Dedicated to improving quality of life

Standards will help the elderly lead a healthier, more active and independent life

By Morand Fachot

Enhancing the health, quality of life and independence of older people has become a priority for many states as a fast ageing population presents them with a number of social and financial challenges. AAL (Active Assisted Living) is seen as offering opportunities to meet these challenges. IEC TC (Technical Committee) 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, has created a TA (Technical Area) dedicated to the preparation of International Standards for AAL, accessibility and user interface.

Jawbone UP3 his Jawbone UP3 fitness tracker is one of the many wearable devices that allow wearers to track their physical activities around the clock (Photo: Jawbone)

IEC work helps answer growing needs

Around 15% of the world population, more than 1 billion people, live with some form of disability and the percentage of the world's population aged over 60 years is forecast to reach 22% in 2050.

Providing access to essential services for these people and helping them live a healthy, active and independent life for longer is important for them as well as for society as a whole. Government and businesses now fund a variety of such services at a growing cost.

AAL makes this possible by harnessing advances and resources in ICT, audio, video and multimedia systems.

IEC TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, prepares international publications in this field. Its latest Strategic Business Plan states that one of its two major objectives for the 2012-2017 period is "to contribute to society […] by addressing the options for accessibility in the use of audio, video and multimedia equipment".

Early and continuing TC work supporting AAL

To deal with this objective, TC 100 and several of its TAs have developed several specific International Standards over the years. However, in 2014, TC 100 found it needed to create a dedicated Technical Area, TA 16: Active Assisted Living (AAL), accessibility and user interfaces.

International Standards and other publications developed and maintained by TC 100 TAs, and most recently TA 16, are aimed expressly at facilitating access for the visually impaired and people suffering from disabling hearing loss. They include:

IEC 62216:2009, Digital terrestrial television receivers for the DVB-T system, which provides details for the provision of audio description and also specifies recommendations for the provision of text services and subtitling.

IEC 62731:2013, Text-to-speech for television – general requirements, which "specifies the text-to-speech functionality for a (broadcast) [digital] receiver with a text-to-speech system".

IEC/TR 62678:2010, Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment activities and considerations related to accessibility and usability. This TR (Technical Report) explains terms, definitions and abbreviations, lists applications of terms and definitions in various countries, and provides a wealth of useful information.

IEC 62571:2011, Digital audiobook file format and player requirements (see article on audiobooks in e-tech, January/February 2012).

IEC/TR 62907:2014, Use cases related to ambient assisted living in the field of audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. This TR, prepared by TA 16, comprises 17 use cases for AAL based on the identified requirements of elderly people and people with disabilities.

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

Recently, TC 100 AGS (Advisory Group on Strategy) has prepared a study on market trends, use cases and challenges of wearable systems and equipment, which are set to play an important and fast expanding role in AAL.

Extensive remit and work programme for the new TA

The remit of the newly created TA 16 is to "develop international publications addressing aspects of AAL, accessibility, usability and specific user interfaces related to audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment within the scope of TC 100". The scope lists the specific aspects related to audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment to be addressed as including:

  • User requirements for accessibility and usability
  • Requirements for systems and equipment for AAL
  • Standardization to address the identified requirements for AAL, accessibility and usability
  • User interfaces, interfaces, protocols and control mechanisms for systems and equipment for AAL, accessibility and usability

Having only been created recently, TA 16 has published just one document so far, IEC TR 62907:2014; however, its work programme is already well packed as it includes:

  • the development of a new publication, IEC 62944: Digital Television Accessibility – Functional Specification, which defines a set of principles for user interface and content accessibility, since many older and disabled people require specific features for the operation of digital TV solutions
  • maintenance of the TC 100 documents previously mentioned: IEC 62731:2013, IEC TR 62678:2010, and IEC PAS 62883:2013.
  • joint work with ITU-T (International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector) IRG-AVA (Intersector Rapporteur Group Audiovisual Media Accessibility) on terminology of accessibility to audiovisual media.

As AAL is destined to become a priority in many countries around the world, TA 16 standardization work will prove central to its development.

Sony digital TV People with visual or hearing impairment can benefit from a wide range of extra functionalities thanks to IEC Standards for digital TV (Photo: Sony)
Jawbone UP3 his Jawbone UP3 fitness tracker is one of the many wearable devices that allow wearers to track their physical activities around the clock (Photo: Jawbone)
Audiobook headphones IEC Standards for audiobooks help people suffering from hearing impairment live a more fulfilling life