What technology can do for the good of the human experience.
BY DOUGLAS WEINSTEIN
THE RECENT 2023 CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW (CES) HELD IN LAS VEGAS was a remarkable event and projected a powerful message to the leading companies in the industry and the rest of the 115,000 business and global press representatives who participated. For the first time, CES 2023 adopted a theme for the conference and projected it to participants through exhibits, innovation awards, Great Minds seminars, video and massive campaign signage.
That theme announced the launching of a global campaign on human security — Human Security for All (HS4A) — which is being conducted by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security and the World Academy of Art and Science. CES 2023 showcased the critical role of technology as a catalyst and powerful driver in support of the United Nations’ efforts to advance human security around the world. One of the highlights of CES 2023 was the introduction of a new category of Innovation Awards showcasing technologies that advance human security.
I came away from the show with the realization that the very technologies we report on here at Technology Designer Magazine — energy conservation, sustainability and resource management, wellness and healthy environments, clean air and water — are themselves agents of change in the global struggle for human security. Let me share some thoughts from the show and an interview with one of the leaders of this exciting and critical campaign.
Human Security is a broad conceptual approach applicable to all areas of development policy.
Humanity is faced with myriad global challenges, from war to climate change, to personal safety and freedom. These challenges can no longer be addressed at the state or national level — they are global in nature and require global reach, a message I believe every human being can appreciate. The traditional understanding of national security through military security is giving way to the understanding that security should be measured at the personal level rather than the national level. Human Security is that message and speaks to people about their own personal issues.
This concept of Human Security confronts us all — peace, personal safety, basic human rights, healthcare, food availability, educational opportunities, jobs, energy, climate change and access to the very fundamentals that life depends on: clean air and water. The UN has identified 17 sustainable development goals that everyone can identify with and is rallying widespread support for commitments in all sectors to make the world a safer, better place for all of mankind. These goals were unanimously approved by 193 member states of the United Nations in 2015 and are now shaping the regulatory landscape around the globe. Human security is a comprehensive, integrated approach that encompasses all 17 SDGs.
A comprehensive approach to human security seeks to unify environmental security with societal security. All dimensions from the local to the global, from personal safety and welfare to global environmental sustainability. If we break this down further we can integrate resource utilization to meet the needs of all humans today and down the road, as well as food security, economic safeguards, and personal security. And as I began to understand and learn about human security as a concept, I realized that the very metrics we employ for performance homes come into play: resilient building, sustainable use of materials, energy management, home healthcare and living in place strategies, intelligent lighting that saves energy and provides a sense of wellbeing.
The International Institute for Sustainable Development states that a major goal of comprehensive human security is to “transmit practical recommendations to policy-makers on how to strengthen human security through better environmental management and more effective natural resource governance.” This speaks directly to the design-build community mindset that is taking shape as we see more performance home methodologies being adopted across the trades.
While I was in Las Vegas I ran into colleague Walt Stinson who is the CEO of Denver-based ListenUp, one of the premier retail/e-tail and system integration firms in the country. Walt is a Director of the Human Security for All (HS4A) campaign and a Fellow at the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS). Here is our conversation and his thoughts:
“This CES showed us that the next big thing isn’t a new technology, it’s a new idea. Human Security is that idea.”WALT STINSON
CEO OF DENVER-BASED LISTENUP
DIRECTOR OF HUMAN SECURITY FOR ALL (HS4A)
FELLOW OF THE WORLD ACADEMY OF ART AND SCIENCE (WAAS)
DOUG: Tell us about your involvement with the Human Security for All campaign.
WALT: I joined the project in December 2021 as a Director and stepped back from operational duties at ListenUp with the full support of the company. I am a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS). I participated in crafting a partnership agreement with the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, with WAAS being the implementing partner. In January 2022 I invited the Consumer Technology Association (CTA, which puts on the CES trade show) to join as a campaign partner and their board endorsed this idea. Planning for CES 2023 took eleven months. I am part of an eight-member HS4A team from India, Iran, South Africa, Croatia, Italy, UK, Canada and the U.S. The campaign’s basic objective is to familiarize the general public with the Human Security concept and encourage companies to apply this approach to develop and apply innovative technologies to meet real human needs.
One of the main points of the campaign is to promote thinking of a new paradigm of human security that complements the traditional concept of national security. Human security is based on the individual’s experience of life. Human security at the level of individuals and communities has not received the level of attention and investment required to effectively address humanity’s problems. The concept builds on sustainable development goals developed by the United Nations.
CES 2023 highlighted emerging technologies in the fields of food production, health, education, financial inclusion, and many other areas that demonstrate the potential to use technology as a driver and lever for promoting human security for all.
All of us can contribute to making it happen. Consider the tech revolution that has swept over our industry. Right now, we are not facing so much a tech revolution, but a societal revolution that has been driven by the pandemic, war, financial crisis, and climate change. These are threats that transcend national boundaries and can’t be solved by any one nation. They all impact people on an individual basis. These issues are now major forces driving both the market and regulatory environments. We just needed an overarching concept to pull it all together. Human Security is the “big idea” that encompasses these forces.
Living standards are rising around the world, but surveys indicate that individuals are feeling less secure. This is true in both developed and developing countries. CTA partnered with us to show the world how technology can help solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. Governments have limited scope and capabilities to address these issues. Without the involvement of industry, particularly the tech community, we will fall short of achieving the kind of world that we all aspire to.
Human Security is something that every business executive can apply in their own company. It is a concept-specific mindset that can start, and should start, in your own company. If you look around what’s happening today in the workforce — if you’re really open-minded about it and honest with yourself — you’ll realize and admit that employees are demanding a more secure workplace on a lot of different levels. They want more economic security and want to be treated as people. Our attention to human security can not only help them solve their problems, it can prevent them. All of us can do a lot more and I think that will attract top talent, keep employees, and help us become more profitable companies. Likewise, consumers are increasing directly discretionary spending to companies that align themselves with Human Security pillars.
