Boring at its best

Lord Kelvin Award goes to Japanese expert Dr Shuji Hirakawa

By Gabriela Ehrlich

Shuji Hirakawa is the recipient of the 33rd Lord Kelvin Award, the highest global prize in electrotechnology, for his long-term contribution to the IEC in audio, video and multimedia systems. He received the Award during the IEC General Meeting in Tokyo from the hands of IEC President Dr Junji Nomura.

Lord Kelvin Award 2014 Shuji Hirakawa with IEC President Junji Nomura (left) and IEC General Secretary & CEO Frans Vreeswijk (right)

Technical harmonization for global trade

Electric and electronic devices and systems are no longer “made in one country”, they are now “made in the world”. Production processes are spread over many countries and continents. Only when countries and companies apply globally-harmonized technical rules can they participate efficiently in these value chains. The IEC Lord Kelvin Award, the highest global prize in electrotechnology honours Dr Shuji Hirakawa’s long-term contribution to increasing the technical harmonization that enables global trade and his outstanding commitment to the mission of the IEC.

Built biggest Technical Committee

Hirakawa has been active in the IEC for many years, across many fields. Under his leadership as Secretary from 2004 to 2010, TC (Technical Committee) 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, became the largest in the IEC. Hirakawa was also instrumental in establishing broad cooperation between the IEC and many other organizations and put in place and spoke at many important workshops and events.

World's most boring TV programme

The list of Hirakawa’s accomplishments is extensive. For example, it was thanks to Hirakawa’s efforts that the world famous USB specifications came to be IEC International Standards, and that the energy efficiency of TVs can be accurately measured and compared with the help of the so-called “world’s most boring” TV programme.

Lord Kelvin Award

The Lord Kelvin Award was created in 1995 and named after the first President of the IEC, William Thomson, The Rt. Hon. Lord Kelvin, one of the most brilliant minds of the 19th century. Kelvin was a distinguished scientist and incessant inventor.  Through his mathematical genius he significantly contributed to the advancement of modern physics and science as well as the understanding and practical application of electrotechnology.

Lord Kelvin, together with Charles Le Maistre, the first IEC General Secretary, can be considered the true fathers of standardization. They put in place the processes and methodologies that allow companies to spread new technologies broadly, and enable countries to build more sustainable infrastructure.

Today the Lord Kelvin Award honours those who have the vision and drive to understand and improve the practical applications of the millions of electrical and electronic devices and systems that are part of our daily lives.

The Lord Kelvin Award comprises a solid gold medal, a gold lapel pin and a personal certificate signed by the IEC President and the IEC General Secretary.

Shuji Hirakawa: involvement in the IEC

  • 2004-2010: Secretary IEC TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems, and equipment
  • 2012-2014: Convenor SMB/ahG (Standardization Management Board/ad hoc Group) 40
  • 2011-current: SMB member representing the IEC National Committee of Japan

As the Japanese representative to the IEC SMB (Standardization Management Board), Hirakawa initiated the founding of TC 120 for electrical energy storage, contributed significantly to the establishment of the IEC systems approach, and helped with the implementation of the first IEC Systems Evaluation Group on Smart Cities.

Other standardization activities

  • 2010-2015: IEEE BTS (Broadcast Technology Society) Administrative Committee Member

Professional background

Since 2003 Hirakawa has been Head of Corporate Standardization/Fellow Specialist at the Toshiba Corporation Technology Planning Division.

 Over the past 32 years, Hirakawa held managerial positions at Toshiba Corporation, which he joined in 1978 after a PhD from the Graduate School of the University of Tokyo.

 Over the course of his career he has been responsible for:

  •  system integration and development of mobile broadcasting systems;
  •  project management of the installation of two high speed data systems to TW Cable (US);
  •  the development of real-time MPEG-2 encoder and cable modem system;
  •  studio equipment engineering section for digital studio equipment;
  •  high definition television transmission system.
hirakawa Lord Kelvin Award Laureate Dr Shuji Hirakawa
Lord Kelvin Award 2014 Shuji Hirakawa with IEC President Junji Nomura (left) and IEC General Secretary & CEO Frans Vreeswijk (right)
TV Thanks to Hirakawa's efforts, the energy efficiency of TVs can be accurately measured with the help of the "world's most boring" TV programme