IEC work supports cross-sector AAL

IEC plays a growing role helping those seeking to remain active to access a variety of services

By Morand Fachot

To deal with Active Assisted Living (AAL) issues, the IEC has established a Systems Committee, IEC SyC AAL. This SyC has the role of promoting safety, security, privacy and cross-vendor interoperability in the use of AAL systems and services, and of fostering standardization which boosts their usability and accessibility. 

Screen for home automation system Home automation systems like access controls and alarms are important for AAL systems users

Recent concept

The IEC SyC concept is fairly new. Instead of the typical Technical Committee (TC) structure that focuses exclusively on one technology (for example, high frequency surgical medical devices or ultrasound medical diagnostic imaging devices), the SyC AAL brings together a multitude of technology experts from different domains, such as medical devices, consumer electronics, Internet of Things, computer systems and networks. These experts, who may come from a number of IEC TCs, from other standards development organizations (SDOs) and from industry consortia such as Continua and other organizations like AALiance 2, work to address transversal standardization and broader system-wide issues.

Users first and foremost in mind

IEC SyC AAL has been established to address concepts, products, services and systems combining technologies and social environment with the aim of improving the quality of AAL users’ lives. The AAL user is any person, of any age, who uses and/or benefits from AAL devices, systems or services.

The multiplicity of AAL technologies that the industry is developing, the large number of standards on the market today and the currently fragmented standardization landscape are challenges for the IEC in developing international and interoperable standards from which the AAL user can benefit.

The objective is that AAL users should, to the greatest extent possible, live a meaningful, active and independent life, be fit and in good health and be socially connected.

All-embracing structure

The standards development work conducted by an SyC begins at the systems level rather than at the level of individual products, so supporting the investigation of more complex issues related to devices, services, systems, infrastructure and interoperability. As with a TC, an SyC can publish international standards and other IEC deliverables such as Technical Reports and Technical Specifications but only to fill any gaps that may exist with other standards.

The SyC AAL currently consists of four Working Groups (WGs), one Project Team (PT) and two Chairman’s Advisory Groups (CAGs):

  • WG 1: User Focus, covers all user-related issues of AAL products, systems and services
  • WG 2: Architecture and Interoperability, aims at coming up with a definition for an AAL reference architecture based on user needs, which allows interoperability at different levels by taking into account security and privacy issues
  • WG 3: Quality and Conformity Assessment, focuses on quality criteria, developing testing cases, tools and standards, working with IEC Conformity Assessment Board (CAB) to develop relevant schemes, and organize interoperability testing events (e.g. plugfests)
  • WG 4: Regulatory Affairs, looks at AAL initiatives on national and regional levels with details on R&D projects and trials, at regulatory requirements on national and regional levels with details on AAL policies and at the relevant AAL organizations on national and regional levels such as those for the elderly and those with disabilities

PT 60050-871: International Electrotechnical Vocabulary, was set up to develop the IEV part that deals with AAL terminology. The IEC TCs involved in AAL as well as the external stakeholders engaged in SyC AAL are involved in this PT. 

  • CAG 1: Coordination, is responsible for organizing and coordinating the work of the SyC AAL
  • CAG 2: Strategy, develops the vision and long term strategy of the SyC AAL by taking into account the emerging market trends and user needs

Liaising widely

IEC SyC AAL is working closely with the following IEC TCs, Systems Committees, Advisory Committees and an ad hoc Group, as well as with ISO/IEC JTC 1: Information Technology, the Joint Technical Committee set up by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the IEC:

  • IEC TC 59: Performance of household and similar electrical appliances
  • IEC TC 61: Safety of household and similar electrical appliances
  • IEC TC 62: Electrical equipment in medical practice
  • IEC TC 79: Alarm and electronic security systems
  • IEC TC 100:  Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. TC 100 has set up a Technical Area, TA 16: Active Assisted Living (AAL), accessibility and user interfaces, to address AAL-specific issues related to audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment.
  • ACART: Advisory Committee on Applications of Robot Technology
  • ACSEC: Advisory Committee on Information security and data privacy
  • ahG 66: Smart Home/Office Building Systems
  • ISO/IEC JTC 1: Information Technology, including WG 10: Internet of Things and Subcommittee (SC) 35: User interfaces

IEC SyC AAL also works with the following TCs, the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG) from ISO and the International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T), and other organizations.

This wide network may extend in the future as further needs become apparent.

Monitoring emerging trends

The systems approach is being used to address AAL issues because they cut across many fields of technology.

To do this, IEC SyC AAL has set itself the task of monitoring closely the following emerging trends:

  • accessibility, user needs and user interface technologies
  • Internet of Things and of People
  • daily life autonomy and health support
  • health informatics
  • wearable smart devices
  • disruptive technologies
  • service robotics
  • 5th generation Internet
  • smart cities, including intelligent (smart) homes and smart office buildings
  • security and personal data privacy
  • data analytics and Big Data

SyC AAL set to fill important role as needs expand

Increasingly, people of all ages are seeking wider and better access to technologies that allow them to live a more active and fulfilling life. These individuals may be elderly people who want to live independently and remain active longer, or those of any age who need to use or benefit from AAL devices, systems or services.

The proportion of elderly people in all societies is growing fast. In 2010, an estimated 524 million people were aged 65 or older, according to the US National Institute on Aging. By 2050, this number is expected to nearly triple, to about 1,5 billion.

Meanwhile, more and more individuals from other demographic groups are also seeking improved access to AAL products and services. The multitude of AAL technologies, products and services that can be used in the home and other environments, and the need to develop international and interoperable standards for these point to a very active agenda for the IEC SyC AAL in the future.

Screen for home automation system Home automation systems like access controls and alarms are important for AAL systems users
Control screen in monitoring centre Control screen in monitoring centre (Photo: Honeywell International Inc.)
Health monitoring device measuring heart rate Wearable health monitoring devices, like this AliveCor Kardia Band, can help the disabled or elderly people monitor their own health