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Interview with the new Chair of IEC Technical Committee 100

What lies in the future for IEC Technical Committee 100? Ulrike Haltrich, its new Chair, gives us a preview.

Ulrike Haltrich, Chair of IEC TC 100
Ulrike Haltrich, Chair of IEC TC 100

Ulrike Haltrich has been appointed Chair of IEC Technical Committee 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, one of the most prolific IEC TCs. IEC TC 100  has published close to 500 standards which shape the audio-visual (AV) as well as the information and communication (ICT) landscape. It is organized in 20 different technical areas (TAs), dealing with topics such as colour measurement and management (TA 2), audio (TA 20) or multimedia systems and equipment for cars (TA 17). Before becoming Chair of TC 100, Ulrike Haltrich was Secretary of TA 16, which prepares IEC International Standards for active assisted living (AAL) technologies. These can be defined as systems and devices which support the well-being, health, care and independent living of people with special needs. Among other things, she oversaw the work of TA 16 on accessibility and user interfaces. She is also the Chair of the IEC Systems Committee on Active Assisted Living (SyCAAL), which was established in 2015 to oversee standardization work relating to people who need assistance systems for their well-being and comfort in their connected homes. The systems committee contributes significantly to UN sustainable development goal (SDG) 3: good health and well-being.

e-tech caught up with her as she embarks on her new role as Chair of IEC TC 100.

You are one of the few women Chairs of a technical committee. The IEC is committed to improving gender diversity in coming years. What are your views on the topic?

Personally, I have not experienced any gender barriers stopping me from becoming Chair of either IEC TC 100 or SyCAAL. I am aware that the IEC has traditionally been rather male-focused in certain sectors and this probably relates to the fact that electrical engineering has always attracted and continues to attract more men than women. However, that is not a fatality. IEC has enhanced the gender diversity in SyCAAL for instance, where nearly half the members are women. I would like the IEC to continue encouraging its members to commit to more gender diversity when sending participants to the IEC Young Professionals Programme and adopt a more gender-balanced approach in all committees. Female participants have a lot to contribute – technical expertise, a unique approach to collaboration and consensus building and the ability to go beyond cultural differences.

Can you quickly run us through some of the key achievements of TC 100 to date?

IEC TC 100 has a great track record in improving people’s quality of life (QOL) with publications in the area of smart television, Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and Internet TV receiver specifications, optical cable distribution systems and audio archive systems, to name but a few. The TC has also been involved in the maintenance of Digital Living Network Alliance (DNLA) guidelines in addition to developing the e-book and e-Publishing related format as well as the USB and MIDI interface. It also produces tremendous work in multimedia systems and equipment for cars. The TC includes 324 experts and issued 16 publications in 2019 bringing the total to 474. That gives you an idea of the volume and depth of the work we do.

As new Chair, where will your priorities lie?

Alongside continuing to improve people’s QOL, TC 100 has defined some new priorities which relate to making our world a more sustainable place. Environmental aspects will be key. We will be looking at measuring methods for power consumption for AV and ICT equipment, for instance. Energy efficiency and smart grid applications will be part of the mix. Other technical areas that will be prioritized are AAL, and more generally the question of accessibility and usability for AV and multimedia equipment. Next generation audio is also important, as is wireless power transfer.  

Which new technologies are expected to have an impact on the standards TC 100 will develop?

Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and cyber security systems are gaining traction in AV and multimedia. There are also demands for standardization relating to new types of user interfaces, such as haptics or vibrotactile multimedia systems. Augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality continue to be hot topics. There are equally many demands for standardization in the area of multimedia systems and equipment for vehicles. As mentioned earlier, we will aim to improve inclusion and sustainability and will specifically focus on the environmental aspects for multimedia systems and equipment.

What will be your greatest challenges?

The technical boundaries between the IT, broadcast and telecommunications industries are vanishing and that affects standardization, especially in TC 100. At the IEC, we are moving away from traditional product standardization to a systems approach. We are looking to work in a collaborative environment with other international standardization bodies, particularly on systems standardization management. Another challenge is to develop novel standards which set new market directions and that will be used in the marketplace. We have to create an environment where both innovation and standardization cross-feed. Standards need to drive technological change across sectors and borders.

What can you tell us about the joint advisory group (JAG) that was recently created between IEC TC 100, SyCAAL and IEC TC 124: Wearable electronic devices and technologies?

The JAG serves as an open platform between the three committees and their experts. It was established to foster cooperation in these three neighbouring technical domains and develop mutual understanding of the standardization work involved. The idea is for the JAG to establish new frameworks and workflows which will not affect the competencies of the three committees involved. An ongoing task is to identify areas of cooperation and that’s why we plan to exchange very regularly. We will start our common work by swapping use cases and terminology, which can be different depending on the area. We will start with a use case from SyCAAL called “Personal Health Check”. It will be a first exercise used to discuss how work can be taken up by each of the three committees.

What are the plans for closer cooperation with the joint technical committee created by ISO and IEC, ISO/IEC JTC1, which prepares standards for ICT?

We are eager to collaborate with JTC 1 and work closely with its experts on standards development. Several IEC TC 100 experts have recently joined JTC 1 advisory groups. These include AG 6: Autonomous and data rich vehicles; AG 8: Meta reference architecture and reference architecture for systems integration; AG 11: Digital twin and AG 13: Use cases for VR and AR-based ICT integration systems. We will also build liaisons wherever we can and take part in joint study groups as well.