International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is a global organization that publishes standards for electronic and technical equipment developed for consumer markets. IEC members include dozens of nations around the world. IEC standards lead to a more consistent core standard for different kinds of electronic and technical products. As a global leader in promoting key standards for IT, the IEC complements other organizations like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which develops a range of standards for enterprise operations, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which deals with telecom standards. These groups work individually and in tandem to promote responsible technological development worldwide.[1]

Historical Background[2]

The first International Electrical Congress took place in 1881 at the International Exposition of Electricity, held in Paris. At that time the International System of Electrical and Magnetic Units was agreed to. The International Electrotechnical Commission held its inaugural meeting on 26 June 1906, following discussions among the British Institution of Electrical Engineers, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and others, which began at the 1900 Paris International Electrical Congress and continued with Colonel R. E. B. Crompton playing a key role. In 1906, Lord Kelvin was elected as the first President of the International Electrotechnical Commission. The IEC was instrumental in developing and distributing standards for units of measurement, particularly the gauss, hertz, and weber. It also first proposed a system of standards, the Giorgi System, which ultimately became the SI, or Système International d’unités (in English, the International System of Units). In 1938, it published a multilingual international vocabulary to unify terminology relating to electrical, electronic, and related technologies. This effort continues, and the International Electrotechnical Vocabulary (the online version of which is known as the Electropedia) remains an important work in the electrical and electronic industries. The CISPR (Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques) – in English, the International Special Committee on Radio Interference – is one of the groups founded by the IEC. Currently, 82 countries are members while another 82 participate in the Affiliate Country Programme, which is not a form of membership but is designed to help industrializing countries get involved with the IEC. Originally located in London, the commission moved to its current headquarters in Geneva in 1948. It has regional centers in Asia-Pacific (Singapore), Latin America (São Paulo, Brazil), and North America (Boston, United States). Today, the IEC is the world's leading international organization in its field, and its standards are adopted as national standards by its members. The work is done by some 10,000 electrical and electronics experts from industry, government, academia, test labs, and others with an interest in the subject.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) authors international standards for all electrical, electronic, and related technologies. This standards collection addresses product development, performance, compatibility, and related topics in order to ensure product compatibility and environmental safety. IEC standards enable you to:

  • Increase market share
  • Ensure product performance
  • Integrate interoperable capabilities[3]

== International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) - Management Structure[4]

  • Standardization Management Board (SMB)

The SMB (Standardization Management Board) is responsible for the overall management of the IEC's standardization activities. The following bodies report to the SMB:

    • Technical committees are created and disbanded by the Standardization Management Board. The field of technical activity, which is called the scope, is approved by the Standardization
    • Management Board and any subsequent changes have to be submitted for approval. Technical committees inform the Standardization Management Board of liaisons (Category A- and B- liaisons) with international organizations and submit for approval liaisons with manufacturers associations, consortia, and fora (Category D-liaisons);
    • Technical Advisory Committees which help ensure the coordination across the technical work of the IEC of issues such as safety, environment, and electromagnetic compatibility;
    • Strategic Groups also help the SMB by looking at market needs and outlining any potential cross-over of work.
    • Systems Work will define and strengthen the systems approach throughout the technical community to ensure that highly complex market sectors can be properly addressed and supported.
  • Technical committees (TC)

The technical committees report to the Standardization Management Board.

  • Subcommittees (SC)

A subcommittee may be created by the parent technical committees when it considers that its field of technical activity generates too many work items to be efficiently handled by itself. The scope of the subcommittee falls within the scope of the parent committee and any changes have to be approved by the parent technical committee.

IEC Standardization Management Board
source: IEC

The IEC collaborates with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) to develop Conformity Assessment (CA) standards and works closely with other international CA bodies to provide the most effective and efficient services to the market. The IEC and ISO have therefore developed and published a full series of international standards specifying how conformity assessment should be carried out. These standards are developed in the ISO Conformity Assessment Committee, ISO/CASCO, with the permanent involvement of experts from the IEC and its CA Systems. These standards in the ISO/IEC 17000 series, as well as a number of ISO/IEC Guides, are contained in what is familiarly called the CASCO Toolbox because they provide a full set of tools for anyone wishing to know how to carry out high-quality, reliable conformity assessment.

Key Concepts of IEC Conformity Assessment Systems[5]

Three major principles govern the IEC CA (Conformity Assessment) Systems: openness, democracy (including transparency), and obligatory mutual recognition.

  • Openness
    • Free use of the services offered and results produced by the IEC CA Systems by anyone in the world. It is not necessary to be a member or even to be situated in an IEC-member country; any manufacturer may request a certificate for his products and anyone may access and derive benefit from the Systems’ certificates (publicly available on the Internet) to determine whether particular products have been certified.
    • Any organization which undertakes to follow the rules may join the IEC CA Systems, even if it is situated in a country outside the IEC membership. Members of the Systems are organizations, at most one per country, which on being admitted to a System become responsible for their country’s testing and certification activities within that System.
    • Any certification body or testing laboratory may be proposed by a member body to participate in a System, provided that it conforms to the criteria laid down in the rules.
  • Democracy

This involves both governance and transparency. All significant decisions in the Systems are taken by the full membership. These decisions as well as all rules and information relevant to the activity of the Systems are published and freely available to all members of the System.

  • Obligatory mutual recognition

This is where the Systems add major value. The principle of obligatory recognition of the other members' certificates and test results implies that no repeat tests are necessary. It enables faster and more economic entry into distant markets for manufacturers and provides a global assurance that no matter where a test was carried out or a certificate was issued, it has the same value.

Membership and Participation in IEC[6]

Countries participate in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) either as full or associate members. Members are National Committees each having equal voting rights. For example, The US National Committee (USNC) is a committee of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The USNC develops US positions and manages the participation of US delegates to IEC Technical Committees (TC) as well as the more senior participation in all the IEC management groups. The USNC has a Council, which oversees policy positions, and a Technical Management Committee (TMC) to deal with all related technical issues. The US participation in the IEC Technical Committees is conducted through Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs). These TAGs correspond, at the national level, to the IEC Technical Committees (TCs). Each IEC TC is responsible for developing and maintaining standards in its product scope. Each TAG has a Technical Advisor (TA), Deputy Technical Advisor (DTA), if necessary, and a TAG Administrator to manage the work. TAG membership includes a spectrum of individuals representing interested parties in the U.S.

See Also

IT Standard (Information Technology Standard)


Further Reading