SMB meeting in Frankfurt

SMB Chair shares key decisions and developments

By Gabriela Ehrlich

IEC e-tech talked with James E. Matthews III, IEC Vice-President and Chair of the Standardization Management Board (SMB) during the General Meeting in Frankfurt, Germany. Matthews shared key decisions and their expected impact on IEC efficiency and effectiveness. Matthews will hand over to Ralph Sporer in January 2017. (see also his reflexions in this e-tech issue)

Jim Matthews during the SMB meeting in Frankfurt James E. Matthews III, IEC Vice-President and Chair of the SMB, at the SMB meeting in Frankfurt during the IEC General Meeting

A systematic approach

Systems work is vital to the future of the IEC and to the industry, which has to collaborate more than ever before to develop the technical solutions for increasingly complex systems. Strategic groups, advisory committees and Market Strategy Board (MSB) recommendations have led to the creation of Systems Evaluation Groups (SEGs) but some work continues to be brought into existing Technical Committees (TCs).

The newly founded Systems Resource Group (SRG) has started to develop many of the tools and processes that are needed by SEGs and Systems Committees (SyCs) in their work. The SRG also shares best practices including architecture models, road maps and use cases, and also guides the development of specialized software applications for Systems.

A new SyC

SEG 4: Low voltage direct current (LVDC) applications, distribution and safety for use in developed and developing economies, presented an excellent report to the SMB. The group brought together great people to contribute to its work on low voltage direct current, many of whom had never been involved in the IEC before. SEG 4 did significant work in analyzing the challenges and opportunities of this important technology, which offers a unique opportunity for universal electricity access and increased energy efficiency in developed and developing countries. As a result, a formal ballot will now be circulated to National Committees to approve the setting up of a new SyC on LVDC and LVDC for electricity access.

A TC for Wearable Smart Devices

Over the past years, wearable devices have brought computing and the internet closer to the human body. Such devices come in many shapes, are always on, and share and collect data with an aim to improve how we interact with our environment. This emerging field is seen as an important area in which the IEC will need to serve. For this reason, the SMB agreed to the set-up of a new TC with the provisional title “Wearable smart devices”. The proposal for the new TC will also be balloted to the National Committees for formal approval of the new TC. This TC will become the focal point for the broad activity that spans many committees.

Managing power network assets

Asset management for power networks is an important underserved market. The SMB took note of a report prepared by ad hoc Group (ahG) 65 and the favourable vote by the National Committees. The SMB approved the set-up of new TC 123: Standardization of the management of assets in power systems, and assigned the Secretariat to Japan.

Horizontal or not?

What is a horizontal Standard? What is it suppose to accomplish? Are there too many, too few, any missing? Are they still relevant to guide other TCs in their work? The SMB set up ahG 72 to evaluate this and a whole range of other Standards; including normative and informative guides to determine if they are accomplishing what they are set out to do. The aim is to identify those who are relevant from those that have lost their usefulness.

Faster, more market driven

As mentioned previously, the SMB encourages TCs to manage projects in line with market driven deadlines. In this context, groups will make their own plans that respond to clear market needs and closely held accountable for outcomes. To increase project management capabilities, IEC and ISO held a joint workshop to provide training on project management. A new web-based IEC TC/SC dashboard will help reduce the workload on secretaries by decreasing the need for filling and submitting forms. This should help increase project speed. It will also ensure that the exact status and actions for active projects are known by all.

Applied Standards

Two important developments will help improve how TC/SCs and IEC Conformity Assessment (CA) Systems interact.

While in the past TC/SCs were not allowed to establish formal liaisons with an IEC CA System, this is now formally encouraged.

The SMB, following feedback and recommendation by a joint SMB/CAB ahG has provided clarification regarding the interpretation of Standards by TC/SCs with regard to conformity assessment. While there is sometimes a need for interpretation of some aspects of a published Standard, the SMB has confirmed that such interpretation must follow a formal process, including a formal decision by the TC/SC or a group designated for this purpose.

Translation yes, but

Translations are widely used in many countries as a way to ensure stakeholder involvement, encourage commenting and the adoption and use of Standards. Such translations generally required two months (subsequently shortened by the SMB to six weeks) and most countries handle them between the CD and CDV stage. However, when translations are done at the very end of the standardization process, they can result in the publication of the Standard being delayed.

At the last SMB meeting in June, the decision was taken to eliminate time for translation of documents between the Committee Draft for Vote (CDV) and Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) stage. This would result in the French FDIS version following the English FDIS version. However, the request of the French National Committee in implementing this decision has been deferred to March 2017 to let the IEC Central Office explore solutions that would potentially allow for parallel voting. The SMB also agreed to look at the possibility of formally eliminating parallel translations from the standards production process. In other words, if a translation has not been completed before the CDV stage, the Standard would be published without it and translation would follow thereafter. The SMB has set up ahG 73 to explore the potential risks and benefits of such an approach and will report back to the SMB in February 2017.

Better identify fundamental change

The term "disruptive technology" describes innovations that have the potential to create new markets, thereby fundamentally changing how things were done until then. They are often brought on by new market players that often displace established market leaders.

Over the past couple of years, such technologies had been the focus of the Market Strategy Board ongoing technology watch function. However, the MSB was not really structured to carry out such ongoing review and research. For this reason, the SMB members requested that this issue should be included as a strategic item in the IEC Masterplan.

While SMB members have been encouraged to look out for potentially disruptive technologies, the SMB also decided to establish ahG 70. The group will explore how to broaden the function of the Systems Evaluation Group (SEG) by including technology evaluation in its scope. The SEG could even possibly be renamed "Standardization Evaluation Group".

Faster, more efficient reporting

In business, the fast often wins over the slow. In February 2016, a group of Young Professionals (YPs) were invited for the very first time to present a policy recommendation to the SMB. Their proposal aimed to improve the speed and efficiency for reporting minutes of meetings. The group initiated the project and participated in the development of all elements.

Following recommendations by ahG 67 which was set up as a result of the YP recommendation, the SMB decided to approve a one-year test trial. The goal is to get reports out within one week from the actual TC/SC, SyC, SEG or other SMB group meeting. The SMB expects the report to the SMB (RSMB) to be received four weeks instead of 12 weeks after the meeting.

The SMB also decided to apply some of the same principles for itself. The current SMB report to Council Board with the decision lists and a list of actions was judged to be sufficient to report on SMB activities, eliminating the need for longer and more complex reports that didn’t really add significant value. The aim of this initiative is to work faster but not harder.

Jim Matthews during the SMB meeting in Frankfurt James E. Matthews III, IEC Vice-President and Chair of the SMB, at the SMB meeting in Frankfurt during the IEC General Meeting
Remote solar PV microgrid in Zambia LVDC offers a unique opportunity for universal electricity access - here a remote microgrid in Zambia (Photo: Microgrid Knowledge)
Intel smart earbud A new IEC Technical Committee will deal with wearable smart devices - here Intel smart earbud with the “Jarvis” digital assistant whispering in the user’s ear (Photo: Intel)
IEC TC 123 was set up to deal with power network assets The SMB approved the set-up of IEC TC 123: Standardization of the management of assets in power systems