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Information technology has become an integral part of our lives whether it be in the consumer, industrial or commercial aspects. It is hard to imagine life, work or entertainment without it. Artificial intelligence (AI) presents the next digital frontier of the IT evolution.
Early on each New Year, technology companies gather in Las Vegas for the annual CES show. The 2018 edition brought together 3900 exhibitors displaying their latest developments. Analysts from the show organizer, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), provided an overview of the major trends to follow this year.
Around the world, urban populations are booming. An estimated 54.5 percent of global populations lived in urban settlements in 2016 and this number is expected to increase to 60 by 2030, according to research by the United Nations.
Whether we realize it or not, the internet of things (IoT) is part of many aspects of daily life. Thanks to billions of connected, “sensorized” devices and systems, it can facilitate everyday activities and tasks and improve the efficiency of work processes, which saves time and money. In the case of healthcare, it can save lives and improve quality of life.
What do artificial intelligence, robotics, biometrics, virtual and augmented reality, sports innovations, digital health and 5G connectivity have in common? First, they were all singled out at CES 2018, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, as mega trends that will have an impact on society this year and in the future. Secondly, they all rely heavily on electronic components – in fact they would not even exist if not for them.
Using new technology and gadgets to help the elderly and people with disabilities stay independent in and outside the home is the approach favoured by most health specialists, not to mention policymakers and governments. The IEC is preparing International Standards focusing on this approach under the global aegis of its Systems Committee on active assisted living (SyC AAL).
Printed electronics is a relatively new technology, but it has already proven a disruptive, yet creative process that allows the production of new products and components, low-cost electronic devices, which open the way to a range of new applications. It has started transforming the electronics industry and many other domains by being included in different manufacturing processes. This new technology led to the creation, in 2011, of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 119: Printed electronics.
Standardization work by the IEC technical committees (TCs) and subcommittees (SCs), and by the Joint Technical Committee (ISO/IEC JTC 1) set up by the IEC and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), is meant to prevent and mitigate the catastrophic impact of cyber attacks on parts of the critical infrastructure everywhere. In addition, IECEE, the IEC System for Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components, is working on a generic conformity assessment (CA) model which can be applied to cyber security.
A decade ago, printed electronics was still very much a budding technology destined to a niche market. The emergence and rapid growth of connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearables have boosted the internet of things (IoT) and offered new avenues of development to the printed electronics sector.
As more and more objects are connected, communicate and interact with each other, in what is labelled the internet of things (IoT), they become building blocks in larger systems. Known and unknown vulnerabilities in this wealth of objects are bound to attract cyber attacks that can bring down entire critical installations in many countries. Protection of IoT components against cyber threats, as well as of the systems that integrate them, is fast becoming a key priority.
The demands posed by a rapidly ageing global population are leading manufacturers of robots to develop technology for providing care and rehabilitation for elderly and impaired people in their own homes.
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. Its role and scope are constantly being expanded.
What immediately comes to mind when evoking active assisted living (AAL) is that it is essential in helping senior citizens keep as good a quality of life as possible. The focus is obviously on the elderly in industrialized countries where the population is ageing rapidly. But AAL represents more than that – it is meant for all people who suffer from illnesses or physical, mental and social disabilities. The general concept is to ensure that they live their life independently and comfortably in their own environment for as long as they can manage.
For the first time in history, voice recognition has reached a level close to human understanding. This opens up new opportunities, notably in replacing the smartphone as a ubiquitous interface. The sensorization and digitization trends of previous years are now leading to adaptive automation and highly-specialized applications that fundamentally transform the user experience. Last but not least augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are entering the real world of business.
One of the emerging trends of the 21st century is the ageing of the world population.
In our mobile world, portable smart devices keep us connected and able to access information anytime, anywhere. The healthcare industry has also embraced connected technology in the form of medical wearables and portable devices. These offer accurate real-time monitoring, diagnosis and tailored treatment of conditions, such as some types of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
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.
