Smart, compatible chargers

IEC enables smart charging solution for consumer portable devices

By Janice Blondeau

Over the last decade, technology advances have led to the rapidly growing use of consumer electronics, connecting millions of people as never before and changing the way we operate in everyday life. Until now, the emergence of all these intelligent devices has had one drawback: proprietary charging systems, meaning millions of chargers and cables that add to the already huge pile of e-waste throughout the world.

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Reducing global e-waste

The amount of global e-waste – discarded electrical and electronic equipment – reached nearly 42 million tons in 2014. By 2017, it is predicted that the world will produce approximately 50 million metric tonnes of e waste/year, according to a study conducted by a partnership of United Nations organizations, industry, governments and scientists. 

IEC has smart charging solution

In an effort to increase consumer convenience and reduce e-waste, the IEC is now enabling a smart charging solution that allows chargers to be re-used for many different consumer portable devices. 

The IEC has published new International Standards dealing with charging interoperability that open the way for a new generation of smart and eco-friendly charging solutions that can be used in every country in the world. 

Chargers for products ranging from smartphones to high power devices such as notebook computers, will not only be compatible with the same types of devices from different manufacturers, they will also be able to charge a wide range of other kinds of electronics. Consumers will be able to use their notebook charger to charge a tablet or a smartphone or any other portable consumer electronic device. Likewise, if need be, a smartphone or tablet charger can be used to give a boost to a notebook, albeit at a slower rate. 

Standardized charging interface

This new smart charging approach relies on a standardized charging interface defined by the following new IEC International Standards:

  • IEC 62680-1-3, Universal serial bus interfaces for data and power - Part 1-3: Universal Serial Bus interfaces - Common components - USB Type-C™ cable and connector specification, and IEC 62680-2-1, Universal serial bus interfaces for data and power - Part 2-1: Universal Serial Bus Specification, Revision 2.0, based on the latest USB Type-C™ and USB Power Delivery specifications. These Standards specify the common technologies needed to support charging of devices up to 100 watts
  • IEC 63002: Identification and communication interoperability method for external power supplies used with portable computing devices defines interoperability guidelines for chargers and devices that implement the latest USB technologies. In particular, it defines the data parameters for communicating power adapter characteristics and capabilities. 

Global market adoption of these International Standards is expected to significantly increase charger re-usability well beyond smartphones and other low power devices, which were enabled by legacy USB technologies and related IEC International Standards IEC 62680-1-1, Universal serial bus interfaces for data and power - Part 1-1: Common components - USB Battery Charging Specification, Revision 1.2, the IEC 62680-2 series and IEC 62684, Interoperability specifications of common external power supply (EPS) for use with data-enabled mobile telephones

Global support from industry

The standardization of this smart charging interface is supported by global industry as the best approach to enable broad re-usability of different chargers with different products. It ensures charging reliability and provides the flexibility needed for future innovations. 

Chargers can be designed to optimally match the power and functional requirements of the target product while being able to charge many other products as well. Devices will be able to communicate with the smart charger to accurately identify its capabilities before safely drawing power. The expected broad adoption by industry will exponentially increase interoperability, compatibility and re-usability of chargers and as a result significantly increasing consumer convenience while contributing to global e-waste reduction. 

Says Frans Vreeswijk, IEC General Secretary and CEO: “The IEC continues to be committed to reducing e-waste for developed and developing countries alike. These important new IEC International Interoperability Standards will further advance global environmental goals by substantially increasing the re-usability of chargers for consumer electronics and ICT devices.” 

Says Shin Eguchi, Technical Area Manager, Technical Committee (TC) 100/Technical Area (TA) 14: “This innovative charging solution is the result of unprecedented global cooperation and industry participation. Its broad adoption will truly benefit consumers world-wide.” 

Says Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF President and COO: “The continued cooperation between IEC and USB-IF on IEC 63002, that supports USB Type-C and USB Power Delivery specifications, aligns with USB-IF’s belief that consumer satisfaction, product functionality and reducing e-waste are paramount. USB-IF is supportive of this significant step towards a new generation of interoperable, smart chargers.” 

USB Type-C™ and USB-C™ are trademarks of USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).

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