IEC 61850 Update Industry Updates

Standardization in the Cloud

by Christoph Brunner, it4power, Switzerland

The clock is ticking – the world is not standing still, however, I cannot really provide you with an update on 61850 this time. I hope to be able to do that once the clouds are disappearing…

It seems to be time for the column again. The clock is ticking – the world is not standing still. Whatever happens – business must go on.

You may have asked yourself in the past – why are all those experts in the standardization that are doing this work for years doing it? It is not really helping their professional career! So, what is the motivation for them?

Well – I can tell you what the motivation is for those species. Besides the experts that are paid by somebody to do that job, for many of us the motivation is about meeting other individuals from around the world, with different backgrounds, with different mentalities. It is about fighting over technical arguments, trying to defend what you believe is the best solution, and finally agreeing on a common approach. And along the way become friends.

Well – as we all know, this came to a brutal stop early last year. While the world continued to turn around the axis, our lives seem to be halted. That gave us all an opportunity to think about our pace of life. Is the hectic pace we all had really of value?

As you all know – like many of us – before Covid I was travelling like crazy. Two hundred days of travel a year was not uncommon. Now I was suddenly locked at home. That gave me the time to reflect on what I am doing. And I discovered the pleasant feeling of having a home other than hotels and airports.

Nevertheless, I deeply miss meeting all my friends around the world – and I hope I still can meet them in the near future.

But back to standardization – after the first shock of not traveling, of course web conferences did become the hot topic. For standardization and for conferences. You all know them in the meantime – GoToMeeting, Zoom, Citrix, Teams, …. As I mentioned – Business must go on.

In WG 10 of TC 57 that looks as follows: like in the past, three one-week meetings a year – now with Zoom. Limited to three hours a day to accommodate all the different time zones – so basically reports from the about twenty task forces we have. And between the meetings, the task forces have regular virtual meetings of one or two hours every two to three weeks.

So, I think it is an easy calculation – you can without problems spend about 20 hours a week in average to attend virtual standardization meetings. Why would you do that – well, now we are back to my first point – what is the motivation of the experts to do that job. And well – if you look at my statement above you will see there is not much motivation left when everything becomes virtual.

Conferences also have gone virtual. Why do you attend a conference? I believe in many cases it is networking. Have you ever tried to do networking on web meetings? I just read an article in a local newspaper today, that the loneliness of the young generation is one of the biggest problems that never any generation before had – even though they are connected every minute with their “friends” over social media, apparently, they still feel lonely. So much about virtual networking.

I attended a welcome reception at a virtual conference. It was an open webcall, where everybody was supposed to have their drink – for some of them it was the coffee in the morning, for others the late-night drink. There were about 30 or 40 participants; I had met before about two thirds of them – they were all part of the core “gang” of our business that knows each other since years. The rest were newbies. Guess which group was talking all the time?

So over that time, where standardization takes place in the cloud, I was focusing my life on earth and enjoyed the local beauty of Switzerland. I did a lot of hiking in the mountains. But I also enjoyed my time being home and practicing one of my hobbies which is cooking.

Therefore, I cannot really provide you with an update on 61850 this time. I hope to be able to do that once the clouds are disappearing… And I hope that happens by the turn of the year. As I mentioned – I still look forward to meeting my friends around the world again.


Christoph Brunner is the President of his own independent consulting company it4power LLC based in Switzerland. He has over 25 years of experience with knowledge across several areas within the Utility Industry and of technologies from the Automation Industry. He has worked as a project manager at ABB Switzerland Ltd in the area of Power Technology Products in Zurich / Switzerland where he was responsible for the process close communication architecture of the automation system. He is Convener of WG 10 of the IEC TC57 and is a member of WG 17, 18 and 19 of IEC TC 57. He is member of IEEE-PES and IEEE-SA. He is an IEEE Fellow and is active in several working groups of the IEEE-PSRC and a member of the PSRC main committee and the subcommittee H. He is advisor to the board of the UCA international users’ group.