The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC; in French: Commission électrotechnique Internationale) is an international standards organization that prepares and publishes international standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies – collectively known as "electrotechnology". IEC standards cover a vast range of technologies from power generation, transmission, and distribution to home appliances and office equipment, semiconductors, fiber optics, batteries, solar energy, nanotechnology, and marine energy as well as many others. The IEC also manages four global conformity assessment systems that certify whether equipment, system or components conform to its international standards.
All electrotechnologies are covered by IEC Standards, including energy production and distribution, electronics, magnetics and electromagnetics, electroacoustics, multimedia, telecommunication, and medical technology, as well as associated general disciplines such as terminology and symbols, electromagnetic compatibility, measurement and performance, dependability, design and development, safety and the environment.
The first International Electrical Congress took place in 1881 at the International Exposition of Electricity, held in Paris. At that time the International System of Electrical and Magnetic Units was agreed to.
The International Electrotechnical Commission held its inaugural meeting on 26 June 1906, following discussions among the British Institution of Electrical Engineers, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and others, which began at the 1900 Paris International Electrical Congress and continued with Colonel R. E. B. Crompton playing a key role. In 1906, Lord Kelvin was elected as the first President of the International Electrotechnical Commission.
The IEC was instrumental in developing and distributing standards for units of measurement, particularly the gauss, hertz, and weber. It also first proposed a system of standards, the Giorgi System, which ultimately became the SI, or Système International d’unités (in English, the International System of Units).
In 1938, it published a multilingual international vocabulary to unify terminology relating to electrical, electronic, and related technologies. This effort continues, and the International Electrotechnical Vocabulary (the on-line version of which is known as the Electropedia) remains an important work in the electrical and electronic industries.
The CISPR (Comité International Spécial des Perturbations Radioélectriques) – in English, the International Special Committee on Radio Interference – is one of the groups founded by the IEC.
Currently, 86 countries are IEC members while another 87 participate in the Affiliate Country Programme, which is not a form of membership but is designed to help industrializing countries get involved with the IEC. Originally located in London, the Commission moved to its current headquarters in Geneva in 1948.
It has regional centers in Africa, Asia-Pacific (Singapore), Latin America (São Paulo, Brazil) and North America (Boston, United States).
Today, the IEC is the world's leading international organization in its field, and its standards are adopted as national standards by its members. The work is done by some 10,000 electrical and electronics experts from industry, government, academia, test labs, and others with an interest in the subject.