• Standards

ISA actively participates in the world’s primary international standards system as sanctioned by the United Nations and operated by the Geneva-based International Electrotechnical Organization (IEC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This relationship with IEC and ISO adds a layer of complexity to what many already find to be the sometimes-confusing world of standards.

Much of the confusion stems from the fundamentally different member structures of ISA standards development as opposed to IEC/ISO. Participation in ISA standards is based strictly on individuals—and is open to automation professionals from any country (not just the U.S.). IEC and ISO programs, in contrast, are based on participation by and through countries acting as single members.

That difference means that ISA cannot participate directly in the IEC/ISO systems, but rather must channel its input through a specific country to do so. That country is the U.S. by way of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ISA is accredited by ANSI to develop consensus industry standards following approved processes that ensure openness and balance. ISA is one of more than 250 standards-developing organizations based in the U.S. (such as ASTM, ASME, UL, and others) that are accredited in this way by ANSI.

In relation to the IEC and ISO, ANSI serves as the official “national standards body” of the U.S. That is, ANSI acts as the official representative (“National Committee”) to the IEC and ISO of those 250+ accredited U.S. standards developers. Similarly, other IEC and ISO members are the national standards bodies of participating countries such as Brazil (ABNT), U.K. (BSI), Japan (JISC), Canada (SCC), Germany (DKE), and so forth.

Per the topic division between the IEC and ISO, ISA’s primary areas of standards development are covered by the IEC. Through ANSI as the “U.S. National Committee to the IEC,” several major series of standards developed by ISA have been submitted to the IEC to become major IEC series of standards with the same titles, including:

  • IEC 62682: Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries (ISA-18)
  • IEC 61511: Functional Safety – Safety Instrumented Systems for the Process Industry Sector (ISA-84)
  • IEC 61512: Batch Control (ISA-88)
  • IEC 62264: Enterprise-Control System Integration (ISA-95)
  • IEC 62443: Security for Industrial Automation & Control Systems (ISA-99) 
  • IEC 62734: Wireless Systems for Industrial Automation (ISA-100)
  • IEC 63303: Human-Machine Interfaces for Process Automation Systems (ISA-101)

This development of ISA standards into IEC standards is the primary relationship between ISA and IEC—but not the only one, because occasionally ISA standards committees decide, through review and voting, that existing IEC standards are suitable for adoption (sometimes with modification) as ISA standards. For example, in 2018 the ISA84 committee adopted IEC 61511-2016 (which had been developed by IEC committee SC65A with substantial input from ISA84 members) as ISA-61511.

Adoption of an IEC standard by an ISA committee in this way can create another source of confusion for ISA members. A major attraction and benefit of ISA membership is free viewing of ISA-copyrighted standards: www.isa.org/free-viewing-by-members. However, when ISA standards committees decide to adopt an existing IEC standard as an ISA standard (such as the example of ISA84 and IEC 61511), the controlling copyright of the adopted standard (ISA-61511 in the example) remains with the IEC. For that reason, ISA members do not have free viewing access to IEC standards that have been adopted by ISA. This restriction, which applies only to the small number of standards that ISA has adopted from the IEC, is driven by copyright law.

IEC Study Group Issues Ethics AI/AS Recommendations

In 2019, the IEC launched a study group, Standardization Evaluation Group 10, to identify ethical and societal issues and make recommendations relevant to IEC technical activities involving autonomous systems (AS) and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

The resulting report, issued in early May, includes a primary recommendation that the IEC form an oversight committee on ethics—but one not focused on ethics of AI/AS alone, but the impact of ethics in all areas of IEC standardization. AI and AS will be key concerns, however. The oversight committee is expected to begin by developing an IEC guide, “Ethical Aspects for AI – Guidelines for their Inclusion in Standards,” to provide guidance on how to identify potential issues of ethical concern and minimize or mitigate the ethical risks that may result from the use of AI/AS.

If you are interested in joining an ISA or IEC standards committee or have any related questions, please visit www.isa.org/standards or email Charley Robinson.

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