From manufacturing and technology to the medical industry, there are standards that organizations and members are required to follow. But who establishes them? The answer is standards associations. These organizations develop, publish and enforce voluntary technical standards that impact our daily lives.
But what does that role look like in practice, and what are the major players in the industry today?
Standards associations are non-governmental organizations that set technical standards for product specifications, processes or services to ensure compatibility across companies within the same industry.
These standards are usually voluntary, but they can be compulsory if governments impose them. They can also be voluntary or mandatory for use by members only, which is often why organizations join the association in the first place.
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While standards associations may be less well known than their community-based counterparts, they still have a major impact on our daily lives and have influenced many of the technologies we still use today.
While the popularity of MP3 players may have waned, the file type that allows those players to work is still around – and you can thank a standards association for it. Established in 1988, the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) was formed “after the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) called for standards in audio encoding.”
With the rise of the internet, the need to be able to securely, efficiently and cheaply relay audio files arose. Users had a solution thanks to the standardization of the technologies and file formats behind MP3 audio files.
When people started using mobile phones with SMS messaging capabilities, they needed a way to communicate quickly and easily over short distances — so SMS messaging was born (also known as texting).
SMS messages work thanks to standards implemented by GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), which specifies how mobile phone handsets should be built and used and how they should communicate with one another.
As the world continues to become more interconnected, establishing rules and regulations that can be adopted along industry lines instead of county lines is increasingly essential. As such, many of the most prominent standards associations today have global implications. Some examples include:
The world of standards is vast and complicated. However, it highlights the fundamental role and influence associations have on a global scale. From influencing technical specifications of the products we use on a daily basis to the processes for entire industries, the role of standards associations cannot be understated.
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Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.
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