten years. “While we may not be able to predict precisely how and when these changes will take place, the impacts of both the digital acceleration and climate change are not selective. No industry or individual will be unaffected,” says Sames. “Our ability to capitalize on opportunities and manage risk in our changing world will require big ideas and collective action.”

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Pierre C Sames

Pierre C Sames

Strategic Development Director, Maritime

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