You type “http://www.iec.ch” into your favorite web browser and you get to see the IEC homepage. Have you ever asked yourself how come?
In a nutshell, different communication technologies specified by different Standard Developing Organizations (SDO) are working together as a system, which does the trick.
For sure, you have heard about developments like the Internet of Things, Tactile Internet, Industry 4.0, Smart Energy, Smart Home, Smart Cities, to name a few. Have you ever asked yourself how these work?
In these areas, it is crucial to have different communication technologies working together, just like in the case of the World Wide Web.
IEC is one SDO involved in every area where electrical energy is involved. Obviously, communication is going to be as ubiquitous in these areas as it has become in your day-to-day world already. IEC is therefore looking into communication technologies as part of its mission.
By the way, have you ever heard about IEC Strategic Group 9?
IEC Strategic Group 9 – Communication Technologies
Wikipedia describes telecommunication as follows: „Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between two or more entities (communication) includes the use of technology.“ - Well, that`s quite easy - but nowadays „Telecommunication“ takes place without the „use“ of technology, but between technologies. Products communicate with other products, or with their user. But who is listening to this communication and is the source reliable?
All these aspects need to be investigated. Existing communication solutions and protocols need to be known to experts who standardize products that need to communicate. Most of the communication standards are developed in other standardization organizations than IEC.
These related standardization eco systems, the current and upcoming developments of communication standards and a process to get requirements from IEC standardization work into the relevant organizations need to be known, accessible and usable for IEC experts to prevent duplication or unnecessary work and to develop up-to-date and future proof products.
IEC established a Strategic Group 9 (SG 9) to deal with these requirements. The first meeting was held in Frankfurt, Germany, on 10th and 11th November 2015 and started its work on communication technologies. SG 9 was initiated by the IEC Standards Management Board (SMB) in order to create a focal point on communication technologies, which are crucial to developments such as Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 or Smart Energy.
Those systems are relying on data exchange, which is provided by a communication system consisting of different communication technologies working together and being standardized by different Standard Developing Organizations (SDO). Different requirements of the data exchange may result in different sets of communication technologies. In addition, there might be equivalent options. For example to control lighting one might chose Power over Ethernet or Ethernet over Powerline. Looking at the different layers of the Open System Interconnection Model (OSI-Model) factoring in the communication distance (e.g. Personal Area Networks (PAN), Local Area Networks (LAN), Metropolitan Area Networks (MAN), etc. ) and taking into account different properties (e.g. real time vs. non real time, managed networks vs. zero configuration networks, etc.) the result is a multitude of different communication technologies, also resulting in a multitude of different standards produced by a multitude of different SDOs. It is not an easy task to keep track of all those SDOs, the standards they are developing, and upcoming technologies.
Strategic Group 9 on Communication Technologies, led by the Convenor Dr. Lutz Rauchhaupt, is set up to provide this overview. In its first meeting SG 9 defined deliverables and a work plan. SG 9 took off to collect use cases, identify trends, compile a list of SDOs, Fora and Industry Alliances and current liaisons and came up with recommendations for using and standardizing communication technologies. SG 9 will not produce own standards. Moreover, it is anticipated that the effort of SG 9 will lead to a closer collaboration of IEC with other standardization organizations working on communication technologies to the benefit of both.
“Understanding communication technology standardization eco-system is crucial for system standardization in the IEC environment.”