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Published June 12, 2023 | Version v1
Conference paper Open

To Be High-Risk, or Not To Be—Semantic Specifications and Implications of the AI Act's High-Risk AI Applications and Harmonised Standards

  • 1. ADAPT Centre, Trinity College Dublin
  • 2. ADAPT Centre, Dublin City University


The EU’s proposed AI Act sets out a risk-based regulatory framework to govern the potential harms emanating from use of AI systems. Within the AI Act’s hierarchy of risks, the AI systems that are likely to incur “high-risk” to health, safety, and fundamental rights are subject to the majority of the Act’s provisions. To include uses of AI where fundamental rights are at stake, Annex III of the Act provides a list of applications wherein the conditions that shape high-risk AI are described. For high-risk AI systems, the AI Act places obligations on providers and users regarding use of AI systems and keeping appropriate documentation through the use of harmonised standards. In this paper, we analyse the clauses defining the criteria for high-risk AI in Annex III to simplify identification of potential high-risk uses of AI by making explicit the “core concepts” whose combination makes them high-risk. We use these core concepts to develop an open vocabulary for AI risks (VAIR) to represent and assist with AI risk assessments in a form that supports automation and integration. VAIR is intended to assist with identification and documentation of risks by providing a common vocabulary that facilitates knowledge sharing and interoperability between actors in the AI value chain. Given that the AI Act relies on harmonised standards for much of its compliance and enforcement regarding high-risk AI systems, we explore the implications of current international standardisation activities undertaken by ISO and emphasise the necessity of better risk and impact knowledge bases such as VAIR that can be integrated with audits and investigations to simplify the AI Act’s application.


This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 813497 (PROTECT ITN), as part of the ADAPT SFI Centre for Digital Media Technology is funded by Science Foundation Ireland through the SFI Research Centres Programme and is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through Grant#13/RC/2106_P2.



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ADAPT_Phase 2 13/RC/2106_P2
Science Foundation Ireland
PROTECT – Protecting Personal Data Amidst Big Data Innovation 813497
European Commission