Business Planet explores how LEGO Group tests the physical properties and cybersecurity issues of its products.
An unsung hero of everyday life - standards underpin the safety of just about everything we buy and use - from food or medical devices to toys.
The LEGO Group based in Billund, in central Denmark, tests not only the physical properties of its famous bricks but also the cybersecurity issues with its growing catalogue of connected toys.
"Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow," said Christian Wetterberg, the Global Head of Product Safety and Compliance at LEGO Group. "It's very strong in our hearts to secure they get those safe play experiences."
Internal tests are carried out in labs to ensure the mechanical and physical safety of the LEGO elements.
"Since Duplo products are sold to children who are younger than three years there mustn’t be any small parts as they present a choking hazard," Christian Wetterberg told Business Planet.
"So in fact on the assembly line, and [once the] figure has been assembled, the machine goes in and pulls the head with a force that is higher than the legal external requirements."
Data and privacy
Controversial voice-activated dolls have shown some of the risks of connected toys - insecure Bluetooth connections led to children’s conversations being recorded and the toys could even be hacked.
So how do Lego deal with these issues?
"For the last few years, we have developed and created connected toys, so we have a set of established safety and compliance processes," explained Tim Taylor-Bowden, the Lead Technology Architect at LEGO Group.
"LEGO has a priority focus on safety for kids, on privacy, so by default we have a lot of practices which make our products safe before we even understand and consider the legislation. For example, our connected toys currently do not collect any data from the users."
In regards to the Super Mario range, Tim Taylor-Bowden revealed that "We designed the toy to restrict what data it is processing and how that data is processed so, for example, the only files that are allowed to be put on LEGO Super Mario are the files that we have created for it and those are to create Mario’s expressions, his voice and the game sound effects and such."
What are standards?
Broadly speaking, standards are technical descriptions of the way something should be made or work.
They are behind filtration levels on face masks or the connectivity of mobile phones, for example. The CE marking shows a product complies with EU law and can be sold in the Single Market.
The European Commission is developing the Cyber Resilience Act. Robust cybersecurity standards are one of the ways Europe can tackle challenges related to the digital revolution and green transition.
"Standards are a source of technology for companies and when you think about things cybersecurity, data, cloud computing, even Artificial Intelligence - all of this is very often based on the existence of standards," said Sebastiano Toffaletti, Secretary General of the European Digital SME Alliance.
"Take cybersecurity for instance it is a very complex thing to be managed, what to do in order to minimise the risk of a cyber-attack, for instance.
"And there are international standards out there on cybersecurity which really prescribe concrete steps," he added.
Standards also boost innovation, meaning companies don't need to reinvent the wheel.
"The beauty of standards is they provide a neutral layer of technology," explained Sebastiano Toffaletti. "Everyone else can build on top so it’s a way of sharing knowledge, sharing technology which can allow those who use the standards to innovate on top of it, to create new things."
However strong standards are, sometimes counterfeit products slip through.
"The system we have is based on the manufacturer declaring compliance and then market surveillance will be checking," Christian Wetterberg told Business Planet.
To protect users from the dangers posed by counterfeit products, Wetterberg says consumers should consider the source and the price of the products they purchase.
"I think it's about being mindful of where you buy your products, maybe not the unknown website that you found from which you can import the toy at a very low cost."
Standards are a foundation of the Single Market and Europe aims to get in on the ground floor when it comes to designing future guidelines, as well as building up a whole new generation of standards experts.