The main aim of ambient assisted living (AAL) is to take advantage of new technologies in order to help old or dependent persons.
Developed countries have to face the challenge of their aging population. Demographic data predict that in 2060, the number of people aged 65 years or older will increase from 17.4% to 29.5% in Europe, from 13.2% to 21.9% in the USA, from 22.7% to 35.1% in Japan, and from 8.2% to 29.5% in China. Furthermore, the structure of families has changed, and compared to some decades ago, children and parents are no longer living in the same area, due to the development in communication and transportation. In the past, it was common for children to take care of their parents and grandparents, as they were living close together.
During the last decade, the use of communication networks, fixed or mobile, has increased exponentially. The Internet is now nearly accessible everywhere (and at any time) in developed countries, and people started to connect their computers, TVs, and telephones to it. The new trend is now to connect various objects to the Internet, building a so-called Internet of things. Among these new connected objects, some have been designed to monitor houses (fire alarms, intrusion alarms, etc.), to survey people activity or vital signs, to train people, or to behave as a companion (such as a robot companion). Companies are now offering services based on these new objects, and some are specifically built for old or dependent persons.
Besides these technological solutions, issues such as compatibility, security, privacy, acceptance, and so on have to be studied as well to ensure that the proposed solutions will not only fit the requirements of the old or dependent person, but also the needs of the people who care for them (professional and family). It is not only a question of objects and technology, but also of an ecosystem designed for a specific group of people in order to provide solutions to the aging population.
To build this special issue, we tried to collect papers covering different aspects of AAL.
The first article, “xAAL: A Distributed Infrastructure for Heterogeneous Ambient Devices”, aims to propose a solution to provide interoperability among the variety of sensors, actuators, and network protocols that can be used to build such an AAL application. It is important to understand that without such effort, the interconnection of devices will turn into nightmare, except if you depend on only one vendor.
In the article “The universAAL Platform for AAL (Ambient Assisted Living)”, a middleware for AAL is presented. universAAL is the result of several European research projects and is an open platform that can be used to facilitate the development, distribution, and deployment of solutions for AAL. Its approach is a global one, which tries to cover all aspects of the domain.
In the third article, “A Collaborative Workflow for Computer-Aided Design in Ambient Assisted Living: ASIM Project”, the question of the configuration of AAL environment is studied. It is necessary to organize the collaboration of all the people working around an AAL solution (installer, doctor, occupational therapist, nurse, and family) in order to fit the specific requirements of the user.
The articles “Data Streams Quality Evaluation for the Generation of Alarms in Health Domain” and “Context-Aware Access Control Model for Privacy Support in Mobile-Based Assisted Living” are posed questions on quality of data and security, respectively. After installing and configuring a technical solution based on sensors, actuators, and middleware, it is necessary to ensure that the solution is reliable and safe. By nature, AAL solutions connect several objects and provide personal information. It is important to guarantee the quality of the data in order to raise alarm when needed and to guarantee the privacy of data while authorizing only the right persons or objects to consult them.
The last article, “Activity Monitoring Process based on Model Driven Engineering Application to Ambient Assisted Living”, explores the use of data to monitor activity, and it proposes to mine all the data produced and to use high-level models to manipulate them.
This special issue on AAL proposes a large overview, from more technological concerns to models, through middleware and quality of solutions. More aspects of this domain could have been presented. It is obvious that the technology is there, that the needs are there, and that more research has to be conducted in order to make AAL easier to install, deploy, use, secure, etc. for the benefit of old or dependent persons.