Contributed by Bill Rubin, Senior Manager ISTO
The benefit of standards for developing products and processes across industries is well understood. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_standard) defines a Technical Standard as an established norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task. It is usually a formal document that establishes uniform engineering or technical criteria, methods, processes, and practices.
Standards have become critical over time because they provide significant benefits to the producers and consumers of products. In particular, standards can help:
- Expand the ecosystem for producers because products can be built to an agreed-to set of technical requirements, reducing bespoke product development.
- Improve interoperability of products between vendors–which is a great benefit to producers and consumers–and helps expand the ecosystem and reduce product costs.
- Reduce product costs through both an expanded ecosystem and associated competition, improved economies of scale and by eliminating the need for every company to develop its own technical criteria.
- Increase the competitive market for products, providing consumers with more choices and innovative products and reducing the chance of market dominance by a few firms
However, when we peek under the covers, we see that in fact there are different types of standards. Accredited Standards are standards developed by recognized organizations (sometimes called Standards Development Organizations or SDOs) with established Standards development procedures, governance processes and approval methods for moving standards from a concept to an approved document. Examples of accredited standards bodies include: IEEE, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) to name a few. Among the key benefits of accredited standards are the brand recognition (often on a global basis) and industry trust in these standards organizations based on their track record.
The term Industry Standards (sometimes referred to as specifications) typically refer to a situation where an alliance of companies within an industry sector come together (in accordance with relevant anti-trust regulations) to develop an industry standard which reflects agreement among the alliance members on specifications for a specific technology. Each industry group can develop its own processes for developing the standard, Intellectual Property (IP) policies and distribution policy for the standard. It is often the case that industry standards are developed more rapidly than accredited standards and thus can sometimes better meet time to market needs.
The most critical element to the success of either an accredited standard or an industry standard, is industry implementation of the standard for use in building products, and consumer acceptance of and trust in purchasing products which implement the standards. Neither approach is necessarily superior with respect to these criteria, and there are many examples of successful standards in both tracks. For example, the Internet is largely based on standards developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) which is not an accredited standards body but is certainly among the most influential industry standards bodies over the past 40 years, and the most influential standards body with respect to Internet standards. The IETF has an interesting and somewhat unique approach towards developing consensus for its standards.
The IETF utilizes the so called IETF “humming” process for developing consensus (IETF Request for Comment 7282 “On Consensus and Humming in the IETF”) standards:
“We only require rough consensus: If the chair of a working group determines that a technical issue brought forward by an objector has been truly considered by the working group, and the working group has made an informed decision that the objection has been answered or is not enough of a technical problem to prevent moving forward, the chair can declare that there is rough consensus to go forward, the objection notwithstanding.
To reinforce that we do not vote, we have also adopted the tradition of “humming”: When, for example, we have face-to-face meetings and the chair of the working group wants to get a “sense of the room”, instead of a show of hands, sometimes the chair will ask for each side to hum on a particular question, either ‘for’ or ‘against.’”
With regards to the development of standards, the IEEE-ISTO is a Federation of Program Members, primarily focused on standards development and technology incubation activities. Many of the ISTO programs have developed industry standards which are widely used in their respective industries. For example, the Printer Working Group (PWG), an ISTO member founded in 1991, has developed many standards to facilitate improved printing technologies for producers and consumers, including: the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) Everywhere, standards supporting AirPrint and Wi-Fi Direct Print solutions, and other standards that offer state-of-the-art printing capabilities, output quality, and ease of use.
A unique benefit that the ISTO provides to its members is based upon the ISTO’s association with the IEEE. While the IEEE-ISTO is a separate legal entity from the IEEE, the ISTO can rapidly move Industry standards developed by its members, to an IEEE accredited standards path. This is typically done through the IEEE Industry Affiliate Network (IAN) and allows an expedited path to IEEE standards accreditation. Of course, once an industry standard is proposed to become an IEEE standard (through the IEEE Project Authorization Request or PAR), the formal IEEE standards process must be followed. This process is based upon the open (to wide industry participation), consensus-based IEEE standards processed, as defined in the IEEE standards operations manuals and process documents.
One recent example of moving an ISTO member industry standard to an IEEE accredited standard is the MIPI A-PHY v1.0 Standard, from the MIPI Alliance, supported by the ISTO. This is the first industry standard for a long-reach Serializer-Deserializer physical layer communications interface for automotive applications such as: advanced driver assistance systems, autonomous driving systems and various camera and display systems within automobiles.
After publishing their standard, MIPI decided to bring it to IEEE. “Our collaboration with IEEE is intended to bring the MIPI A-PHY SerDes specification to a broader ecosystem beyond MIPI’s membership, which in turn will foster greater interoperability, choice and economies of scale for the global automotive industry,” said Joel Huloux, Chairman of MIPI Alliance
The ability of the IEEE-ISTO to both help its members quickly develop industry standards to meet market needs, and then as appropriate, have these industry standards easily transition to an accredited and globally recognized IEEE standard is a powerful benefit. Leveraging IEEE’s broad industry participation and recognition, enables ISTO members to gain increased industry awareness, acceptance and potential adoption of ISTO developed industry standards on a global basis.
Industry groups seeking to develop standards should carefully consider the type of standard best suited to meet its objectives. ISTO provides industry groups the flexibility to quickly develop industry standards as an ISTO Federation Member, and then as needed, transition these standards to an IEEE accredited standard.