Standing straight

New book published on digital human modelling

Digital human modelling (DHM) provides a virtual representation of humans and their behaviours. As an academic field of research that combines technology and design, DHM has more recently generated the interest of industry.

Siemens Digital Human Model
Digital human modelling (DHM) provides a virtual representation of humans and their behaviours (Image: Siemens PLM Software)

For example, DHM can replace crash test dummies to help engineers determine the safety of vehicles. Product designers can use DHM to integrate human modelling functions. A product can be evaluated in terms of its impact on human posture as well as how it will impact a person’s reach or visibility while using it. In the medical field, DHM can help study movement or plan surgical interventions.

An expert from IEC TC 124 on wearable electronic devices and a 2018 Young Professional, Sofia Scataglini, has published a new book on digital human modelling. Scataglini, a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Design Sciences at Antwerp University, is also a Researcher at the Belgian Royal Military Academy and the Military Hospital Queen Astrid. She is a founding member of the Digital Human Modelling by Women (DHMW), a group dedicated to promoting women researchers worldwide in the field of design and technology.

Tell us about your current research

My research looks at digital human modelling (DHM) and the study of posture. I focus on wearable sensors, physical ergonomics as well as design applied to human health.

Digital human modelling is the science of representing humans with their physical properties, characteristics and behaviours in computerized, virtual models. These models can be used as a standalone or integrated with other computerized object design systems. They are used to design or to study designs, workplaces or products in their relationship with humans.

You recently published a book entitled DHM and Posturography. How can it help standardization experts?

My book DHM and Posturography, which I co-edited with Gunther Paul, examines the current research on digital human modelling and its use in ergonomics and posturography. It provides an overview of human simulation tools with detailed information on posture and postural interactions. It also includes case studies with real world information for practitioners to make informed decisions.

I have been actively promoting the importance of standards within academia. For example, I used standard terminology in the book and its glossary. In fact, terminology is essential for providing agreed definitions, reducing ambiguity and improving accuracy.

In this book, you can find a specific chapter on how to design smart clothing using digital human modelling as well as one on standardization and norms.

I believe that standardization should be introduced in academics to enable students to become conscious of the importance of standards as well as to become future experts, creating a continuous technological and knowledge transfer.

What is your involvement in IEC TC 124 and how does it relate to your research?

TC 124 is related to the standardization in the field of wearable electronic devices and technologies which include patchable materials and devices, implantable materials and devices, ingestible materials and devices, electronic textile materials and devices, etc.

The four working groups within TC 124 impact my work.

WG1 produces terminology definitions for wearable electronic devices and technologies which is important for research and applications in academia and industry, especially in new fields such as wearable technology and smart clothing. As a researcher, I encountered different definitions for the same term which can create confusion. Having the possibility to standardize terms reduces ambiguity and improves accuracy.

WG2 develops measurement and evaluation methods for textile materials, devices, and systems with electrotechnical functionality. This is an area of direct interest in my research. Being a part of this WG allows me to share my knowledge as well as learn and work together with experts from all over the world.

WG3 is more related to materials. Parameters, like elasticity, washability, functionality and sustainability, need to be considered especially as technology is becoming smarter.

WG4 develops standards related to the connectivity and durability of wearable devices as well as the integration with other systems and services. We need to rethink the healthcare eco-system and we need to ensure that technologies used for e-health are safe and secure for everyone.

How was your experience as a Young Professional last year?

I participated in the Young Professional programme last year as a YP representative for Belgium. I would like to thank the CEB-BEC for supporting me and giving me this amazing opportunity.

Through this experience, I had the opportunity to participate in the plenary meeting of TC 124 and meet with the members of the committee. We exchanged ideas and developed possibilities for future collaboration.

At the time, I received an award from the CEB-BEC thanking me as an expert under the age of 35 years.

Why did you establish the Digital Human Modelling by Women (DHMW) group?

Gender equality is one of the main topics that affect the population. I would like to work towards the empowerment of women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Design, and Mathematics (STEAM). I think standardization and the IEC need to promote the participation of more women in this field. This is possible starting in school through to university and in industry.

This group launched in 2017 during a DHMW breakfast held at the 5th International DHM Symposium at Fraunhofer-Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics (FKIE) in Germany.

The group continuous to grow but we need more support. This year we organised the first international DHWM symposium during the 10th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2019) and the Affiliated Conferences in Washington. Another one is planned to be held during the 11th AHFE 2020 in San Diego.

I think that the IEC should set up a mentoring programme or organize specific events to involve more women in standardization and conformity assessment.