Active Assisted Living: from strategy to reality

IEC SyC AAL up and running

By Janice Blondeau, Pierre Sébellin

Assuring quality of life for ageing populations is a global issue that in future may impact countries’ health and social systems to the point of jeopardizing their financial stability. Solutions that allow the elderly to stay active, independent and living at home for as long as possible are essential. Central to this work is the new IEC System Committee on Active Assisted Living (SyC AAL).

Medical monitoring
Devices are becoming more connected, interconnected, and Internet-connected...so a systems approach brings important

Ageing in numbers        

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the percentage of the world's population aged over 60 will double from 11% to 22% between 2015 and 2050. The number of people 60 years and over is expected to increase from 900 million to 2 billion over the same period.1 According to the WHO ‘all countries face major challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are ready to make the most of this demographic shift’.

Using technology for independence

To achieve an active and independent ageing population, technologies, ranging from medical and healthcare devices to robotics and activity monitoring sensors, all need to be interconnected. IEC standardization work will bring key benefits by ensuring the safety and interoperability of these diverse technology solutions.

Several IEC management-level groups have worked to define the most appropriate strategy in order to plan the standardization of such diverse technologies. This saw the establishment of the IEC System Committee on Active Assisted Living.

Systems approach brings benefits

In March 2015, SyC AAL held its first committee meeting in the framework of the new IEC systems approach. It was hosted in Frankfurt by DKE with 11 countries represented, plus several industry and research sector stakeholders. Participants They all agreed that the new systems approach is the best option for standardization work in today’s environment, which sees ever-increasing interconnected communication and complexity. 

Since then, the work of SyC AAL has started in earnest, with the first IEC International Standards being developed using the systems approach. 

What does the systems approach mean?

Our world is growing more connected, interconnected, and Internet-connected. As we use devices which are packed with more and more functions, there is a technical evolution towards the convergence of technologies.

To make our lives easier, engineers build large and complex technology systems. To ensure safety and interoperability, these systems rely on a large number of Standards originating from many technical committees, and from several standardization organizations.

A SyC offers a new type of standards development approach, which brings together many stakeholders with different types of expertise to develop International Standards at a systems level.

Scope of work

The IEC Systems Committee on Active Assisted Living is responsible for creating an AAL vision which takes account of market developments. SyC AAL is tasked with fostering standardization to enable usability and accessibility of AAL systems and services, and importantly, cross-vendor interoperability of the systems, services, products and components. It will also address systems-level aspects such as safety, security, including cybersecurity and privacy.

In addition to the work of SyC AAL, Technical Committee (TC) 100 has created Technical Area (TA) 16 to address AAL aspects such as ‘accessibility, usability and specific user interfaces related to audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment within the scope of TC 100’.

Looking ahead

AAL offers solutions to extend independent living through the development and smart deployment of consumer electronics and connected and wearable medical and health-related devices.  It is becoming a major priority for many countries faced with a rapidly ageing population and the prospect of soaring healthcare costs.

IEC standardization work will prove crucial for the development of this sector, which is set to provide improved health and a better quality of life for millions of people, as well as major industrial and economic benefits.

Ageing and health Fact sheet N°404, September 2015, World Health Organization

Gallery
Active Assisted Living IEC System Committee on Active Assisted Living (SyC AAL) encourages standardization to enable usability and accessibility of AAL systems and services
Paro robot Countries face major challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are able to cope with ageing populations
Medical monitoring Devices are becoming more connected, interconnected, and Internet-connected...so a systems approach brings important benefits