Standards New Zealand hosts IEC ambient assisted living standardisation workshop

Issue 48 – April 2013

Standards New Zealand is pleased to have hosted the meeting of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) strategy group (SG) 5 on ambient assisted living (AAL) from 25 – 27 March 2013.

We talked to some of the participants of an IEC SG 5 AAL workshop held on 25 March. AAL encompasses solutions that allow people to live safely at home. The workshop included a series of panel discussions on how Standards can support AAL. We had a wide range of participants at the workshop, including technical, academic, regulatory, and industry. Our international guests appreciated hearing from such a diverse group of experienced stakeholders and learning about New Zealand perspectives.

The AAL workshop participants we talked to included Mrs Pat Cunniffe, New Zealand; Mrs Kimberly Delort, USA; Dr Shuji Hirakawa, Japan; Mr Wim de Kesel, Belgium; Mr Dejun Ma, China; Dr Klaus Neuder, Germany; Mr Pierre Sebellin, Switzerland; and Mr Thomas Sentko, Germany.

Standards New Zealand: What is your progress to date within the AAL IEC Strategy Group and with Standards development for AAL?

AAL workshop participants: In our first meeting, we had presentations from the participants about the national activities for AAL, including presentations from New Zealand, USA, China, Japan, Germany, and England. These presentations led to some of the same conclusions on the need for AAL, it's what is called the 'grey (also known as 'sliver') tsunami', in all these countries there's a real concern about AAL. That shows the importance of moving forward with standardisation for AAL.

We have identified three areas of work and we have divided ourselves into three teams to deal with these; data security, the modelling of what AAL is, and establishing what existing Standards could be or are already being related to AAL.

We have been scoping and identifying where standardisation can contribute to AAL. We have agreed that we need more participants from outside the IEC. The IEC has a long tradition in safety and reliability, but to ensure that the whole AAL system can work, we need more input from the ISO side, outside of the parameters of electric performance.

This reflects, very accurately, what happens in individual countries. Because AAL covers so many aspects of living, it doesn't fall under any one jurisdiction. There is a serious need for conversation between the various parts of our society that provide support. If we are going to achieve anything significant, and it's the same at the national level as it is at the international level, some strong links need to be made, for any serious progress to occur.

We have identified several technical committees already doing work on AAL at a product level. What we have found is that there is no overall system existing for AAL, and therefore one conclusion of this workshop is that we need to have a special committee to coordinate the work that is done in IEC and ISO.

Standards New Zealand: What did the AAL workshop cover?

AAL workshop participants: It brought together people who had not previously been in contact with one another, which is again part of the same problem. It covered a multitude of aspects of AAL, the equipment itself, the systems that are used or are in place to provide the products to the people, and some of the risks, which include privacy risks, security risks, and risks with the product itself in standardisation around safety.

The mix of people was such that the focus came from very different angles but actually produced similar kinds of answers. AAL is a need that needs addressing now and we've got to find ways to make that happen, for all of us.

We had three discussion panels: products, people, and infrastructure. These three panels looked at the ways products, people, and infrastructure interact.Identifying what the interactions are, and how these impact on the independence, safety, wellbeing, and autonomy of the users will help to shape and prioritise standardisation to support the AAL environment.One specific area that we addressed was disaster preparedness and recovery, based on experiences of the Christchurch earthquakes.

AAL is about people: the centrality of users of AAL products, services, environments, and facilities is fundamental.The panellists represented a wide range of interests and provided many perspectives on this growing area of work.

    • The products panel included: Jonathan Sibbles (Chiptech); Derek Johns (Chair of IEC Technical Committee 61); Peter Morfee (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment); and Dr Kathryn Peri (School of Nursing, University of Auckland).

    • The people panel included: Sebastian Morgan-Lynch (Office of the Privacy Commissioner); Sharon Duff (Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation); Julie Haggie (Home Health Association); and Dr Kathryn Peri (School of Nursing, University of Auckland).

    • The infrastructure panel included: Peter Morfee (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment); Mike Sheedy (Infogeni Solutions Ltd); David Stone (New Zealand Telecommunications Forum); Heather Browning (Enable New Zealand); and Peter Berry (Electricity Engineers Association and the Chair of the New Zealand IEC National Committee).


Standards New Zealand: Was there anything that stood out from a New Zealand perspective?

AAL workshop participants: Yes, several things stood out:

    • New Zealand is a small, high-tech country. Privacy is critical here and because it's critical, it's already taken care of. This is where we can gain some input about how it is being handled here, because it will need to be handled elsewhere in the same way.

    • New Zealand is far more developed than many other countries. It's in your history, for example, women got the vote the earliest around the world. The societal issue within New Zealand is so important and with AAL it's a step ahead.

    • It is interesting to see that so many things have been done and that the Government is part of the policy. That's very positive as in many other parts of the world, people with specific needs are not being helped in such a great way.

    • Your country is well organised, especially for medical security and emergencies. Everybody pointed out that there is only one hospital to go to in each city. The size of the cities is different from for example, Japan, where there are so many emergency hospitals.

    • Another aspect specific to New Zealand that may be of help to us, is the infrastructure aspect, because New Zealand does not have the same infrastructure that we have in Europe. For example, you don't have broadband in every house; you still have a lot of natural parks and untouched land from human activity. The consequence is that you have infrastructure problems and you have to take into account the potential failures or weaknesses of infrastructure, while you are thinking about AAL. In Europe, we've never taken that into account because you open your mobile phone and wherever you are, you know you're going to have a signal. We aren't familiar with electricity or water shortages. When we think about solutions and systems, we don't really take into account the importance of the reliability of infrastructure. We learnt that when we talk about AAL, we rely on infrastructure, and that infrastructure has to be evaluated for the reliability aspects in the system.

    • Being a small, technically developed country, New Zealanders are quick adopters and it makes New Zealand a 'laboratory test bed' – if it works throughout the whole country, it's likely to work in a bigger environment. New Zealand is a 'pilot' study, but at a national level, and this has been shown in the medical area as well. New Zealand has been used as an experimental basis because of its structures, size, and its sophistication as a society.


Standards New Zealand: What were the key outcomes of the workshop?

AAL workshop participants: We learnt that we have to keep in mind that the people we are inventing these AAL systems for are the main users – we have to keep their needs in focus.

In IEC, there are a lot of technicians and engineers working and they keep their focus on the functionality or the performance of the system. However, we learned that we have to focus on the user, the people using the AAL system.

Standards New Zealand: What are the next steps?

AAL workshop participants: The workshop brought us a large step forward. We found out lots of information to put all these items together into a system. IEC has a long history in standardisation for products, and now we produce system Standards too. We have recently invented a new form of IEC committee, a system technical committee (STC).

At the workshop, we found out that AAL is a system and the system contains Standards of different committees inside and outside IEC. We'd like to suggest to our management at IEC, to establish a new IEC STC for AAL.

Standards New Zealand: Are there any other points you'd like to add?

AAL workshop participants: We'd like to thank your Chief Executive, Debbie Chin, for the possibility to come to New Zealand, to see this nice landscape, to meet all these nice people here, and especially for the workshop and the progress we have made. Thank you to Standards New Zealand for hosting the SG 5 meeting, it is very kind.

Published in health.