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Standards Development
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Standards development is a process that involves many individuals, companies, and often governments. In order to understand how standards advance the adoption of emerging technologies, there are terms that help define the landscape.

Standards Organizations

Major standards organizations are national, regional or international.

National standards apply only to the country in which they are adopted (although they may be adopted or referenced by any organization or country). National standards bodies may be government-sponsored, as they are in many parts of the world, or independent.

In the U.S., for example, there are two major standards-setting organizations: the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), formerly the Bureau of Weights and Measures. ANSI is a voluntary organization, while NIST is a non-regulatory government agency. Standards issued by ANSI (www.ansi.org) and NIST (www.nist.gov) are voluntary standards. No laws mandate their adoption, and no penalties are assessed for not adopting them (other than customer pressure).

International standards are generally applicable everywhere. (Local regulations in some areas, however, may supersede international standards.)

The AIM industry is represented by two major standards bodies: the International Organization for Standards (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). ISO and IEC have established a Joint Technical Committee (JTC-1) to address technology standards, including those for AIM. Standards that are developed by JTC-1 are subsequently published as joint ISO/IEC standards.

RFID Standards Committees

Within JTC-1, Subcommittee 31, Work Group 4 (JTC-1 SC31/WG4) deals with RFID. There are a variety of other ISO committees that address RFID such as Technical Committee 104 (TC104) which has issued a standard for RFID on maritime containers, and the Joint Working Group of ISO TC122 and TC104 that is working on a set of generic application standards. There are many other committees and working groups involved with RFID. These are just two examples.

Who is Involved

The early development work on technical standards is typically done by committees or working groups within national or regional standards organizations. Technical standards can also be developed by broadly based organizations such as AIM, CEN and GS1. These ‘draft’ documents, if there is a market demand for them, can be submitted to the appropriate international body for consideration as an international standard work item.

Individual companies or organizations may also develop draft documents for consideration by national and international standards bodies. For example, standards being developed by Sun Microsystems would be ‘ad hoc standards’ with no formal status unless they are accepted by ANSI or ISO (see below for descriptions of these standards organizations).

Application standards are often developed by user organizations such as automotive, electronics or consumer goods trade associations. These may or may not be submitted for national or international standardization. Many major industry groups, such as the Electronics Industries Association (EIA) in the U.S. and the European steel industry are also accredited standards developers within their respective regions. Standards developed by these organizations often reach national or regional status. In cases where there is an international standards committee working on behalf of an industry, these documents can be submitted to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for international approval.

ISO standards are also voluntary although, as with all voluntary standards, marketplace pressure usually mandates compliance.

For the past 30 years GS1 has dedicated itself to the design and implementation of global standards for use in the supply chain. GS1 standards provide a framework that allows products, services, and information about them to move efficiently and securely for the benefit of businesses and the improvement of people’s lives, everyday, everywhere. GS1 standards ensure effective exchanges that companies, and act as basic guidelines that facilitate interoperability and provide structure to many industries.

GS1 standards bring together companies representing all parts of the supply chain – manufacturers, distributors, retailers, hospitals, transporters, customs organisations, software and hardware developers, local and international regulatory authorities, and more. GS1 standards are used by huge multinational chains and by small corner shops; by world-famous brands and by individual craftsmen. These companies, who may in fact have diverging business interests, work together under GS1 leadership to agree upon standards that make the supply chain faster, more efficient, less complex and less costly. GS1 standards today are used by millions of companies in dozens of sectors and industries including healthcare, transportation and logistics, aeronautics, defense, chemicals, high tech, and still, of course, the retail supply chain.

Standards Development Process

There are two basic methods for developing standards. The majority of standards today are developed using the consensus process. In this method, any party that may be significantly or materially affected by the standard under development may comment.

At a national level, this means that ANSI committee meetings are open to all interested parties. In some instances, because of logistical issues, meetings may not be convenient for all interested parties, but document drafts are made available and comments must be reviewed periodically.

For ISO, IEC and JTC-1 committees, only representatives of national standards bodies (or their designees) may participate. However, comments are solicited on the national level prior to any international meeting. Within a typical development cycle there will be several official public reviews prior to a final public comment period.

It's important to note that unanimity is not required for the approval of a standard. All comments on, and objections to, the document must be addressed but objections do not necessarily have to be resolved. An honest effort to resolve the issue must be made but it is often not possible to remove the objection. Thus, a consensus (or majority) view to adopt or reject a standard prevails. Typically, there will be a set point for action, for example, greater than 50 percent of those voting.

The second method, used by CEN for some of its standards development, is for a group of experts on writing standards to be tasked with developing a document. This group may not be expert on the topic and will rely on outside experts to advise it. Such a process is typically closed to outside comment until an official review is conducted.

Getting Involved

If you want to get directly involved in the standards development process, you should start by contacting the trade association for your industry to see if they have an official representative on the appropriate standard committee. This will help you get up to speed on current activities.

You can also contact AIM or your local GS1 office for more information. A key service that AIM provides for our global members is comprehensive information about the AIDC Standards "landscape." Chapters and their members will get a summary version of this information.

Have more questions? Contact us today to learn more!

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