Every year on October 14, members of the IEC, ISO, ITU and other standards organizations celebrate global standards as a way of honoring and paying tribute to the collaborative efforts of over 20,000 contributors worldwide from various industries, government and academia who come together to develop the voluntary technical agreements that are published as consensus-based International Standards. This year’s World Standards Day has a theme of sustainability and protecting the planet with standards. Additionally, this year’s ANSI World Standards Week (WSW) 2020 will be held online from October 19-23, 2020 via a series of virtual events.
This is a natural time to explore why standards and conformity assessments are so important. For starters, standards and conformity assessments would not have much value if they were not paired with the other. At TIA, we see them as two sides of the same coin.
“I have always been fascinated by standards,” said Florence Otieno, Director of International Standards Programs at TIA. “It’s my passion mainly because of my involvement and witnessing the pros and cons of the standard development process, as well as the importance and how it impacts consumers’ daily lives,” she added. Most consumers do not realize how standards affect what they eat or drink, what they plug into their wall, or use to run their businesses, virtually all basic consumer needs are met by utilizing standards and conformity assessments. Florence concluded that “people’s lives would be put at risk everyday if standards and conformity assessments didn’t co-exist, and I am proud to have been involved in standardization for such a long time.”
A good standard is written in such a way that it not only facilitates the desired outcome, but also allows conformity to its requirements to be assessed: it describes the function and behavior of the product, rather than its design; it gives precise, measurable specifications; it mandates reliable and reproducible tests and methods.
So what is a standard? A standard is a document that has been established by a consensus of subject matter experts and is approved by an appropriate standards body. Whereas the conformity assessment is an activity that determines whether a product, system or service corresponds to the requirements contained in the standard. Conformity assessments are needed because they allow consumers to determine if a product or service is what it appears to be, and if a product or system performs as it ought to perform. It provides insights into safety, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, interoperability, or its sustainability and subsequent impact on the environment (pollution, noise, energy consumption, etc.).
Most consumers want some level of proof about a product’s or system’s safety, performance and reliability. Users of equipment and consumers of goods want to be able to trust the product or service they are purchasing. Product assurance plays a very important part in a consumer’s life. An example would be reviewing independent safety ratings of new cars before making a purchase. Hence standards and conformity assessment, together, provide the reassurance that consumers demand.
Standards for the future
The world is becoming increasingly urbanized. Since 2007, more than half the world’s population has been living in cities, and that is projected to rise to 60 per cent by 2030. As urbanization continues to grow, the need for more sustainable cities becomes more critical as countries work to reduce products and practices that contribute to global warming.
For businesses, sustainability is no longer just about making a marketing buzz. It has to be pervasive to make the impact we need. This is why the TIA QuEST Forum created its Sustainability Assessor. The easy and comprehensive tool was designed to enable companies to rapidly self-assess and benchmark their sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs against industry best practices. Many businesses also leverage the tool by having their suppliers assess their sustainability initiatives to ensure products and services are truly sustainable.
Recently, TIA members engaged in international engineering subcommittee on generic cabling (ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 Engineering Subcommittee 25 Working Group 3) to approve changes to an existing global standard for cabling that will help enable a more sustainable future of smarter homes and buildings. The changes were considered during virtual meetings in September 2020 and included dividing the core standard ISO/IEC 11801-1/AMD1 into six separate standards which are application spaces such as industrial, enterprise, homes, offices, data centers and encompassing (IoT) concepts.
Many TIA standards are relevant to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and, in particular, goal number 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
TIA’S SC 25/WG 3 and its counterpart, TR-42, strive to develop Cabling infrastructure standards for homes, industrial premises, and cabling infrastructure for Data Centers. All these contribute to smarter, and in turn, more sustainable buildings which will help enable smart cities.
Other examples of standard supporting more sustainable practices include TIA’s newest standard committee, TR-60, is focused on the lifecycle management of ICT systems, infrastructure and services. TIA’s TR-42 committee established the ANSI/TIA-4994 Standard for Sustainable Information Communications Technology. TIA’s TR-14 committee has ANSI/TIA-222-H Structural Standard for antenna supporting structures and antennas and small wind turbine support structures.
Standards are key enablers for collective progress, and promote partnership activities such as global trade, innovation, technology access, collaboration, sustainability, quality, and risk management.
Standards will ultimately help make cities more inclusive, safer, more resilient and sustainable because they are consensus based. At the heart of standardization, it’s about enabling people, services, goods and capital to move more freely, offering more opportunities, greater choices and lower prices for goods and services. It enables citizens to travel, live, work or study wherever they wish and experience the beauty of standards without even knowing it.
Looking at the positive impact of standards, it’s important to note that they play an essential role in achieving interoperability of new and diverse technologies that can bring significant benefits to both industry and consumers. They help markets stay open and competitive and to allow consumer confidence to grow through access to a wide range of trusted options.
To put it simply, standards and conformity assessments continuously raise the bar for global societal progress.
If you want to get involved with TIA Standards Development, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to explore all the available options.