TC work sustains media expansion

Harmonization through collaboration with other relevant bodies

By Morand Fachot

The audio-visual and multimedia sectors contain some of the world's most dynamic and productive industries. They are not limited to manufacturing systems and products for professionals and consumers, but also include an entire global and highly valuable content production chain in the entertainment, broadcasting, ICT and telecommunication domains. Expansion of both equipment and content sectors is made possible in no small measure by the work of several IEC TCs (Technical Committees), in particular that of TC 100: audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment.

Internet protocol-based set-top box (Photo: Comtrend) Internet protocol-based set-top box (Photo: Comtrend)

Huge market – complex standardization

Nearly every individual in the world has access to some kind of AV (audio-visual) device. In addition, an ever larger number of households possess multimedia systems. Multimedia is the integration of any form of audio, video, graphics, data and telecommunication. This integration includes the production, storage, processing, transmission, display and reproduction of such information, and requires special equipment.

According to market estimates from GfK Boutique Research and the US (United States) Consumer Electronics Association, global sales of consumer electronics goods will exceed USD 1 000 billion for the first time ever in 2012, up 5% on 2011. Most of the systems and equipment in these categories rely on International Standards prepared by TC 100.

Given the broad range of equipment and systems produced for and used in the audio, video and multimedia sectors, many organizations besides the IEC, such as the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) or ISO (International Organization for Standardization) are also developing standards for these. TC 100 maintains an extensive network of liaisons at different levels with many of these organizations, so as to avoid duplication with existing standards.

A tale of three TCs

TC 100 was established in 1995 through the merger of three IEC TCs and of some of their SCs (subcommittees) that prepared International Standards for AV receiving, audio and distribution equipment.

The scope of TC 100 is "to prepare international publications in the field of audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. These publications mainly include specification of the performance, methods of measurement for consumer and professional equipment and their application in systems and its interoperability with other systems or equipment."

TC 100 lists as its two major objectives for the next 3 - 5 years:

  • to enrich human life with entertainment provided by audio, video and multimedia in the home and networked environments; and
  • to contribute to society by pursuing energy efficiency, working on Smart Grid solutions and environmentally conscious design, and by addressing options for accessibility through the use of "disability person conscious design" for audio, video and multimedia equipment.

Flexible structure, quicker process

The audio, video and multimedia markets are fast-moving environments with manufacturers constantly rolling out new products and consumers renewing their equipment or acquiring devices such as tablets, e-book readers, or so-called smart phones, to access content. A lengthy standardization process would hold up the production and adoption of new equipment. TC 100 has adopted a flexible organization structure and effective working style to speed up approval.

All the standards are developed by Project Teams that are grouped by TAs (Technical Areas), which work like SCs. TAs are established and disbanded flexibly; currently there are 12 of them.

In addition, TC 100 has two advisory groups, AGS (Advisory Group on Strategy) and AGM (Advisory Group on Management), and a GMT (General Maintenance Team) that maintains all international publications within the scope of TC 100.

Web of relationships

Besides the IEC, many organizations, consortia and fora work on standards in the audio, video and multimedia domains; there is therefore a certain risk of duplication between them.

Collaboration is essential as some of these bodies may work on completely different but relevant categories of standards, for certain types of connectors and cables, or content formats for production and distribution. Many systems present similar technical specifications, so having common electrotechnical standards is essential to ensure equipment compatibility across different standards in other domains. This allows economies of scale and global harmonization of systems that will eventually benefit manufacturers and consumers alike.

Priority liaisons are established with establishments that have a work programme directly related to TC 100 activities. Their work needs to be monitored carefully as complementary future work items in TC 100 might arise. TC 100 also maintains liaisons at a lower level with other international or regional standard-setting bodies. Dependency, another level of relationship without a formal liaison, is maintained with organizations that are important for TC  100 work.

Future orientated

New TAs are established as required when needed to meet the challenges of the dynamic AV and multimedia sectors. Recent examples of this are the creation of TA 13 and TA 14, and the wider scope assigned to TA 12.

The new TA 13 is tasked with dealing with environmental aspects in the field of AV and ICT equipment, including projects transferred from the Environmental WG (Working Group) of TC 108: Safety of electronic equipment within the field of AV and ICT.

TA 14 prepares International Standards for interfaces and methods of measurement for personal computing equipment.

As for TA 12, its scope, which dealt initially with AV energy efficiency, was widened to include "development of standards related to Smart Grid and home energy management applications in networked multimedia equipment for the purpose of energy measurement and savings."

Heavy workload

The constantly expanding range of applications for AV and multimedia systems and the fast-changing pace of the industry mean that TC 100, already one of the most prolific IEC TCs, has a full agenda. Its standardization work for AV and multimedia systems implies being both a user and customer of standards from other TCs and SCs, such as TC 110: Electronic display devices (seearticle in this e-tech), or TC 86: Fibre optics (see article in e-tech November 2011), to name just two.

TC 100 also contributes to work by SMB (Standardization Management Board) SGs (Strategic Groups) on Smart GridLVDC (low-voltage direct current) distribution systems up to 1500V, andAAL (Ambient Assisted Living).

As of February 2012, TC 100 had released 395 publications and had 48 active projects under way.

TC 100 is set to remain very busy for the foreseeable future, given the demand and expansion of the AV and multimedia sectors, fed by the merger of technology and content, the latter becoming available across many different devices and platforms.

Internet protocol-based set-top box (Photo: Comtrend) Internet protocol-based set-top box (Photo: Comtrend)
Computer monitor (Photo: LG) Computer monitor (Photo: LG)
Samsung HT-AS730 home theatre system Samsung HT-AS730 home theatre system