The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC; in French: Commission électrotechnique internationale) is a non-profit, non-governmental international standards organization that prepares and publishes International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as "electrotechnology". IEC standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fibre optics, batteries, solar energy, nanotechnology and marine energy as well as many others. The IEC also manages three global conformity assessment systems that certify whether equipment, system or components conform to its International Standards.
The IEC charter embraces all electrotechnologies including energy production and distribution, electronics, magnetics and electromagnetics, electroacoustics, multimedia, telecommunication and medical technology, as well as associated general disciplines such as terminology and symbols, electromagnetic compatibility (by its Advisory Committee on Electromagnetic Compatibility, ACEC), measurement and performance, dependability, design and development, safety and the environment.
The IEC held its inaugural meeting on 26 June 1906, following discussions between the British Institution of Electrical Engineers, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and others, which began at the 1900 Paris International Electrical Congress, and continued with Colonel R. E. B. Crompton playing a key role.
The IEC was instrumental in developing and distributing standards for units of measurement, particularlyGauss, Hertz, and Weber. It also first proposed a system of standards, the Giorgi System, which ultimately became the SI, or Système International d’unités (in English, the International System of Units).
In 1938, it published a multilingual international vocabulary to unify terminology relating to electrical, electronic and related technologies. This effort continues, and the International Electrotechnical Vocabulary (the on-line version of which is known as the Electropedia) remains an important work in the electrical and electronic industries.
The CISPR (Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques) – in English, the International Special Committee on Radio Interference – is one of the groups founded by the IEC.
Currently, 82 countries are members while another 82 participate in the Affiliate Country Programme, which is not a form of membership but is designed to help industrializing countries get involved with the IEC. Originally located in London, the commission moved to its current headquarters in Geneva in 1948. It has regional centres in Asia-Pacific (Singapore), Latin America (São Paulo, Brazil) and North America (Boston, United States).
Today, the IEC is the world's leading international organization in its field, and its standards are adopted as national standards by its members. The work is done by some 10,000 electrical and electronics experts from industry, government, academia, test labs and others with an interest in the subject.
IEC standards have numbers in the range 60000–79999 and their titles take a form such as IEC 60417: Graphical symbols for use on equipment. The numbers of older IEC standards were converted in 1997 by adding 60000, for example IEC 27 became IEC 60027.
The IEC cooperates closely with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). In addition, it works with several major standards development organizations, including the IEEE with which it signed a cooperation agreement in 2002, which was amended in 2008 to include joint development work.
Standards developed jointly with ISO such as ISO/IEC 26300, Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0 carry the acronym of both organizations. The use of the ISO/IEC prefix covers publications from ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 - Information Technology, as well as conformity assessment standards developed by ISO CASCO and IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board). Other standards developed in cooperation between IEC and ISO are assigned numbers in the 80000 series, such as IEC 82045-1.
The 60000 series of standards are also found preceded by EN to indicate the IEC standards harmonized as European standards; for example IEC 60034 would be EN 60034.
IEC standards are also being adopted as harmonized standards by other certifying bodies such as BSI (United Kingdom), CSA (Canada), UL & ANSI/INCITS (United States), SABS (South Africa), SAI (Australia), SPC/GB (China) and DIN (Germany). IEC standards harmonized by other certifying bodies generally have some noted differences from the original IEC standard.
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