Active Assisted Living - intelligent assisting systems are first choice

Image AAL
Foto: iStock | maxiphoto

Engineers and computer scientists have a dream: technology that enables active assisted living in everyday life. Extensive analysis and tests are performed to preserve and foster our health and welfare. Yet is this sufficient?

Active Assisted Living (AAL) is the term given to living with technical support from intelligent assisting systems. These technical tools support people in their daily life and at work. They aim to preserve and foster their health as well as mitigate, compensate or remedy injuries and diseases. The AAL environment is characterized by a continuous growth of technologies with its ever increasing interfaces to other domains, such as the smart home infrastructure. This, however, does not mean that building automation or smart homes are synonymous with AAL. The smart home environment rather serves as a potential basic infrastructure required to implement the “add-on” AAL technology. AAL is much more than “wellness and convenience” and requires more than just functional technology.

Active Assisted Living – the individual living space of tomorrow

According to WHO (World Health Organization) estimates the proportion of the world population over 60 years will double from 11 % in 2000 to 22 % in 2050. In this period, the total figure of the 60+ generation will increase from 605 million up to 2 billion.

In order to gain an overview of the healthy years in people’s lives, WHO has developed an indicator called HALE (health-adjust life expectancy). This indicator represents the mean value of years, for which a person is expected to live in a sane condition. In most cases, this value is lower than the life expectancy. However, this period can be a accompanied by a partial loss of independence and a need for medical treatment and assistance.

Most humans have a desire to live as long as is possible self-reliant and self-determined in their familiar living environment. This requires convenient and intelligent solutions, which ease habitation. The comprehension of technical assistance systems will not only revolutionize medical care at home, but also offer new options for self-reliance, independent living and preservation of health for millions of users. For example, capacitive carpets to detect movements and identify collapsing persons are already very well established. Such carpets are highly suitable for prevention, but they also improve safety at home. In addition, such devices can be integrated into external services. Even at this early stage of development we can anticipate the increased proliferation of intelligent devices and networked systems in homes.

The well accepted change in the age pyramid and social structures is a challenge to society, as the currently available housing spaces are not very well prepared for the future demands. Both existing housings and new constructions are facing a number of challenges such as the broadening of door openings and access routes, refurbishment of bath rooms into barrier-free, larger spaces or changes to the electrical installation to avoid tripping hazards.

In this context it is inevitable that the various industry sectors such as building construction, living and care are going to merge increasingly. The consequences of the demographic change for “industrialized” societies offer a huge potential for a mid- and long-term re-orientation as well as for innovative and interdisciplinary industry sectors.

Foto: Fotolia | ozelenskaya

Standardization as a solution provider

In response to the problems and challenges described, new standardization projects (such as working on use cases their practical application or identification of privacy issues) will support the market penetration of AAL solutions. Due to converging components and devices, product-oriented views are no longer appropriate. What we need is a holistic system approach.

In recognition of this necessity, the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) decided in October 2014 to convert the previous „System Evaluation Group AAL“ into a „System Committee Active Assisted Living“. Early March 2015, the new committee held its first meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, which marked the beginning of standardization activities in the field of AAL.

System Committee Active Assisted Living will support the growing market by standardizing professional, demand-driven systems. It will therefore take into account market relevance criteria in its analytical surveys and programme of work. In particular, special attention will be given to the cooperation with existing (and potentially new) committees and organizations. In close cooperation with consumer and end user organizations detailed user requirements will be determined. Inter alia, a gap analysis in standardization and market development based on the demand-side is being performed. To achieve this, Working Groups have been established to address identified areas such as interoperability and reference architecture, quality aspects and user requirements.

With the steadily increasing demand for products in the AAL sector, concepts and business models as well as supporting guidelines, standards and specifications are required. These guidelines will enable a functioning environment and access to technology, systems and services with the necessary interfaces.

So far, the following specifcations have been developed

IEC/TR 62907:2014, Use cases related to ambient assisted living in the field of audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. Based on identified needs of elderly and handicapped people, this Technical Report, developed by Working Group AAL, describes 17 use cases from the AAL environment.


IEC/PAS 62883:2014, The universAAL framework for user interaction in multimedia AAL spaces. This Publicly Available Specification (PAS) provides a framework for the adaptive handling of explicit interaction between humans and the AAL environment.

IEC SyC AAL currently develops further projects, which will provide a better orientation within the area of AAL and related fields. Amongst others, a common terminology is being defined. A first draft is anticipated to be agreed upon during the October 2016 meeting.

Moreover, a harmonization of 26 use cases in an AAL template as well as a classification into 9 AAL topcis are being carried out. Criteria for the work with use cases are identified and in documented in a guideline. This work will also be on the agenda of the October meeting.

In addition, a comparison of different existing reference architectures in the area of IoT (Internet of Things) to support the creation of an AAL reference model, which is another agenda item of IEC SyC AAL during the IEC General Meeting.

Last but not least, conformity aspects are being identified, which might be introduced into a guideline or a specification at a later point in time. This will be further examined at the October meeting.

Image Janina laurila-Dürsch




Janina Laurila-Dürsch:

"It is important to professionalize systems through standardization in order to avoid market fragmentation and to strengthen the emerging market."


Janina Laurila-Dürsch |

DE member "SyC AAL" and project leader “SyC AAL/PT 60050-871 – International Electrotechnical Vocabulary – Part 871: Active Assisted Living”