Measuring up – International Standards for quantities and units are under revision


What are the correct symbols for bits and bytes? How do you accurately measure the spectrum of light? How do you quantify airborne sound? Consistency in quantities and units is essential for accurate measurement and can only be achieved if everyone is using the same language. The ISO/IEC 80000 series of Standards does just that, and it is currently under revision.

The ISO/IEC 80000 quantities and units series is referenced in the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM) guide on the International System of Units (SI), known as the SI brochure, and thus provides important support for the definition of quantities and units. It consists of 13 different parts, featuring two from the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) and 11 from the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), some of which are approaching a crucial and final stage of their revision.


This series of Standards underpins the international harmonization of terms, definitions and symbols used in science and engineering and thus guarantees a unified language and writing of formulae. It reduces the risk of error and facilitates and encourages communication between scientists and engineers of many disciplines.

Dr. Michael Krystek, Chair of IEC TC 25, states
“The unification of measurements on a global scale, for all domains of activities, is vital to industries and global trade. This harmonization will ease the development of innovative products and services. The ISO/IEC 80000 series is periodically revised in order to stay relevant to today’s market demands.”

The series gives terms, definitions, recommended symbols, units and any other important information related to quantities used in science, engineering, metrology and industry. It is a reference for those writing scientific or technical documents, textbooks, standards and guides.

A number of the parts are currently at Draft International Standard (DIS) stage and approaching publication. They are:

In addition, two parts have recently reached DIS stage, meaning interested parties can once more submit feedback on the draft before final publication. They are:

The other parts in the series on quantities and units are:

The IEC parts of the ISO/IEC 80000 series of Standards are developed by IEC Technical Committee (TC) 25: Quantities and units, whose secretariat is located in Italy. IEC TC 25 maintains a close collaboration with IEC TC 1: Terminology, and is in constant liaison with ISO/TC 12: Quantities and units, the International Organization for Legal Metrology (OIML), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the BIPM.

On top of the two parts that are under direct IEC responsibility, the Commission also contributes significantly to the other parts of the ISO/IEC 80000 series of Standards. IEC Subcommittee (SC) 34A: Lamps, IEC SC 62B: Diagnostic imaging equipment, IEC TC 76: Optical radiation safety and laser equipment, IEC TC 100: Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment, and IEC TC 110: Electronic display devices, all play an integral role in the development of ISO 80000-7: Light and radiation. Furthermore, ISO-80000-8: Acoustics specifically refers to Standards developed by IEC TC 29: Electroacoustics.

The Standards are expected to be used by metrology and technical institutes, academia, technical book writers and translators, standards developers and many areas of industry.

Copies of IEC International Standards are available from the IEC Webstore and from IEC National Committees.

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