• Perspectives

August 9, 2023

Here’s Why UL Research Institutes Is Pursuing Safety at the Human‑Digital Interface

Promoting safety at the human-digital interface is the third of three grand challenges we’re addressing

Dr. Chris Cramer
Dr. Chris Cramer 

By Dr. Chris Cramer, senior vice president and chief research officer for UL Research Institutes

For many of us, the digital revolution is as close as our personal computers and smartphones. With applications ranging from chatbots to Siri or Google Assistant, artificial intelligence-driven digital technologies, in particular, seem ubiquitous. Increasingly, we learn, do business, and drive progress on the world’s most pressing challenges within a fast-growing digital ecosystem.

But like all transformational technologies, the algorithms, apps, databases, and related infrastructure that make up the digital ecosystem can create unintended consequences. Many technologies that power improvements in medicine and science and a host of other areas can also threaten our privacy, our safety, our well-being, and our possessions. 

At UL Research Institutes (ULRI), we’re committed to the creation of a digital safety ecosystem that will recognize and avert these kinds of potentially harmful effects. We’ve expressed that commitment in our ULRI Grand Challenge No. 3, which calls for promoting safety at the human-digital interface.

It’s a far-reaching aspiration, given the digital ecosystem’s pervasive nature. As part of our effort to build a robust digital safety ecosystem, we aim to:

  • Develop tools that will help people better protect themselves from digital threats
  • Create testing tools that enable advocates to test and compare apps in easily understood ways
  • Enable developers to quickly create safer devices and apps by creating safer-by-design app frameworks, platforms, and machine learning processes
  • Aggregate, advance, and integrate advanced digital discoveries into digital tools and safer-by-design developer frameworks

Digital safety is entwined with our first grand challenge of building resilience for a sustainable future as well as with our second grand challenge, which calls for advancing individual and societal health in the 21st century. Ensuring that the digital future is built with safety, security, and equity in mind will be a significant step toward a better future.

The digital revolution is still underway, providing opportunities to develop approaches and tests to help ensure that safety and equity are incorporated into key areas of the digital ecosystem as it’s being formed.

We’re eager to work with researchers, advocacy groups, safety-minded developers, and consumer groups to create frameworks that will integrate safety into these emerging technologies — and make a real contribution to everyone’s safety.

More information

Explore our three grand challenges and see how we’re addressing them:
Revolutionizing Safety Through Science