Each year on 14 October, the members of the IEC, ISO and ITU celebrate World Standards Day, which is a means of paying tribute to the collaborative efforts of the thousands of experts worldwide who develop the voluntary technical agreements that are published as international standards.
14 October 2015
Standards – the world’s common language
Dr. Junji Nomura
Imagine a world where your credit card would not fit into every cash machine or where you could not just stroll into a shop and find the right lightbulb for your lamp. A world without telephone codes, country and currency codes and access to the Internet. How would you know where a call came from, or how to reach a specific region? If we didn't have standards, communication between people, machines, parts and products would be extremely difficult. For example, graphical symbols display important information quickly and clearly, no matter what language we speak or read – be they wash and care instructions on clothes, emergency evacuation signs, or electrical equipment instructions. But if everyone used different symbols for the same message, they would not serve their purpose!
Technology also needs standards to communicate. Have you ever wondered how your computer sends your documents to a printer from a different manufacturer? Standards set out common rules and parameters so that products can work with each other. Standard file formats like MPEG and JPEG standard enable you to share videos and photos with family and friends using technology from different vendors.
Now imagine how difficult it would be to order products and parts from international suppliers if we didn’t have standardized units of measurement. “Small”, “medium” and “large” mean different things to different people.
Not only are standards good for trade, they also make it easy for people around the world to work together.
International Standards are like the Rosetta stone of technology. They are essential for products to work together smoothly and for people to communicate easily. When standards are in place things just work, but if they are not used we instantly notice it. In a world without standards, routine activities we take for granted, like making a call, surfing the Web or using our credit cards when we travel, would be much more complicated, nearly impossible.