Special Issue "Human Factors in the Digital Society"

A special issue of Applied Sciences (ISSN 2076-3417). This special issue belongs to the section "Computing and Artificial Intelligence".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 20 August 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Francesco Facchini
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mechanics, Mathematics and Management, Polytechnic University of Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: Warehouse management systems; Logistics, Waste management, Artificial Neural Networks, Ergonomics, Cognitive Ergonomics, Industry 4.0
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Salvatore Digiesi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Mechanics, Mathematics and Management, Polytechnic University of Bari, Via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy
Interests: human performance modeling; ergonomics; waste management; mechanical industrial plants; sustainable logistics; human performance modeling
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Carlotta Mummolo
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biomedical Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Newark, NJ 07103, USA
Interests: human performance; healthy aging; motor vs. cognitive assessment; motor rehabilitation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

New Internet-based technologies have enormous potential to affect human wellbeing. This necessitates valid and consistent assessment of human factors and human performance in every area of the digital society, ranging from the everyday life of citizens to the work environment.

Different contexts are linked to similar challenges, and require similar problems to be solved: the common roots are human behaviors and new information technologies. As a result, the human-centered social-cyber-physical system has become the common reference framework in today’s society.

To attain a holistic understanding, it is important to identify challenges and opportunities related to human factors and human performance in the digital society: research in this context is still new, and significant achievements are limited.

Human factors in the digital society at large assume new perspectives, as they tend to be linked to tasks of a more cognitive rather than a physical nature. For instance, decision-making based on real time data is a new challenge for humans in various everyday scenarios. Moreover, monitoring of physical systems by the ‘Internet of Everything’ is becoming a widely adopted practice in several contexts, especially industry. Accurate modelling of cognitive tasks will enable proper investigation of the ergonomics of workplaces and of the safety and maintenance of production systems. The design of human-centered social-cyber-physical systems should also consider older individuals and people with disabilities—i.e., people less familiar with and, therefore, less inclined to adopt new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Assessing the cognitive abilities of differently aged people in the digital society requires a deep understanding of complex phenomena involving transversal competence. These are just some examples of relevant issues connected with human factors in the digital society.

The Special Issue aims to collect recent innovative research on human factors and human performance in the digital era. Scientific contributions, ranging from basic research to applied research with pilot industrial applications and demos, are welcome. The interdisciplinary nature of this Special Issue is consistent with contributions from different areas of competence, ranging from industrial to biomedical engineering.

Prof. Dr. Francesco Facchini
Prof. Dr. Salvatore Digiesi
Dr. Carlotta Mummolo
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Applied Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Human factors and human performance in the digital society
  • Human-centered social-cyber-physical systems
  • Cognitive vs. motor human tasks
  • I4.0 Ergonomics
  • Smart operators for safety and maintenance of digital factories
  • Testing motor and cognitive tasks
  • Human memory
  • Workforce aging and people with disabilities in the digital society
  • Human performance modelling

