Why we need standards

We may not be aware of them, but we use standards every day, in all aspects of our daily lives – in communications, media, healthcare, food, transport, construction, furniture, energy…

Some standards have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years – weights and measures, for example. It is also thought that the railway Standard Gauge is derived from the grooves worn into the ground by Roman chariots and carts. Users of carriages and wagons in later centuries found that the ride was more comfortable if the wheels fitted into those grooves. Then, when the first railways adopted the available carriages and wagons, the track spacing was determined by their wheels. That spacing was thus ‘standardized’, saving all the additional cost and effort of devising a new ‘standard’.

Standards provide:

  • Safety and reliability – Adherence to standards helps ensure safety, reliability and environmental care. As a result, users perceive standardized products and services as more dependable – this in turn raises user confidence, increasing sales and the take-up of new technologies.
  • Support of government policies and legislation – Standards are frequently referenced by regulators and legislators for protecting user and business interests, and to support government policies. Standards play a central role in the European Union's policy for a Single Market.
  • Interoperability – the ability of devices to work together relies on products and services complying with standards.
  • Business benefits – standardization provides a solid foundation upon which to develop new technologies and to enhance existing practices. Specifically standards:
    • Open up market access
    • Provide economies of scale
    • Encourage innovation
    • Increase awareness of technical developments and initiatives
  • Consumer choice - standards provide the foundation for new features and options, thus contributing to the enhancement of our daily lives. Mass production based on standards provides a greater variety of accessible products to consumers.

Consider what the world would be like without standards:

  • Products might not work as expected
  • They may be of inferior quality
  • They may be incompatible with other equipment – in fact they may not even connect with them
  • In extreme cases, non-standardized products may be dangerous
  • Customers would be restricted to one manufacturer or supplier
  • Manufacturers would be obliged to invent their own individual solutions to even the simplest needs, with limited opportunity to compete with others

Society needs standards!

Standards success stories

A good example of the power of standardization is the GSM™ mobile communication technology and its successors (3G, 4G...), truly global phenomena, in which ETSI has played a leading role. Although GSM was originally envisaged as a solution just for Europe, these technologies have been deployed world-wide. As a result, travellers today can communicate and use familiar services in every corner of the world – all thanks to standardization.

ETSI can boast many other similar success stories including, for example, Smart Cards, DECT™, TETRA, Short Range Radio, medical implants, electronic signatures....