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  5. New International Standard for Safe Operation of Service Robots Originating from Japan’s Proposal Issued

New International Standard for Safe Operation of Service Robots Originating from Japan’s Proposal Issued

Efforts for the safe and secure use of service robots to overcome labor shortages (ISO 31101)

November 13, 2023

Services industry has started the proactive introduction of service robots to overcome labor shortages. To foster the widespread use of such robots, the essential precondition is to develop rules not only for their safe operation but also to secure their coexistence with people.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) hereby announces that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has officially issued a new international standard developed under the leadership of Japan for managing the safe operation of service robots. This standard is expected to contribute to promoting the introduction of highly safe robot services to overcome labor shortages.

1. Background

In recent years, Japan has been facing a challenge in the form of labor shortages against the backdrop of an aging society with fewer children. To overcome this challenge, industries have started the introduction of service robots.  Service robots are used for food delivery in restaurants, floor cleaning, security, as well as information guidance at train stations, airports, and other facilities. In addition, service robots are also used for nursing care and goods delivery in nursing, medical, and other facilities. Unlike industrial robots used in factories and other industrial sites, service robots are used in public spaces. Accordingly, services industry needs to secure the safety of service robots to enable them to coexist with people without harming them.

To this end, Japan executed leadership in advancing the development of a new international standard for managing the safe operation of service robots, and the ISO officially issued the standard on November 10, 2023.

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Examples of service robot applications (Sources: Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., and Panasonic Holdings Corporation)

2. Outline of the international standard

While some international standards have stipulated safety requirements targeting service robot manufacturers, there was no international standard for the safe operation of service robots targeting businesses that make use of such robots. This new standard provides the basic requirements for managing the safe operation of service robots that providers should satisfy. In particular, as a key point, the standard highlights approaches to ensuring the safety of service robots for the vast number of people who do not have sufficient knowledge of such robots.

Specifically, the standard stipulates the requirements that service providers should carry out, including: identifying hazardous events involving robot services (e.g., robots colliding with people) and expected causes (e.g., worn brakes and inadequate maintenance and inspections), risk assessment to avoid such events, the implementation of educational and training programs for employees, and the assessment and improvement of robots’ performance.

Examples of requirements and recommendations stipulated in the new standard:

3. Expected effects

The newly issued international standard is expected not only to ensure the safety of robot services, thereby facilitating their widespread adoption and helping industries overcome labor shortages, but also to greatly contribute to encouraging people worldwide to use robot services originating from Japan and high-safety robots developed in Japan.

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