Why are home use medical and wellness devices drawing so much attention and growing at an explosive rate? It could be argued that this results from the nexus of the Internet of Things (IoT), the “super-aging” of societies around the world (which is directly tied to patients wanting to be comfortable in their home environments instead of in sterile impersonal clinical environments), the portability of devices, the growth of wearable technologies, the increasing costs of healthcare and the huge regulatory burden/costs of obtaining approval by national regulators. Also, there has been significant growth in the number of standards and regulations that apply to medical devices, especially around software, health informatics, privacy and security issues.
Poor water quality and water scarcity continue to pose a major threat to human health and are responsible for millions of deaths every year. Extracting water and treating used and contaminated waters requires complex installations which depend almost entirely on electrical and electronic systems and equipment. Standardization work by many IEC Technical Committees (TCs) and Subcommittees (SCs) is essential to ensure that people across the world have access to appropriate water supply and water treatment.
IEC work impacts all aspects of life. Electricity and electronics are the cornerstone for all economies in developing and developed countries. IEC International Standards together with IEC Conformity Assessment Systems support 12 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
From the smartphone alarm first thing in the morning to switching off the lights last thing at night, many products and systems in our daily lives run off electricity. We use the hairdryer, washing machine, stove, get on and off transport and walk through automated doors at the office, take the elevator, fire up the computer and purchase items online, expecting that everything will work reliably and safely.
Take the 169 countries in the IEC family, the 20 000 technical experts who work in standards development, the many Certification Bodies (CBs) and Test Laboratories (TLs) in the IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems, and add to the mix the rapid pace at which technologies are evolving today and you have hundreds, if not thousands of stories that can be told within the IEC community.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology is all around us. Whether playing a mind-blowing game, training for surgery, enhancing classroom learning, or stepping inside a building that hasn’t yet been constructed to solve problems before they happen, diverse industry sectors are using VR/AR applications in creative ways. According to a report by Digi-Capital, a company advising AR/VR, mobile and games leaders in Asia, Europe and the US, AR/VR could hit USD 150 billion revenue by 2020, with AR accounting for USD 120 billion and VR for the remaining USD 30 billion.
The doctor-patient relationship has evolved tremendously in the past decade or so. There was a time when any medical exam had to be performed at a hospital or a doctor’s practice. The recent and rapid emergence of home healthcare technologies is slowly changing the whole medical landscape.
Mobile technology is affecting almost every facet of our lives, at home, in the workplace and everywhere in between. The emergence of smart devices in the last decade has also had a major impact in the healthcare sector.
Recent years have witnessed a rapidly growing volume of healthcare-related data being collected from a variety of sources that include patients’ records, and information provided through home monitoring or wearable smart devices.
In our mobile world, we carry our lives in our portable devices and expect to be able to access information anytime, anywhere. On a train, in a shop, out walking, we surf the net, communicate through social media and messaging and listen to music on our smart phones. We have also entered the age of continual self-monitoring, be it the number of steps we take, our heart rate, glucose levels or sleeping patterns, because it can help improve our lives and just because we can.
Smaller businesses are becoming more streamlined and competitive thanks to the development of cobots or collaborative robots, capable of working safely with humans along assembly lines.
Over the years the healthcare sector has become increasingly reliant on an IT infrastructure for the proper and safe operation of its equipment and to manage patients' medical records. Healthcare establishments, long spared cyberattacks aimed at stealing confidential information, are now facing unprecedented attempts to breach into their IT infrastructure. The IEC has been developing means to protect the integrity of IT systems and equipment in the healthcare environment for many years.
Medical care rests on trust. Trust between patients and medical staff and trust of the latter the equipment they use for examining and treating patients. IEC International Standards are developed specifically to ensure medical electrical equipment and systems are safe to operate, for the well-being of patients and users alike.
Healthcare is undergoing nothing short of a revolution with key advances in long-established technologies and major development in new areas which all depend on electrotechnology.