Ambient assisted living (AAL) technologies are expected to solve a significant number of problems related to elderly care. However, in Japan, limited discourse on the ethical issues concerning their application is hindering the spread of AAL technologies. Against this background, this study explores the ethical perspectives of AAL technology engineers in Japanese companies and the circumstances influencing their perspectives. A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted. Nineteen Japanese AAL-technology companies were contacted, and nine of them and their engineers responded to the interviews. The contents of the interviews were analyzed with thematic analysis which showed that the engineers had ethical concerns about their products as follows: (1) safety and related conflicts, (2) acceptance of the technology, (3) dependence on the technology, (4) accident liability, (5) fair access to the technologies, and (6) privacy. In relation to these issues, they identified as company employees with regard to the following: responding to social needs, having many users, and cost reduction. They also mentioned being influenced by the Japanese national program for AAL-technology promotion. The engineers experienced dilemmas between the various stakeholders’ interests and they hoped that ethical guidelines for developing AAL technologies would resolve such dilemmas. In conclusion, Japanese AAL-technology engineers tackle ethical issues with regard to the application of their products. The engineers hope for the establishment of guidelines for the ethically responsible development of AAL technologies. The guidelines need to be established and implemented in an interactive manner, in order to avoid their being reduced to a bureaucratic formality.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Bortz, Walter. 2009. Disuse and aging, 2009. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences. 65( (4): 382–385.
British Standard Institution. 2016. Standard highlighting the ethical hazards of robots is published. BSI Press releases. https://www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/about-bsi/media-centre/press-releases/2016/april/-Standard--highlighting-the-ethical-hazards-of-robots-is-published/. Accessed 11 Jan 2018.
Dawkins, Cedric E. 2014. The principle of good faith: Toward substantive stakeholder engagement. Journal of Business Ethics. 121 (2): 283–295. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1697-z.
Fereday, Jennifer, and Eimear Muir-Cochrane. 2006. Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International journal of qualitative methods. 5 (1): 80–92.
Friedman, Batya, Peter Kahn, and Alan Borning. 2002. Value sensitive design: Theory and methods. University of Washington technical report.: 02–12.
Fusch, Patricia I., and Lawrence R. Ness. 2015. Are we there yet? Data saturation in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report. 20 (9): 1408–1416.
Hofmann, Bjørn. 2013. Ethical challenges with welfare technology: A review of the literature. Science and Engineering Ethics. 19 (2): 389–406. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-011-9348-1.
Ienca, Marcello, Tenzin Wangmo, Fabrice Jotterand, Reto W. Kressig, and Bernice Elger. 2017. Ethical design of intelligent assistive technologies for dementia: A descriptive review. Science and Engineering Ethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9976-1.
Kosta, Eleni, Olli Pitkänen, Marketta Niemelä, and Eija Kaasinen. 2010. Mobile-centric ambient intelligence in health- and homecare-anticipating ethical and legal challenges. Science and Engineering Ethics. 16 (2): 303–323. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-009-9150-5.
Luther, Catherine, and Ivanka Radovic. 2012. Perspectives on privacy, information technology and company/governmental surveillance in Japan. Surveillance & Society. 10 (3/4): 263–275.
Martin, Suzanne, Johan E. Bengtsson, and Rose-Marie Dröes. 2010. Assistive technologies and issues relating to privacy, ethics and security. In Supporting people with dementia using pervasive health technologies, ed. Maurice D. Mulvenna and Chris D. Nugent, 63–76. London: Springer.
Novitzky, Peter, Alan F. Smeaton, Cynthia Chen, Kate Irving, Tim Jacquemard, Fiachra O’Brolcháin, Dónal O’Mathúna, and Bert Gordijn. 2015. A review of contemporary work on the ethics of ambient assisted living technologies for people with dementia. Science and Engineering Ethics. 21 (3): 707–765. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-014-9552-x.
Nursing Plaza. 2014. Kikai no merit to Anzen heno Fuan: Kaigoyou robot ni Kansuru Ankeito Chousa [in Japanese] (merits of machines and anxiety for safety: Questionnaire survey in relation to the use of elderly care robots). Nursing Plaza. Accessed 16 Aug 2017. http://www.nursing-plaza.com/report/details/201407.html
Okawa, Yayoi, and Yoji Yamada. 2013. Kaihatsu Konseputo Shito Sakusei no Pointo[in Japanese](the points in filling the developmental concept form). Robotic Devices for Nursing Care Project. Accessed 11 Jan 2018. http://robotcare.jp/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SG-1-2_development_help.pdf.
PESTI. 2015. Robot Shakai no Shouraizou robot × Mirai × Yumebijon [in Japanese](future vision of robots-assisted society: Robots, future, and dream vision). PESTI. Accessed 8 Apr 2017. http://interactive.pesti.jp/robot/.
Robotic Devices for Nursing Care Project. 2013. Robotic Care Devices Portal. Robotic devices for nursing care project. Accessed 18 Aug 2017. http://robotcare.jp/.
Sponselee, Anne-mie, Ben Schouten, Don Bouwhuis, and Charles Willems. 2008. Smart home technology for the elderly: perceptions of multidisciplinary stakeholders. In Constructing Ambient Intelligence, AmI 2007, Communications in Computer and Information Science, ed. Max Mühlhäuser, Alois Ferscha, and Erwin Aitenbichler, vol. 11, 314–326. Berlin: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-85379-4_37.
The Cabinet of Japan. (2013). Kaigo robot ni kansuru Tokubetsu-yoronchousa no Gaiyou [in Japanese](the summary of public opinion survey on elderly nursing care robots). The Cabinet of Japan. Accessed 15 Aug 2017. http://survey.gov-online.go.jp/tokubetu/h25/h25-kaigo.pdf.
Van Kemenade, Margo A. M., Elly A. Konijn, and Johan F Hoorn. 2015. Robots humanize care moral concerns versus witnessed benefits for the elderly, Proceedings of the International Conference on Health Informatics - Volume 1: HEALTHINF, (BIOSTEC 2015). 648–53. https://doi.org/10.5220/0005287706480653.
Yamauchi, Shigeru. 2011. Robotto Kenkyusya no tame no Rinri Shinsa [in Japanese](IRB review for protocols in robotics). Journal of the Robotics Society of Japan. 29 (3): 225–230.
Yamauchi, Shigeru. 2013. Robotto Kaihatsu ni Kakawaru Rinri Mondai[in Japanese](ethical issues in relation to development of robotics). National Rehabilitation Center for Persons with Disabilities. Accessed 11 Jan 2018. http://www.rehab.go.jp/ri/event/assist/papers/14.pdf.
Zajicek, Mary. 2001. Special Interface requirements for older adults. Proceedings of the 2001 ECNSF Workshop on Universal Accessibility of Ubiquitous Computing 60–65. https://doi.org/10.1145/564542.564543.
The authors would like to thank all companies and interviewees involved in the survey. We also thank Joshua Wittig and Elizabeth Wade for language editing.
This study was approved by the institutional review board of Osaka University Hospital (no. 16081-2, approved on July 5, 2016). Informed consent for research participation and publication of results in academic papers was obtained from all interviewees.
About this article
Cite this article
Koimizu, J., Kokado, M. & Kato, K. Ethical Perspectives of Japanese Engineers on Ambient Assisted Living Technologies: Semi-structured Interview. ABR 10, 143–155 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41649-018-0053-0
- Ambient assisted living technology
- Robot ethics
- Ethics in elderly care
- Engineering ethics