Keeping our powered lives safe

IECEE offers an efficient system for testing the quality, performance and energy use of many electronic devices

By Antoinette Price

From the smartphone alarm first thing in the morning to switching off the lights last thing at night, many products and systems in our daily lives run off electricity. We use the hairdryer, washing machine, stove, get on and off transport and walk through automated doors at the office, take the elevator, fire up the computer and purchase items online, expecting that everything will work reliably and safely.

industrial motors The IECEE Global Motor Energy Efficiency programme has been operational since 2015

An efficient system for testing products 

IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components, ensures that electrical and electronic devices and equipment are reliable and meet expectations in terms of performance, safety, reliability and other criteria, by testing and certifying them against IEC International Standards.

With currently 54 Members, 78 National Certification Bodies (CBs) and 485 Testing Laboratories (CBTLs/ACTLs), IECEE expects to issue around 90 000 certificates in 2016.

Over the past year, e-tech has reported on different industries whose products and systems benefit from IECEE testing and certification.

Greener safer gadgets

We use an array of electrical appliances in homes from lighting to kitchen items, gardening power tools and toys, which must be safe and as green as possible. Improving their energy efficiency saves costs and reduces emissions. Many countries develop regulations and legislation for energy efficiency, for which IEC International Standards often serve as the basis. These Standards deal with safety and performance requirements for appliances and equipment. They also include the metrics and testing specifications that allow the IECEE Schemes to verify and certify the quality, performance and energy use of a multitude of devices.  

MEPS for motors

Electric motors are the single biggest users of electricity, driving pumps, fans and a wide array of machinery. They can be found in heavy industry, hospital generators, power tools, pumps to clean swimming pools, and many transport vehicles.

In an attempt to increase electric motor efficiency, governments have introduced Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), which set obligatory minimum energy efficiency levels for motors. MEPS are generally based on IEC International Standards, which include four classes of energy efficiency for motors – IEC 60034-30-1, and IEC 60034-2-1 for testing.

In an effort to address trade barriers which can occur because of differing country regulations, the IECEE Global Motor Energy Efficiency Programme (GMEE) is based on the international IECEE CB Scheme. GMEE aims for one product, one test and one certificate to provide access to the world, by promoting the harmonization of national standards with IEC International Standards.

The changing healthcare landscape

The digital revolution has greatly impacted healthcare. Medical robotics are used in surgery, can help with rehabilitation or assist elderly people.

Nanotechnology in medical wearables and implants has changed the way we monitor, diagnose and treat many medical conditions. Telemedicine, which uses telecommunication and information technologies to provide clinical health care at a distance, allows medical professionals to better manage diseases and improve the quality of patients’ lives.

The IECEE CB Scheme covers 23 categories, of which medical equipment is one. MED or electrical equipment for medical use, uses dozens of IEC International Standards against which products are tested and certified in the IECEE CB Scheme. One of the most important ones is the IEC 60601 series of Standards on the safety and performance of medical electrical equipment.

This Standard series also covers risks to patients, those who operate the equipment – doctors, nurses and technicians, and maintenance personnel.

IECEE looks at managing the risks associated with new technologies. In 2007 it set up the Medical Electrical Equipment Task Force (IECEE MEE) for the implementation of risk management requirements as set out in the third edition of IEC 60601-1, Medical electrical equipment - Part 1: General requirements for basic safety and essential performance, published in 2005. Some of the Task Force’s duties include:

  • Developing a checklist aimed at assisting the medical equipment industry, official authorities and stakeholders around the world to test appropriately
  • Organizing specific training sessions dealing with risk management issues

Medical wearable devices gather information about different health aspects of a person. The data is sent to clinics, hospitals or doctors, who can monitor it in real time or store it in electronic management systems and databases. Like anything that connects to the Internet of Things, the use of IT systems and software will need to ensure data is protected.

IEC Technical Committee (TC) 62: Electrical equipment in medical practice, and its Subcommittees, develop International Standards for electrical equipment, electrical systems and software used in healthcare. Its work focuses on safety and performance (e.g. data security, data integrity and data privacy), among other aspects.

New task forces for functional safety and cybersecurity

Whether at home, work, in a factory or public spaces, we are increasingly surrounded by electric and electronic devices. Many of these could cause harm to humans, animals or the environment if they didn’t have built-in safety mechanisms. For example, if a lawn mower is tipped over, built-in safety mechanisms will shut it off to avoid harm to the user.

When functional safety is maintained properly, the electronics and software that relate to the function of a device or system will work correctly in response to commands it receives. Under the Certification Management Committee (CMC), the Policy and Strategy Committee (PSC) proposed setting up a new Task Force for Functional Safety, to define market relevant solutions and services related to functional safety.

Every day we read about cybersecurity breaches in the news. As we become more connected to the Internet of Things, it is increasingly important for personal safety and privacy to ensure measures are in place to tackle the numerous cyberthreats we face. A new Task Force for Cybersecurity will be set up to provide conformity assessment to the IEC 62443 series of Standards.

Manufacturing processes have rapidly joined the data-driven Internet connected world, which has helped boost productivity and efficiency. If industrial control systems (ICS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) of plants for oil and gas were compromised, the consequences could be dire. There have been successful cyberattacks for example at a German steel plant reported in 2014, and the well-known Iranian nuclear enrichment facility hack in 2011.

Against this backdrop, the Task Force for Cybersecurity will also cover conformity assessment elements pertaining to industrial automation cybersecurity in conjunction with the IEC 62443 series of International Standards.

More information:

industrial motors The IECEE Global Motor Energy Efficiency programme has been operational since 2015
high-tech kitchen appliances IECEE tests and certifies the quality, performance and energy use of a multitude of electrical appliances
robotic surgery equipment IECEE looks at managing the risks associated with new technologies, for instance robotic surgery (Photo: Wellbots)
data centre IECEE new Task Forces will deal with the conformity assessment elements of cybersecurity and functional safety