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
The Role of Maintenance Operator in Industrial Manufacturing Systems: Research Topics and Trends
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(7), 3193; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11073193 - 02 Apr 2021
Viewed by 291
Abstract
Maintenance contributes to gaining high business performance, guarantees system availability and reliability as well as safe and sustainable operations. Maintenance activity effectiveness depends on competences and the skills of operators whose performance strongly affects maintenance and production operations. The research field of human [...] Read more.
Maintenance contributes to gaining high business performance, guarantees system availability and reliability as well as safe and sustainable operations. Maintenance activity effectiveness depends on competences and the skills of operators whose performance strongly affects maintenance and production operations. The research field of human issues in industrial maintenance was deeply addressed in the literature; however, the current industrial paradigm, which focusses on the integration of new technologies in conventional manufacturing operations to support human performance, sheds light on new challenges for enterprises and opportunities for research in this field. While some literature reviews in the field of human errors and human factors are available, no study investigated the main topics, research trends and challenges related to the role of maintenance operators in manufacturing systems. This paper addresses the current state-of-the-art role of maintenance operators in manufacturing systems, providing an overview of the main studies. A systematic literature review was carried out to identify significant papers. Then, a topic modelling algorithm was used to detect the main topics of the selected papers to provide the research trends of the subject. The identified topics provided interesting research insights on the human role in industrial maintenance. Research trends and further research opportunities were defined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessArticle
A Rule-Based System for Human Performance Evaluation: A Case Study
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(7), 2904; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11072904 - 24 Mar 2021
Viewed by 263
Abstract
The issues of many organizations are related to the proper evaluation of human performance and efficient decision-making. The expert system application within the decision-making process is not a novelty, but the widespread of its implementation regarding performance evaluation has not been recognized yet. [...] Read more.
The issues of many organizations are related to the proper evaluation of human performance and efficient decision-making. The expert system application within the decision-making process is not a novelty, but the widespread of its implementation regarding performance evaluation has not been recognized yet. To overcome this problem, a case study of rule-based expert system application in the decision-making process regarding human performance in periodical technical inspection stations in Croatia is presented. The rule-based expert system improves the quality of traditional decision-making as designed rules provide a visual, transparent, and accurate comparison of observed values with the expected values. Moreover, it provides easy problem identification. Therefore, rules regarding periodical technical inspection inspectors’ performance are designed and embedded in the expert system architecture. However, more effort should be made into data analysis to define parameters and their relations for the purpose of designing rules. Thus, the binary logistic regression and an ANOVA statistical test were conducted to identify which parameters can be assumed as relevant indicators regarding the performance of periodical technical inspection inspectors. In this study, the expert system application has resulted in faster response, greater efficiency, and increased objectivity. That is of utmost importance for providing an efficient and transparent periodical technical inspection system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Bi-Objective Design and Management of Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems to Optimize Technical and Ergonomic Performances
Appl. Sci. 2021, 11(1), 263; https://doi.org/10.3390/app11010263 - 29 Dec 2020
Viewed by 522
Abstract
In the last decades, Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMSs) rose as an emerging manufacturing strategy matching the modern industrial and market requirements asking for a wide variety of products in flexible batches. A traditional reconfigurable manufacturing environment consists of dynamic cells, called Reconfigurable Machine [...] Read more.
In the last decades, Reconfigurable Manufacturing Systems (RMSs) rose as an emerging manufacturing strategy matching the modern industrial and market requirements asking for a wide variety of products in flexible batches. A traditional reconfigurable manufacturing environment consists of dynamic cells, called Reconfigurable Machine Cells (RMCs), including a set of machines called Reconfigurable Machine Tools (RMTs). Such machines are characterized by fixed elements, i.e., basic modules, and dynamic elements, i.e., auxiliary modules, allowing them to perform different operations. Despite their automation level, these systems require the intervention of the human operators in performing specific tasks, e.g., handling of the auxiliary modules from the warehouse to the RMTs and their assembly/disassembly to/from the RMTs. This issue rises relevant ergonomic and safety questions due to the human–machine collaboration. Following this stream, this paper proposes and applies a bi-objective optimization model for the design and management of RMSs. The technical objective function minimizes the reconfiguration time, i.e., the time needed to equip the RMTs with the required auxiliary modules, and the part and auxiliary module travel time among the RMCs. The ergonomic objective function minimizes the repetitive movements performed by the human operators during the working activities according to the ISO 11228-3 standard. Results show the existence of a good trade-off between the two objective functions, proving the possibility to improve the ergonomic conditions of the human operators without excessively increasing the total time needed for RMTs reconfiguration and for part and auxiliary module travelling. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Workers’ Aging Management—Human Fatigue at Work: An Experimental Offices Study
