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Standardisation and Legislation with Regard to Ambient Intelligence and Accessibility

by Erkki Kemppainen, Kjell Age Bringsrud, Jan Engelen, Chiara Giovannini, Tony Shipley & Hajime Yamada

February 2008

Need for standardisation

Ambient Intelligence systems are often complicated systems. All of their constituent parts may be provided from different manufacturers and thus must be made compatible with each other. This is supported by standardisation. But standardisation also serves other purposes. It supports accessibility and usability requirements, product safety, etc. Standardisation can be also used to reduce the cost of Ambient Intelligence system by reducing the number of similar systems. The challenges are increased by the fact that many home appliances are used at different stages of life.

European activities

In the near future important activities in the standardisation field will happen:

International activities

Besides these European activities the following important actions are going on in ISO (International Standardization Organisation):

Work in ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee One (JTC1).

JTC1 is a joint effort between the International Standardization Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC). It provides a single, comprehensive standardization committee in which to address international Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standardization.

ISO and IEC have together produced the following base standard on accessibility:

ISO/IEC Guide 71:2001: Guidelines for standards developers to address the needs of older persons and persons with disabilities

JTC1 has established a Special Working Group on Accessibility (JTC-1 SWG-A). This group was formed to track all global, regional and national standards related to ICT accessibility by gathering user requirements, publishing an inventory of all known accessibility standards efforts and identifying areas/technologies where accessibility issues has not yet been addressed. The SWG-A will address all sorts of standards in the ICT sector, such as standards on computer hardware, software, telecommunications, consumer electronics, public access terminals and potentially other areas in the future. Participation in the group is open to all interested parties.

Some of the JTC1 Sub Committees (SCs) also have activities related to accessibility, in particular the following:

ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 35; User Interfaces.
Working Group 6 : User Interface Accessibility
This group is addressing user interfaces for people with special needs (including children, the elderly, the permanently or temporarily disabled and people in constrained usage environments). It shall act as a mirror group to JTC1 SWG-A within SC35 and to guide SC35 policy regarding other standards committees in the accessibility area

ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36; Information Technology for Learning, Education, and Training.
Working Group 7: Culture, Language, and Human Functioning Activities.
This group is developing a framework for content and user interfaces to be accessible by users with disabilities – where ‘disability’ is conceived not as something a person lacks,
but being instead a mismatch between learner needs and the education delivered.

Other activities are taking place in ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and also in individual EU countries as well as in Australia and Japan.

Personal data

European legislation includes many fields which are important when looking at Ambient Intelligence from a human point of view. An obvious area is data protection. It is strongly both an ethical and legal issue. In 1995 the European Union adopted Directive 95/46/EC on the processing of personal data. This Directive established the basic principles for the collection, storage and use of personal data that should be respected by governments, businesses and any other organizations or individuals engaged in handling personal data.

The new Directive 2002/58/EC on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector includes provisions on security of networks and services, confidentiality of communications, access to information stored on terminal equipment, processing of traffic and location data, calling line identification, public subscriber directories and unsolicited commercial communications. This directive is currently being revised.

Since Ambient Intelligence system must adapt different needs of individual users, it is inevitable to use personal data of users in the system.

Consumer protection

Another important area of legislation is consumer protection and product safety. According to European legislation, a product is presumed safe once it conforms to specific Community provisions, national regulations or certain principles. The general safety requirement is imposed by the Directive 2001/95/EEC on general product safety on any product put on the market for consumers or likely to be used by them and not covered by sectoral legislation, including all products that provide a service.
The manufacturers must put on the market products that comply with the general safety requirement. They must also provide consumers with necessary information. Distributors are obliged to supply products that comply with general safety requirements, to monitor the safety of products on the market, and to provide the necessary documents to ensure that the products can be traced. If the manufacturers or distributors discover that a product is dangerous, they must notify the competent authorities, and if necessary, co-operate with them.

The Members States put in place structures that are responsible for monitoring a product's compliance with safety requirements and taking the necessary measures in this regard, e.g. prohibiting products that fail to comply from being marketed.

In addition to the above issues, consumers are also concerned with Electro Magnetic Compatibility issues that can affect compatibility. To comply with the EU directives individual components have the “CE” mark to show presumption of compliance. Consumers will be re-assured if they know that EMC could also be guaranteed for the whole AmI system, not just for the component parts. In addition to EMC, it must be guaranteed that an Ambient Intelligence system does not physically harm the user who may even “wear” some part of the system. Furthermore, Low Voltage Directive 2006/95/EC is important for domestic appliances. Also environment should be taken into account in order to keep with sustainable development.

How accessibility can be promoted in the market?

The relevant legislation is not limited to legislation concerning directly technology. For example, public procurement is an important area for users. The primary purpose of public procurement Directives is to ensure that there is a properly functioning internal market so that suppliers from any Member State can have equal access to the public procurement markets in any Member State. Also other objectives, such as facilitating production and marketing of accessible mainstream products using the bargaining power of public procurement, are involved. It is possible to take the needs of disabled persons into account at several stages in procurement process of Ambient Intelligence system.

Articles on technical specifications state that whenever possible these technical specifications should be defined so as to take into account accessibility criteria for people with disabilities or design for all users (Article 23, Directive 2004/18/EC on the coordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public service contract and Article 34, Directive 2004/17/EC coordinating the procurement of entities operating in the water, energy, transport and postal services sectors).

Telecommunication legislation and regulation

Telecommunication provides an important infrastructure for Ambient Intelligence. Central to the legal framework are the telecommunications directives, especially the Directive on radio equipment, telecommunications terminal equipment and the mutual recognition of their conformity (RTTE) 1999/5/EC. Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and user's rights to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive) shows an important user perspective. However, present and emerging challenges require a lot of work in all fields. The regulation is important in the field of telecommunication. In this and in other areas, it may be necessary for those regulators to move fast, so it would be valuable to check that legislation as it currently exists is flexible enough to provide the necessary enabling powers.


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