Digitization: direct impact on standardization

IEC must seize opportunities and address challenges

In his address to Council, Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary & CEO, reminded the audience that digitization is a key focus for both industry and standards organizations. Standards will play a key role in the digitization of industry, healthcare and every other part of our life. The new Masterplan, approved and published prior to the General Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, sets the goals and expectations for the Commission, in this area among others, for the years to come.

Frans Vreeswijk addressing Council 2017 in Vladivostok
IEC General Secretary & CEO during his address to Council in Vladivostok

Electricity and electronics in everything

Due to technology convergence, IEC International Standards are increasing in reach. Electricity and electronics are now in everything. Vreeswijk underlined that, since the publication of the Masterplan 2011, the IEC has added nine technical committees (TCs) and subcommittees (SCs) and is providing the secretariat to ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 41: Internet of things and related technologies. It has introduced the systems approach and created nine Standardization Evaluation Groups (SEGs) and four Systems Committees (SyCs), as well as a Systems Resource group. Furthermore, in the past five years the IEC has put in place the new Conformity Assessment (CA) System, IECRE, and a new regional centre in Africa, IEC-AFRC

Integrating open source technologies

Vreeswijk also detailed accomplishments in IT that will allow the IEC to increase its effectiveness in terms of cost and operation and provide a secure and reliable environment. In this context, the IEC plans to partner with others to facilitate integration at the regional and national levels, whenever it makes sense. The philosophy is to provide a platform that integrates open source technologies that enable tailoring and achieve economies of scale in key investments as well as increase interoperability and facilitate IT maintenance. 

New IT tools for experts

Over the past months, the IEC has put in place many new IT tools, including a new online IEC Standardization Project Management system, which supports all project management aspects of the standards development process and simplifies workflows that benefit TCs, national committees (NCs) and IEC central office (CO) staff. 

Further harmonization of technical interfaces

In a quest for further harmonization of technical interfaces, the IEC and ISO have agreed to continue working together to meet the digital transformation challenge. This will allow both organizations to minimize the risk of unnecessary divergence in technical developments. A first coordination meeting is to be held in Geneva in December. 

Communicating about IEC societal impact

Vreeswijk went on to explain some of the IEC achievements in terms of communication outreach and event endorsements. 

He presented the seven IEC Ambassadors, operational throughout 2017 and who defend the IEC colours globally. Over the past months they addressed topics such as disaster mitigation and recovery, regulators, governments and academia, low voltage direct current (LVDC) and rural electrification, IoT and smart manufacturing, systems and information and communication technology (ICT), smart energy and cyber security.

Smart cities: continued focus

The IEC continues to be highly active in the smart city arena, and co-organized the 2nd World Smart City Forum in Barcelona, Spain, on 15 and 16 November, under the leadership of ISO. The event was co-located with the Smart City Expo World Congress where the three organizations were invited to speak during a panel session on 14 November. 

Unique standardized approach to testing and certification

Vreeswijk then outlined the activities of the four IEC Conformity Assessment Systems, which are all doing well and continue to gain visibility and recognition around the world. As a matter of fact, IEC continues to be the sole organization that offers a globally standardized approach to testing and certification. 

In 2017 IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components, has developed a testing and certification programme to address the growing need for CA solutions related to cyber security in the industrial automation sector and is also putting in place a programme for the certification of personnel competency. 

For IECEx, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Explosive Atmospheres, the 2017 International Conference in Shanghai, China, was a huge success, bringing together around 400 leading experts and participants. Industry has responded in kind to the inclusion of Standards for non-electrical equipment in the IECEx portfolio and the number of issued certificates keeps growing. 

IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, helps ensure the safety and reliability of the many components that are an integral part of the IoT and smart devices, but also avionics, automotive or LED lighting. In May, IECQ published the fourth edition of IECQ QC 80000 which supports the integrated management of manufacturing processes for hazardous substances-free products and organized training courses on this topic in Shanghai and Taiwan. 

Eight certification bodies and 18 testing laboratories are now participating in IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications, and five certificates have been issued so far by the wind energy sector. 

Supporting experts, Members and Affiliates

Vreeswijk pointed to the increasing support the IEC Regional Centres provide to experts, Members and Affiliates. He also explained how the IEC Affiliate Country Programme helps bring the knowledge and use of IEC work to 87 developing countries, free of charge, and that 50 of them have adopted more than 6 200 IEC International Standards since the launch of the Programme (see Growth and changes in this issue). 

IEC Training programmes for TC and SC Officers have reached some 32 new chairs, secretaries and convenors in 2017. 

A new generation of experts

The IEC Young Professionals Programme is thriving. The eighth Young Professionals workshop, held in conjunction with the IEC General Meeting in Vladivostok, brought together 67 participants from 35 countries. All found the workshop valuable and 96% plan to get more involved in IEC activities in future (see article Growth and changes in this issue). 

A record year

Vreeswijk also noted that 2016 was a record year in terms of IEC International Standards production, with 585 publications issued, adding that 2017 might be even stronger. 

New White Paper published

Last but not least the new IEC White Paper, Edge intelligence, was launched in Vladivostok. It was developed by the IEC Market Strategy Board (MSB) edge intelligence project team with major contributions from Huawei and Fraunhofer FOKUS, the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communications Systems. It is available for free download on the IEC website.