Standards – Ruling Our Lives


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When you have bought a new TV you expect the plug to fit the socket. When you buy a video disk you expect it to fit your recorder. When you buy a new tire, you would like it to fit the wheel. When you write a document you want it to open on another computer with a different word processor.


A video game fits only the device it is made for: Xbox, PSP, Play Station, PC and Nintendo. They are all different. Exchanging software and hardware between them is limited or even made (deliberately) impossible.

But, on the other hand:

XML is a new standard that has been developed to facilitate the exchange of information through the internet. Before the internet, companies also did exchange information but by means of a much more closed and exclusive Electronic Data Interface (EDI) format. Web services are also going into the direction of a standardized way to deliver an automated function. Agreed by the web world and therefore a powerful medium to exchange services.

Before we are able to examine the importance of standards and the way they affect our lives we should search for specific characteristics of each standard. This could be done by an inventory of the different types of standards. This will lead us to the authority on standards. The international Standardization Organization: ISO ( To give same idea about the areas where standards are used, look at this catalogue ( CatalogueList) A part of the catalogue is shown below. This means that every area has its own standards:

  • 65 Agriculture
  • 49 Aircraft and space vehicle engineering
  • 71 Chemical technology
  • . . .
  • 29 Electrical engineering
  • 31 Electronics
  • 27 Energy and heat transfer engineering
  • . . .
  • 1 Generalities. Terminology. Standardization. Documentation
  • 81 Glass and ceramics industries
  • 11 Health care technology
  • 37 Image technology
  • 35 Information technology. Office machines
  • 25 Manufacturing engineering
  • . . .
  • 7 Mathematics. Natural Sciences
  • 3 Services. Company organization, management and quality. Administration. Transport. Sociology
  • 33 Telecommunications. Audio and video engineering

If we look at the list we can argue that a standard has a certain scope: standards for information technology are only valid and applicable at that area. Also for telecommunications, and services. There are also standard dedicated to safety and security (health care, aircraft and communications) whereas other are more generic, like the ones for management and quality. The former should be much more compelling than the latter.

This is only a tip of the iceberg. But why worry? Why are these standards important? They are because standards rule our lives. . . and that is interesting!

© 2006 Hans Bool

Hans Bool is the founder of Astor White a traditional management consulting company that offers online management tools. Have a look at some of our free management tools

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