High-tech travel

IECQ helps make electronic devices and systems safer

By Claire Marchand

The boom in air and road traffic in the past 40 years or so has been determinant in the development of electronics in those sectors. Today, all modes of transportation rely on electronics for navigation, communication or engine-control management as well as for entertainment. Electronic devices and systems are designed to bring more safety, reliability and comfort to pilots, drivers and passengers alike.

Airbus A380 cockpit Airbus A380 cockpit

In the air…

Avionics — a blend of aviation and electronics — comprises all electronic systems for use on aircraft, satellites and spacecraft. It includes communications, navigation, flight and engine control, collision-avoidance and weather systems.

Avionics surfaced in the 1970s, pioneered by military aircraft development, and was soon adopted by civil airliners. The democratization of consumer flying in the second half of the 20th century and the emergence of low-cost airlines in the past decade mean increased air traffic, tighter airspaces and, consequently, the need for more sophisticated methods of controlling and ensuring aircraft and passenger safety.

…on the road…

Demand for automotive electronics has increased dramatically with the rapid development of the automobile industry worldwide. Integrated communication, navigation, entertainment and information displays are now part of even the smallest, cheapest cars.

…and on tracks

The pattern repeats itself in the railway sector. The emergence of high-speed rail was an accelerator in developing electronics control management, signalling and safety systems. The first ever high-speed rail commenced operation in 1964 in Japan, but it really took off in the 1980s with the French TGV (Train à grande vitesse, or high-speed train) and equivalent European and Japanese trains.

As is the case in other sectors, the technology developed for the high-end segment found its way into regional, inter-city or commuter trains.

High-quality electronics

To be able to rely on electronics for safety, reliability and performance, one needs to rely on what makes the electronic device or system work: the electronic component.

Safety and reliability through IEC International Standards…

While quality is important in all electronics sectors, it is even more so in transportation. One tiny faulty component in a plane or train electronic system may endanger the lives of hundreds of passengers.

Several IEC TCs (Technical Committees) are involved in the development of International Standards for the transportation sector, notably IEC TC 107: Process management for avionics, IEC TC 9: Electrical equipment and systems for railways, and IEC TC 69: Electric road vehicles and electric industrial trucks.

…and certification

IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, takes it one step further, testing and certifying electronic components for the widest possible variety of components. In addition, IECQ has a programme specifically designed for avionics, the IECQ ECMP (Electronic Component Management Plan) Scheme.

Avionics certified

An ECMP is prepared by a manufacturer of aerospace electronic equipment in accordance with IEC/TS (Technical Specification) 62239, Preparation of an Electronic Components Management Plan. The International Standard describes the objectives to be accomplished by avionics manufacturers in managing electronic components in avionics systems.

The plan documents the avionics manufacturer's baseline processes to manage COTS (commercial, off-the-shelf) components. The processes documented in the plan satisfy high-level objectives, such as component selection, application, qualification, quality assurance, dependability, data management and obsolescence management. After the plan is approved as compliant to IEC TS 62239, the plan owner is authorized to manage all aspects of the COTS components, in accordance with the plan. All components used in the plan owner's products must satisfy the requirements of the approved plan.

The IECQ ECMP Scheme is now looking into developing similar certification for the automotive and railway sectors.

For more information on IECQ and the IECQ ECMP Scheme visit: www.iecq.org

Airbus A380 cockpit Airbus A380 cockpit
Car navigation system Car navigation system
Modern trains also rely heavily on electronics Modern trains also rely heavily on electronics