With thousands of international standards organizations across the world, may aspects of life is subject to standardization, which is a good thing for most people. Standardizing various processes and systems helps make life safer and even more productive. The electronics industry, in particular, is subject to thousands of global standards, and hundreds of individual regulatory bodies that create, endorse, and support these standards.
As an electrical engineer working on electronic designs, it’s important to know about some of the international standards organizations that govern electronic products. Here are some of the well-known organizations that we find engineers work with most frequently:
ISO – The term ISO is almost a household name nowadays, especially in the manufacturing world, electronics or otherwise. ISO is short for International Organization for Standardization. The body was established in 1947 and is currently headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a truly global body with 3 official languages, English, Russian, and French. ISO has 163 member countries, each representing its own standardization activities to ISO.
A standard is defined by ISO as a document detailing all the requirements, guidelines, and specifications that should be followed consistently to ensure products and services accurately meet the purpose they are intended for. ISO standards ensure products and services delivered are of the best quality, safe for consumers use, and are reliable. The body has published more than 19,500 standards since it was founded. A few examples of ISO standards in the electronics industry include radio frequency identification devices, gas cylinder valve connections – especially those used in the microelectronics field, and the security framework used for sensor networks just to mention a few.
UL – Originally founded in 1894 as Underwriters Laboratories, UL is today a worldwide safety consulting and certification firm with headquarters in Northbrook, IL, USA. It has branches in 46 countries. UL deals with safety analysis of new technologies, especially in the field of developing electrical components and devices. The organization offers safety-related certifications as well as testing, inspection, validation and training services for manufacturers, clients, retailers, service companies, and consumers across the world.
To date, UL has 64 laboratories and facilities serving clients from over 104 countries. The organization has expanded from managing electrical and electronics safety to other broad issues, including safe handling of hazardous waste, food safety, water quality management, and safety and compliance education with an emphasis on environmental sustainability.
As an architect of safety systems across the United States, UL has so far developed over 1000 product standards. There are over 21 billion UL marks on products to date. The organization works closely with regulators, consumers, and insurers among others in developing safety standards and education initiatives in diverse fields. The company develops standards that mainly address the following fields:
- Electronic equipment and tools
- Electrical equipment
- Wires and cables
- Tools and equipment used in hazardous places
- All types of appliances
- Information technology equipment
- Fire suppression and protection equipment
- Alarms and signaling equipment
UL’s role in enhancing safety and high-quality standards has made it a trusted leader on safety matters across the world.
IEC – IEC is an abbreviation for International Electrotechnical Commission which establishes standards for electronic and electrical technologies. The body was created in 1906 and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. IEC has a membership of 82 countries collectively known as National Committees. In the US, IEC is represented by ANSI. Numerous electrical and electronic products across the world use IEC conformity assessment systems to ensure better connectivity, performance, and safety.
CSA International – The Canadian Standard Association (CSA) International is a constituent of the larger CSA Group which offers certification and testing services for products in electronics, electrical, mechanical, and gas industries among others. CSA marks can be found in billions of products all over the world especially in the US, Canada, and Europe.
A CSA certification mark indicates that the product, service, or process has been tested to US or Canadian standards and found to be suitable for the purpose it was intended for. The certification provides an assurance of high quality and safety for consumers and ease of a product’s entry into the US and Canadian markets for manufacturers.
CE – CE is a compulsory conformity certification for certain products marketed in the European Economic Area, also known as EEA in brief. The name CE came about as a short form of Conformite Europeenne which translates to European Conformity in English. The CE marking was established in 1985 and is still considered as a symbol of free trade within the EEA or Internal Market as it is known in Europe.
CE marking is almost the same as the FCC Declaration of Conformity that regulates some electronic products sold in the US. A CE mark on a product shows conformity with the legal requirements that allow a product to be marketed throughout the EEA member countries.
IEEE – The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or IEEE in short (many prefer to simply call it “I triple E”) is a New York City-based professional association formed in 1963. It was founded as a merger of two associations; the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
It is currently the largest technical professionals’ association in the entire world with over 400,000 members in different chapters across the world. The association’s key objectives are advancement and regulation of educational and technical innovations in the fields of electronic and electrical engineering, computer engineering, and telecommunications.
ANSI – Established in 1918, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has its headquarters in Washington, DC. Its major operational office is however based in the city of New York. ANSI’s mission is to enhance the global competitiveness of businesses based in the US, as well as improving the quality of life in the US by promoting standards and conformity assessment systems. It is a non-profit body that regulates voluntary consensus developed standards. It aims at strengthening products from the United States in the global market. ANSI is also actively involved in safeguarding the health and safety of consumers as well as in protecting the environment.
ANSI has an all-encompassing membership that includes government agencies, international bodies, public and private companies, academic institutions, and individuals. In the international scene, ANSI represents all the US standardization policies and activities in both the ISO and IEC bodies.
EIA – Formerly known as the Electronic Industries Association until 1997, the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) is a standards and trade body created as an alliance of electronic manufacturers’ associations in the US. The body developed a number of standards to ensure compatibility and interchangeability of equipment used by different electronics manufacturers. The organization had its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. It closed operations in 2011, but its previous sectors still serve as EIA constituents up to date. The
- EIA has segmented its activities into the following organizations:
- ECA – Electronic Components, Assemblies, Equipment & Supplies Association
- JEDEC – JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, former Joint Electron Devices Engineering Councils
- GEIA – (now part of TechAmerica), Government Electronics and Information Technology Association
- TIA – Telecommunications Industry Association
- CEA – Consumer Electronics Association
FDA – As from 1990 up to date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all medical device manufacturers, including electronic companies, seeking to market products in certain medical fields to abide by standards set in their Design Control requirements also known as 21 CFR 820.30 regulations. The regulation requires all devices to have the following:
A clearly stated establishment of the product’s intended use
Its design inputs
Its design plan
Periodic reviews of the product’s design throughout its design process
A design history file also is known as DHF
The international standards bodies discussed above are just but a small fraction of thousands of other organizations charged with the responsibility of maintaining safety and performance in the electronics industry. Most of these bodies often cooperate and even back each other’s standards just to make life easier for manufacturers and consumers.