KANBrief 4/19

Setting the course for work equipment of the future

HCI International is among the major conferences in the field of human-computer interaction. “Computer” in this context increasingly covers any form of machine or device possessing a digital interface. Much of what is being discussed somewhat vaguely with the buzzwords Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence (AI) comes into focus at this conference: smart glasses at work, exoskeletons and networked machines, AI and occupational safety and health, cybersecurity and data security.

This year’s edition of the HCI International was held in the USA and attended by around 1,900 delegates from 74 countries. Standardization also plays an important role in the context of human-computer interaction and occupational safety and health, since the overlap between these two spheres and standardization has considerable influence upon the safety and user-oriented design of machines and other work equipment. For this reason, the KAN Secretariat held its own session at the 2019 conference with explicit reference to standards. The conference delegates work primarily in the sphere of research, and have a major influence upon the development of products and technologies. The conference thus presents an ideal opportunity to raise awareness at an early stage for the topics of occupational safety and health and standardization.

Artificial intelligence

In his keynote speech at the conference’s traditional evening inaugural event, Professor Richard Harper raised the topical subject of “artificial intelligence”. Professor Harper has worked at the Xerox PARC research centre in Palo Alto, and is now one of the directors of the Institute of Social Futures at the University of Lancaster. In his speech, he described the relationship between AI and human-computer interaction, and showed with reference to examples how users have adjusted their behaviour in the use of voice control systems in order for these systems to work properly. It is however not in the interests of human-computer interaction when users must adjust their behaviour in order for an AI application to deliver the desired results. AI should not therefore be used universally. In Harper’s view, AI is suitable only for certain clearly definable applications and when certain conditions are met (refer also to the article on Page 10).

The topic of artificial intelligence was also raised by Dr Phoebe Moore in her talk during the session held by the KAN Secretariat. Dr Moore is an associate professor of political economy and technology at the University of Leicester, and has published a range of reports for the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) on artificial intelligence and its impact upon occupational safety and health. She addressed the benefits and risks of AI applications at the workplace, and raised awareness of the need for consideration to be given to possible impacts of AI upon occupational safety and health (refer also to the article on Page 7).

At this year’s HCI Conference, a dedicated part of the conference programme was assigned for the first time to cybersecurity. The intention was to promote research in this field and provide a forum for dialogue between scientists, researchers, and above all practitioners. In the view of Professor Abbas Moallem, a cybersecurity expert from Cupertino (Silicon Valley), such dialogue is urgently needed, since cybersecurity problems have not yet been adequately considered with regard to numerous products and IT applications. In his view, this is also reflected in inadequate investment in the sphere of cybersecurity.

HCI International 2020

The topic of cybersecurity, particularly the aspects of “safety & security”, is also relevant to occupational safety and health. The KAN Secretariat will therefore also be represented with a session of its own at the next HCI Conference, which will be held in Copenhagen from 19 to 24 July 2020. KAN’s session will form part of the cybersecurity conference segment already referred to, entitled “HCI for Cybersecurity, Privacy and Trust (HCI-CPT)”. It will raise awareness of aspects of occupational safety and health and standardization in the context of cybersecurity.

Have we piqued your interest? If so, we invite you to visit our session entitled “Why cybersecurity is vital for your business”.

Dr. Michael Bretschneider-Hagemes


Sebastian Korfmacher