Standards make life easier for an ageing population

elderly people looking at computer M

Active assisted living (AAL) is becoming a priority for many countries faced with a rapidly ageing population and the prospect of soaring healthcare costs. IEC standardisation work supports AAL developments and global efforts to help the elderly and people with disabilities live a healthier, more active, and independent life.

Moderating the impact of visual impairment

ICT, audio, video, and multimedia systems and equipment provide tools that may allow the visually impaired to take part in several activities, including work, and to benefit from certain services. ICT equipment has for a long time included both software solutions, such as optical character recognition, character magnification or voice recognition systems, and hardware including adapted or on-screen keyboards.

Access to TV services for the visually impaired has greatly improved over the years with the development of audio description. IEC TC 100 Audio, video, and multimedia systems and equipment has developed standards for:

  • the provision of audio description, including text services and subtitling
  • the text-to-speech functionality for a digital receiver with a text-to-speech system.

The visually impaired often have difficulty reading or are unable to read books. Audiobooks have helped overcome this problem and these are now available in digital format. IEC TC 100 has developed a standard for digital audiobook file format and player requirements. IEC TC 100 is also looking at identifying opportunities to standardise wearable systems and equipment, by studying market trends and challenges for such devices.

Dealing with disabling hearing loss

Hearing impairment can affect social and emotional interaction, academic achievement, and employment and career prospects. It can also have adverse economic and societal consequences. To support the hearing impaired, IEC TC 29 Electroacoustics has developed:

  • a dozen international standards in the IEC 60118 series to cover measurements of electroacoustic and performance characteristics for hearing aids
  • standards for audio-frequency induction-loop systems and equipment for assisted hearing. This equipment allows wearers of specially-equipped hearing aids to get a wireless signal transmitted directly to their ear in places like museums or theatres
  • a standard for TVs that covers the provision of audio description and provides recommendations for the provision of text services and subtitling.

Extending healthy life expectancy

AAL can offer solutions to extend healthy life expectancy with the introduction of consumer electronics and connected and wearable devices in the healthcare and wellness environments.

Healthier lifestyle and wellbeing can be enhanced with the use of devices including electronic pedometers, tablets, and smartphones, for monitoring and improving physical activities.

Appliances with communication functions (TV, dial or mobile phone, tablets, and so on) can provide remote health monitoring of patients with chronic illnesses and the elderly who live alone.

IEC TC 62 Electrical equipment in medical practice plays a central role in supporting advances in healthcare equipment and AAL, through its standardisation work. This work has been extended to robotic technology, which offers interesting prospects for AAL applications.

IEC Systems Committee AAL

IEC has also set up Systems Committee (SyC) AAL to create a vision of AAL that takes account of the evolution of the market. SyC AAL will help to enable accessibility of AAL systems and user interfaces, and enable cross-vendor interoperability of AAL systems, products, and components.

Summarised from IEC e-tech March 2015.

Published in health.