Standards for (Human) Brain Machine (Computer) Interface

A brain‐machine interface (BMI), also known as a Human-Computer Interface (HCI), is a system that establishes a direct communication channel between the human (or animal) brain and a computer or an external device. BMIs record or stimulate activity of the central (CNS) or peripheral nervous system (PNS) to replace, restore, enhance, supplement, or improve natural output/input. Thereby the BMI is able to change the ongoing interactions between the CNS and its external or internal environment. BMIs usually measure neural activity through sensors placed inside the brain or body (invasive or implanted technologies) or external sensors (non‐invasive technologies). This activity is processed in real‐time to extract information about the intentions or states of the subject, and then generate an action or stimulus in the external world that is provided as direct or indirect feedback to the user.

BMI systems are the product of integrating multiple technologies. They consist of systems for the acquisition and decoding of neural and biophysical signals to actuators providing sensory, mechanical, and electrical feedback to the user.

Ethical and social / legal concerns are being addressed by related IEEE guidelines for ethically aligned‐Intelligent systems, and the IEEE Brain Neuroethics framework.

BMI standardization should also consider regulatory frameworks for technology‐based systems (both clinical and consumer oriented) in fields like AI, IoT, and cybersecurity. A particular challenge in this aspect is the global disparity in regulatory approaches.

Standards for neurotechnologies

Currently, sensing and actuation technologies (e.g., IEEE 21451-1-2010 – ISO/IEC/IEEE Standard for Information technology — Smart transducer interface for sensors and actuators — Part 1: Network Capable Application Processor (NCAP) information model) are well standardized. These standards are mainly focused on safety aspects of those technologies. Data management Standards (e.g., various Standards from ISO / JTC 1/SC 32) cover aspects such as cybersecurity and data representation in medical applications.

On the other hand, system‐level aspects of BMI such as user needs and performance assessment require standards. Although there are existing standards regarding human factors and usability, they are not widely applied by the BMI research and development community.

Remarkably, recent advances in the field and the prospect of commercialization of both clinical and consumer‐oriented applications have motivated multiple efforts to develop guidelines and standards. An important milestone is the release of the FDA draft guideline on implanted brain‐computer interfaces in spring 2019.

To bring forth concerted efforts of Standardization, IEEE Working Group P2731 has recently been established to create a standard for Unified Terminology for Brain‐Computer Interfaces, while IEEE Working Group P2794 is working to formulate a Reporting Standard for in vivo Neural Interface Research (RSNIR), to serve as a framework for the precise, comprehensive reporting of human and animal research throughout the growing ecosystem of neurotechnology.



  1. Bowsheret al., “Brain‐computer interface devices for patients with paralysis and amputation: a meeting report.,” J Neural Eng, vol. 13, no. 2, p. 23001, Feb. 2016.
  2. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Implanted Brain‐Computer Interface Devices for Patients With Paralysis or Amputation—Nonclinical Testing and Clinical Considerations.” 2019.
  3. IEEE SA, Standards Roadmap: Neurotechnologies for Brain-Machine Interfacing, IEEE SA Industry Connections Activity No. IC17-007,New York, USA, 2020.

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