This year’s General Meeting of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is the largest ever. Of course, being held in America, it just had to be bigger than anything that anyone else had done. There are literally thousands of technical experts here in Seattle from all over the world working on standards for all sorts of things, from dishwashers to fuel cell efficiency and, of course, fibre optics. The meeting has its own website at www.iec2010.org and even its own Facebook page that you can access from there.
So, what’s it all about and why am I here?
Well the main bits that I’m involved with are “fibre optic systems” where I’m nominated as the UK’s Principal Expert, although since I also have responsibility for optical amplifiers, active devices (e.g. lasers) and dynamic modules (ROADMs etc). Of course I also have an interest in the discussions of fibres, cables, connectors and passive devices and support other UK experts in these areas.
In the systems working group there are now many new challenges as fibre optic systems develop to support ever higher data rates and more DWDM channels. Some of the ‘hot topics’ up for discussion are:
- constellation diagram analysis – new ways of measuring quality of transmitted signals, when we are dealing with complex modulation formats where the information is coded into the phase of the lightwave as well as the amplitude
- in-band OSNR measurements, especially with closely spaced DWDM channels in ROADM networks using polarisation multiplexed signals
In addition to these new areas there is also the maintenance and updating of existing standards. I am the project leader for the second edition of the standards for testing insertion loss and return loss on singlemode cabling as well as PMD. New Committee Drafts will be issued on both of these following this meeting.
We are also continuing work on testing multimode fibre, encircled flux is a continuing subject of debate and a new ’round robin’ series of tests is going to be carried out. Contact me if you want to be involved.
Another new are of work is on fibre optic sensors. There are many UK companies involved in this area and this also falls in the scope of GEL86/3. The Generic standard for these is being revised and a work programme is being initiated to produce a range of standards covering different ‘measurands’ and ways of measuring them.
The Technical Committee on laser safety (TC76) are also holding their meetings here, and I attended a joint meeting between the two groups, raising the issue of laser safety on fibre optic sensors and powering of remote devices over fibre, neither of which are covered by the current laser safety standards.
Another part of my role in the standards community is that of liaison officer between IEC SC 86C (fibre optic systems) and ISO/IEC JTC1 SC25 WG3 (!) – customer premises cabling. This group are meeting here in Seattle next week – so there will be news from that on “Light Reflections” next week.
As ever – I’m happy to answer any questions on this or hear your views…