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(21), 7693; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10217693 - 30 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 391
Abstract
The aging issue in the work context is becoming a significant element of the future sustainability of service and industrial companies. It is well known that with increasing worker age the problem of maintaining the performance and the safety level when fatigue increases [...] Read more.
The aging issue in the work context is becoming a significant element of the future sustainability of service and industrial companies. It is well known that with increasing worker age the problem of maintaining the performance and the safety level when fatigue increases is a crucial point, and fatigue increases with the age. Due to social and political developments, especially in Western countries, the retirement age is increasing and companies operate with a higher workforce mean age. Therefore, the problem of recognizing and measuring fatigue has become a key aspect in the management of aging. Note that in the scientific engineering field, the problem of fatigue evaluation when a worker is performing his/her work activities is an important issue in the industrial and service world and especially in the context of the researchers that are investigating the human reliability assessment. As it is clear from the literature, the industrial operations management are suffering from some misleading concepts that only the medicine scientific context can clarify. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to define what are the open issues and the misleading concepts present in the classical fatigue evaluation methods, and second to define two experimental curves of fatigue that will help the decision makers to minimize the impact of fatigue on the workers, thus maximizing the sustainability of the working tasks assigned. This aim is achieved by examining the medical literature about the measurement of a particular kind of fatigue related to the circadian cycle, i.e., the cognitive one; after that, a survey about the possible technologies for measurements is performed. On the basis of technology selection, an experiment on real work activities is performed and some remarkable results about the fatigue in the workers observed and the technology use and its limitations are defined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessArticle
A ‘Speed—Difficulty—Accuracy’ Model Following a General Trajectory Motor Task with Spatial Constraints: An Information-Based Model
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(21), 7516; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10217516 - 26 Oct 2020
Viewed by 430
Abstract
Accuracy in executing a motor task, i.e., in following a given trajectory under geometrical constraints, is of great interest in work operations as well as in biomechanics applications. In the framework of the Fitts’ law research on motor tasks, experimental studies usually refer [...] Read more.
Accuracy in executing a motor task, i.e., in following a given trajectory under geometrical constraints, is of great interest in work operations as well as in biomechanics applications. In the framework of the Fitts’ law research on motor tasks, experimental studies usually refer to simple trajectories which are of low interest in practical applications. Furthermore, available models lack predicting accuracy in executing motor tasks since do not systematically investigate effects of both speed and task difficulty (index of difficulty (ID)). In this paper, the authors propose a ‘Speed-ID-Accuracy’ model aiming at overcoming abovementioned limits. The model is of general validity as is based on an information-based formulation of a trajectory ID; the model proposed put into relation accuracy in task execution with a general trajectory and with the speed of task execution. Modeling accuracy, defined as standard deviation of the endpoint position, is carried out by regressing data available in the literature. The model proposed proves to be more accurate than the classical ‘Speed-Accuracy’ model in fitting available data. Such a result has been found in both numerical cases relating to ‘tunnel’ and ‘circular’ traveling tasks. Limits of data from field experiments are stressed out and future research field of investigations in work environment and biomechanics are figured out. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessArticle
Combined Method for Evaluating Accessibility in Serious Games
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(18), 6324; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10186324 - 11 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 845
Abstract
Nowadays, one of the learning resources in the educational area are serious games, also called training games; they are games designed with a different purpose than fun, whose main objective is to reinforce the new concepts more creatively. However, not all existing serious [...] Read more.
