BSI’s Tim McGarr on Enterprise AR and Standards Development
Founded in 1901, the British Standards Institution (BSI) is the national standards body of the UK. With 90 offices in 31 countries worldwide, BSI also plays a significant role in European and international standards development (into ISO and IEC). BSI joined the AREA in 2019 with the goal of furthering the development of AR standards. We spoke recently with Tim McGarr, BSI Digital Sector Lead and the person driving the AR standardization effort in BSI.
AREA: Where do things currently stand in terms of standards development for AR?
McGarr: There are a few things that are going on in international standards. For example, there are already standards for spatial recognition, amongst other areas. But the reason I’ve been focused on getting new standards going is that some of the barriers to AR becoming mass-market relate to aspects of the technology that are not standardized.
That’s where I see BSI coming in. As the UK national standards body feeding into European and international standards, we span a broad spectrum of standards, from door locks to ethics to cybersecurity and everything in between. For VR and AR to become a mass-market proposition, they will have to interact with the way many industry sectors already successfully work, which is generally based on longstanding areas of standardization. Such standardization is in place to deal with the challenges mature sectors have dealt with in the past. For this reason, the new standards work is focused primarily on ensuring health and safety are taken into account.
Among many industry sectors, such as construction and manufacturing, there are commonly accepted procedures and equipment to ensure health and safety. So even if AR technology delivers increased productivity, if it doesn’t align with existing health and safety procedures or equipment, it’s not going to be accepted or widely used.
There are several aspects to consider; first, ensuring that the technology itself doesn’t introduce new concerns – for example, if a person on a manufacturing floor using VR or AR stops using the technology and feels dizzy in a potentially dangerous environment. Second, the technology has to be interlinked with other standardized personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as protective gloves or hardhats. The technology has to work within those parameters which are generally supported by standardization. Then there are areas of standards that are likely to follow – for example, ensuring that a device is robust enough to work within an environment like a building site or ensuring appropriate cybersecurity and privacy management.
All our work is about taking what is a great technology proven to make organizations more efficient and get it to a place where it is accepted by most mainstream organizations.
AREA: Does BSI begin by identifying which issues are the highest priorities?
McGarr: We started by commissioning independent research to determine where standards broadly were needed. Using that as a starting point, we’ve talked with a lot of people in the market to determine what the main priorities are. So we’ll work on the main ones first and then build further out. In AR, the highest priorities are safety, which includes setup and immersion time, linking up with PPE, and cleanliness, since we have people sharing devices. Cleanliness of devices has been especially important in healthcare, but it has taken on greater importance in all sectors during the pandemic.
AREA: How does that process of industry outreach work?
McGarr: A lot of it is finding and reaching out to the right people. We think about who the main stakeholders are. That can include people from the academic world, government, trade bodies, consumer groups, as well as companies of all sizes. We work to get the right stakeholders around the table and give them the opportunity to represent their views. Part of the reason that we are AREA members is about reaching out to those people, both from the UK and the AREA members from other countries who can feed in locally.
AREA: Tell us about your recent AR and VR standards development workshop.
McGarr: We’ve spent a lot of time determining how best to proceed to get standards that can grow the AR market. International standards committees work in various ways. You can develop a new committee or start a working group within an existing committee. After lots of discussion we have recently had agreed the best approach is in forming a new “Working Group” (WG11) within the ISO/IEC SC24 committee. This Working Group will be developing standards to build out areas of standards to aid the AR market to grow with standards specific to AR/VR such as Health & Safety, Personal Protective Equipment, hygiene, diversity/equality/inclusion, robustness, content capture/processing/postproduction, and cybersecurity/privacy/online harms. The initial standards proposals to start this work are being voted on and can hopefully start very soon.
AREA: When can we expect to see the fruits of this AR/VR standards development work?
McGarr: We hope to get work started in a few months’ time. The international standards will be there in approximately two to four years. If there is a desire to do things more quickly, there are ways to do them more quickly. It’s all about bringing stakeholders together, bringing in a wide variety of views, building consensus, and establishing best practices.
AREA: If people reading this want to get involved or get more information about your work, what should they do?
McGarr: I’m happy to be the main point of contact. People can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll also be feeding back into the various AREA groups.