Life expectancy is increasing, and as a result society includes an ever larger proportion of older people. Among other things, this is necessitating an increase in the retirement age in many countries. The fact that more than 95% of the world's population suffers from one or more health conditions or disorders  makes keeping people healthy and able to work for longer a difficult challenge. This is a challenge that has existed for more than two decades, and its consequences, such as increasing costs, a shortage of healthcare personnel, and more complex combinations of chronic diseases, have become particularly apparent in recent years. In addition, hazards at work and unhealthy work practices are often the underlying cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and depression due to burnout. All of these factors make it difficult to sustain the current social system.
To facilitate a longer working life for the general population, a balance must be found between the demands of work and human capabilities. This is in line with suggested approaches for chronic disease management to reduce the healthcare burden. The most common approach to minimising risks, reducing exposure and avoiding a harmful working lifestyle is prevention by design, i.e. designing the work environment for the healthy and safe execution of the tasks to be performed. Ergonomists already assess MSD risk factors and suggest changes to workplaces, however, existing methods are mainly based on visual observation, which is relatively unreliable and can only cover part of the working day. Furthermore, suggestions generally concern the workplace and the organization of work overall, but rarely include the working techniques of individuals. In this context, the use of pervasive technology, ubiquitous computing and p-health monitoring provide a key toolset to transform many common working scenarios into healthy, intelligent workplaces.
Emerging technologies, such as smart textiles and micro-electronics integrated into wearable devices, have enabled the development of intelligent biomedical clothing, and the recent proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) systems have facilitated the integration of pervasive sensitive services into the environment. These, together with ambient intelligence (AmI) technology techniques and big data analytics, have fostered a proliferation of p-Health monitoring solutions. This, together with advances in the development of inertial measurement units, activity and heart-rate-sensing watches and garments and their wide presence in the consumer electronics market, have opened a new arena for monitoring the physical workload and posture of different limbs. These wearable and IoT technologies, combined with ergonomic assessments, facilitate the gathering of epidemiological data for further big data analysis, and even provide the opportunity for prompt feedback and for coaching through deployment of the appropriate personalized m-healthcare tools.
Transformation of a work environment into a careful – even healthy – intelligent workplace as a deployment platform for p-Health services may support not just ergonomists, employees and employers, but also society in general; enabling the workplace as an intelligent environment might be the solution to ensuring the sustainability of current social welfare systems.
However, the inclusion of these emerging technologies and analysis techniques create other challenges that up to now have not been part of the field or context of ergonomics and the design of workspaces. As regards pervasive sensitive services, the interoperability of data and its security become essential to guarantee adoption and final acceptance, and it is therefore necessary to ensure that the systems developed conform to existing data protection laws and standards, i.e. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
This book presents a collection of the most significant challenges and advances in the field of intelligent workspaces and personalized ergonomics, bringing together the most relevant results obtained after the completion of various international research projects. The book is organized into three main sections, each corresponding to a point of view covered by the projects carried out. The first section, Personalized Ergonomics, offers a vision about the need for practical and reliable risk assessment methods for the prevention of MSD and the enhancement of the workplace through the use of comprehensive stepped-care models for mental health. The section Pervasive Technology for Intelligent Workplaces identifies the opportunities and challenges of technology-based interventions to increase health-awareness and the security and privacy issues which must be covered in the smart workplace. The third section presents Data Warehouse Governance and Analytics related works. The book concludes with a chapter on lessons learnt.
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