Nowadays, one of the learning resources in the educational area are serious games, also called training games; they are games designed with a different purpose than fun, whose main objective is to reinforce the new concepts more creatively. However, not all existing serious games are accessible in a way that allows access to a more significant number of users. Therefore, this research proposes to apply a combined method to evaluate accessibility in serious games, considering the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. As a case study, we evaluated the accessibility of 82 serious games developed by Physical Education Technology Interactive Simulations at the University of Colorado. We propose to replicate this combined method for users with various types of disabilities, considering the various accessibility barriers. As future work, we suggest generating an accessibility heuristic evaluation focused on serious games, based on the accessibility issues identified. Finally, we believe it is essential to strengthen accessibility policies in each country, as well as implement best practices that generate innovation by incorporating diversity in building and designing more inclusive serious games. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessArticle
Human Cognitive and Motor Abilities in the Aging Workforce: An Information-Based Model
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(17), 5958; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10175958 - 28 Aug 2020
Viewed by 440
Abstract
In the digital society, individuals are in charge of performing tasks based on the information gathered by huge amount of data and effectively use them to manifest their cognitive and motor abilities. In this paper, on the basis of experimental studies available in [...] Read more.
In the digital society, individuals are in charge of performing tasks based on the information gathered by huge amount of data and effectively use them to manifest their cognitive and motor abilities. In this paper, on the basis of experimental studies available in literature concerning lab tests on motor or cognitive abilities of differently aged subjects, an information-based theoretical model is proposed. The model allows to quantify the information content of a motor or a cognitive task and provides estimates of information processing time of individuals of different age and sex in accomplishing tasks with prevalent motor or cognitive nature, in spite of the fact that a “pure” cognitive or a “pure” motor task are rarely observed in practical cases. The model is then applied to a case study from automotive industry in which workforce aging phenomenon is experienced. Potential applications of the model go beyond the case study developed. Quantifying the information content of a general motor-cognitive task paves the way to new understanding and modelling of movements and performance time of both natural and artificial systems with applications in industrial robotics (e.g., human-robot cooperation), biomechanics, and neurorehabilitation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Open AccessArticle
Things2People Interaction toward Energy Savings in Shared Spaces Using BIM
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(16), 5709; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10165709 - 18 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 554
Abstract
People in shared building space have an important role in energy consumption because they can turn on/off equipment and heat/cooling systems. This behaviour can be influenced by giving then locally tailored context information (energy consumption, temperature, luminosity) and information about the cost of [...] Read more.
People in shared building space have an important role in energy consumption because they can turn on/off equipment and heat/cooling systems. This behaviour can be influenced by giving then locally tailored context information (energy consumption, temperature, luminosity) and information about the cost of their actions. This paper presents an approach to create personalized local energy consumption predictions in a building using past sensor data, correlated with external conditions to create local context predictions. This prediction is sent in real-time to people’s mobile devices in order to influence their behaviour when increasing or decreasing temperature using heating or cooling systems. This information is essential for sustainability actions in shared spaces, where this information can have an important role. Also, the data (temperature) representation in the building information model (BIM) module can help the user understand environment conditions and, together with the user sharing their thermal feelings, can be used to change behaviour. This approach using BIM’s representation models allows Things2People interaction to improve energy savings in these shared spaces. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Web-Based Serious Games and Accessibility: A Systematic Literature Review
Appl. Sci. 2020, 10(21), 7859; https://doi.org/10.3390/app10217859 - 06 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 884
Abstract
Nowadays, serious games, called training or learning games, have been incorporated into teaching and learning processes. Due to the increase of their use, the need to guarantee their accessibility arises in order to include people with disabilities in the educational environments in an [...] Read more.
Nowadays, serious games, called training or learning games, have been incorporated into teaching and learning processes. Due to the increase of their use, the need to guarantee their accessibility arises in order to include people with disabilities in the educational environments in an integral way. There are reviews of the literature on video games but not on web-based serious games. Serious games are different from the previous ones because their educational processes allow reinforcing learning. This literature review was conducted using the recommendations for systematic reviews proposed by Kitchenham and Petersen. Three independent reviewers searched the ACM Digital Library, IEEE Xplore, Scopus, and Web of Science databases for the most relevant articles published between 2000 and 2020. Review selection and extraction were made using an interactive team approach. We applied the study selection process’s flowchart adapted from the PRISMA statement to filter in three stages. This systematic literature review provides researchers and practitioners with the current state of web-based serious games and accessibility, considering cognitive, motor, and sensory disabilities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Human Factors in the Digital Society)
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