Rulemaking challenges amid industrial structural transformation
The revised Industrial Standardization Act came into force in July. It was the first fundamental revision of the act in 70 years. Standardization has been expanded to include services and data, in addition to conventional mining or industrial products. The Japanese names of the act and the standard changed in line with the move (the English names remain unchanged).
Expanding what the standardization act covers would enable standardization of, for instance, utilizing big data for maintenance, the content and quality of sharing services and social infrastructure using the “internet of things,” among others.
Setting standards for robots
Increasing numbers of “customer service robots” are being introduced at airports and commercial facilities. The same can be said about robots designed to provide assistance in nursing care environments.
These robots are expected to become more common because they are seen as a means of addressing labor shortages that stem from Japan’s low birthrate and aging population. A newly created standard for these robots was the first developed under the revised standardization act.
Yoshihiro Nakabo, leader of the Dependable Systems Research Team at the Robot Innovation Research Center in the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, was involved in developing standards. Nakabo had this to say on the significance of standardization of service robots: “Unlike industrial robots found mainly in factories, these robots are designed to provide accessible services to the wider public. So, new perspectives on how humans and robots can coexist safely are required.”
The safety requirements of customer service robots themselves are already stipulated under international standards. Japan’s newly developed standards require business operators offering different services using such robots to establish risk-reduction measures. This is because the robots are used in public — not only the direct recipients of their services, but many third parties could also be subject to risks.
With this in mind, relevant parties, including major distribution firms, medical welfare corporations, companies operating airports and railway operators, took part in discussions to develop new standards. A basis for implementation was established after reflecting actual on-site situations. The points range from risk assessment, safety control, education and operational structure, among others.
Currently, appropriate procedures are being followed and work is underway for these safety requirements to be recognized internationally at the International Organization for Standardization.
Nakabo expressed hopes to further expand the market for robots through standardization.
“I’d like to facilitate the necessary environments so that different kinds of robots play a much wider role across the world,” he said.