DOUG: You have been an industry leader for 50 years and have seen more change than probably anyone I know. How do you relate to change?
WALT: In my experience if you ignore big technological or societal changes, you do so at your peril. As a business person, I realize that the companies that grow are the ones that adapt to the changing needs of the society around them. Meeting needs that people can relate to.
As an industry veteran, I’ve seen the transition from glass tubes to solid state, analog to digital, and disconnected to interconnected. Many of my peers think it is so much easier to avoid change than to embrace change. But that has profound business implications — change occurs gradually and then suddenly. It’s easy to look in the rearview mirror and see how we got here. It’s another thing to look out the front window and perceive the future that is coming. That future is already here in many respects. The implications are profound. Making a move too early costs a lot; too late and you become irrelevant. So, you have to strategize and make conscious decisions.
Human Security is not a technology, but it’s helpful to think of it that way. It’s likely to have a powerful influence on our industry segment for the next ten years. You can’t turn on a dime, but some of our business decisions need to be aligned with Human Security, right down to the system design level. That’s already happening at major corporations around the globe. The keynote by John Deere highlighting the impact of technology on the herbicide, fertilizer and the carbon footprint of their new machines is a perfect example. This CES showed us that the next big thing isn’t a new technology, it’s a new idea. Human Security is that idea.
These forces are affecting the home integration space as well. Take a look at the growth of LED lighting. That category is certainly being driven in part by the regulatory environment but look at the innovation coming out of it, things like intelligent lighting, and dynamic color temperature settings. Home security is another obvious growth category. The market is demanding lower cost, positive health benefits, personal security and energy efficiency. When we talk about these things, it elevates the discussion to another level.
We see that at ListenUp. Our designs are more aligned with the needs of the client and the community. In Colorado, for example, there is a developing regulatory framework at the local and state level. This regulation is a reflection of the will of the people, so we feel we need to get ahead of it. It’s going to impact how we design, sell and install our systems for years to come.
The Human Security concept also includes access to healthcare, economic security, environmental protection including resiliency and sustainability, personal safety and mobility, community security, access to education, broadband access and political freedom. So topics like living in place are things that we are looking at and trying to figure out. As you mentioned, I’ve seen decades of change and I realize that it is just a fact of life when it comes to technology. So how can we embrace change and do good at the same time?
DOUG: There’s a business equation here as well for all design-build and technology professionals, right?
WALT: Sure. The world has never changed so rapidly. To bring in young leaders and new strategies is the only way to stay abreast of technological evolutions. One of the keys to success in an innovative industry is not to be afraid of change, but to embrace it. Change is difficult, it requires new ways of thinking.
But I sat down and asked myself, “Why should we do this? What are the business — ethical and financial — implications?” I challenged myself to accept the societal implications — what’s the practical driver and why is it happening now?
And I believe that the human security paradigm is driving strategic thinking right now because there are two forces at work — regulatory which is pushing companies to address these issues through technology and changing societal aspirations that are bubbling up through the marketplace. These two drivers are coming together right now.
The war in Ukraine, the pandemic, and the climate crisis illustrate that these problems transcend borders and are beyond individual governments to address. But they can be addressed by individual companies. That’s what the campaign is all about — it is also about business security. Companies that don’t adapt won’t make it. Clear evidence was presented by HS4A campaign partner, Force for Good, in a landmark study of 100 top global tech companies released at a CES 2023 press conference. The report can be accessed online at forcegood.org/report-2023.
If you understand where things are going, you can help create the future for yourself and your business. If you look at the seven dimensions of human security — environment, economy, health, food, personal, community, and political —these are pillars that can guide our design efforts. Environmental security is huge. Personal security is a driver. Living in place. Home healthcare. Our opportunities will continue to expand.
The concept is context-specific. We work on and in our local communities, but the rest of the world is different. Different problems in different communities. So as an industry we have to look at our vendors and manufacturers, the product innovators as well as entrepreneurs, to address these issues on a global basis and not just in a local market area. The integrator model is certainly expanding globally.
This is also very people centered. People in life. Architects, builders, designers and integrators can drive the message in a practical way. We are very people centered, so we need to look at how people want to live. We can key them in on these concepts, because they probably aren’t aware of what’s happening. Given the opportunity our clients will choose the smartest solutions for the long term.
Comprehensiveness is another key characteristic — working across trade skills and different aspects of the job — the builder, architect, etc. and integrating design and technology. We can be a leader here. There are tremendous global forces at work here and the moment has come to understand that they are cross sectoral and will be driving all of our businesses.
This big picture view presents a lot of potential problems — how individuals and firms adapt to it — but it also represents an explosion of opportunity. I believe the Human Security concept will be an incredible driver in our industries for the next 10 years.
Design-build professionals have their own roadblocks, most of which are your mindset. We blind ourselves trying to look at all of the new technologies which we might not be comfortable with. Looking back at some of the recent performance solutions, it is easy to see how we adapted them. But looking forward, it becomes scarier and more uncomfortable. That’s where partnerships and collaboration play a key role.
DOUG: Final thoughts?
WALT: The last half century has seen tremendous advancement. But the planet is experiencing multi-dimensional threats including war, pandemics, food supply, economic security and personal security. These threats demand a response from every segment of society, including business. The design-build community can help if we apply the latest technologies to address them — from resilient homes to sustainable materials to healthier environments to a low carbon footprint. But to do this effectively, you have to change your viewpoint.