What's a Standard?
There are lots of things called "standards" but they're
not at all alike. There are official standards sanctioned by
an accredited standards body and then there are de facto "standards" (such
as Microsoft Windows) and ad hoc "standards" (widely
used methods or procedures adopted by mutual agreement).
This discussion will look only at official standards. Official
cover two basic areas: technology and use (or applications).
- Technology Standards
- Application Standards
Technology standards can be thought of as "specifications" because
they deal with the nuts-and-bolts of how things work.
In RFID, technical specifications cover issues such
as frequency, data transfer and communications protocols.
They do not cover
how the technology is used, only how it works.
Nomenclature is a bit dicey here since "technical specification" has
different meanings in different areas of the world.
For example, a Technical Specification in CEN is a
grade, less permanent
deliverable likely to be revised. Note the caveat on
most products that the manufacturer can change the
specification at any time.
A standard is intended to be stable and products shall
conform to the requirements.
Data structuring (protocols and/or syntax) standards
are considered generic and, while they may be independent
a specific technology,
are considered subsets of technical standards. An example
of this type of standard is Data Identifiers (DIs)
that can be
employed in virtually any AIDC technology.
Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN) is another example
of a high-level application standard
that is completely
independent of a technical specification because
be applied regardless of whether bar code, RFID or
characters are used to represent it.
Application standards, on the other hand, cover how
a technology is used and not how it works.
Application standards cover data content, structure
and syntax. They typically point to a technical
specification to and
may define a subset of it to limit how a specific
be used to carry or represent the data. Additional
such as placement, durability and so forth is also
Who Does What?
The early development work on technical
standards is typically done by committees or working groups
national or regional
standards organizations. Technical standards
can also be developed by broadly-based organizations
These documents, if there is a market demand
for them, can be submitted to the appropriate international
as an international standard work item.
Individual companies or organizations may also
develop draft documents for consideration by
international standards bodies. For example,
standards being developed
by Sun Mircrosystems
would be ad hoc standards with no formal status
are accepted by ANSI or ISO.
Application standards are often developed by
user organization such as automotive, electronics
consumer goods trade
associations. These may or may not be submitted
for national or international
standardization. Many major industry groups,
such as the Electronics Industries Association
the European steel
industry are also accredited standards developers
within their respective regions. Standards developed
organizations often reach national or regional
status. In cases where there
is an international standards committee working
on behalf of
an industry these documents can be submitted
to the International Organization for Standardization
Organizing Standards Organizations
Major standards organizations are national, regional
National standards apply only to the country
in which they are adopted (although they
may be adopted
any organization or even country). National
standards bodies may be government-sponsored,
as they are
in many parts of
the world, or independent.
In the U.S., for example, there are two
major standards-setting organizations: the American
Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute
of Standards and
formerly the Bureau of Weights and Measures.
ANSI is a voluntary organization. NIST is
a non-regulatory government agency.
Standards issued by ANSI (www.ansi.org) and
standards. There is no force of law mandating
adoption by anyone and no penalties for not
adopting them (other
than customer pressure).
International standards are generally applicable
everywhere. Local regulations in some areas,
however, may supersede
AIDC is covered by two major standards bodies:
the International Organization for Standards
Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). ISO and
IEC have established a Joint Technical
Committee (JTC-1) to address technology standards,
including those for AIDC. Standards that
are developed by JTC-1
are subsequently published as joint ISO/IEC
Within JTC-1, Subcommittee 31, Work Group
4 (JTC-1 SC31/WG4) deals with RFID. There
of other ISO committees
that address RFID such as Technical Committee
104 (TC104) which has issued a standard for
Joint Working Group of ISO TC122 and TC104
that is working on a set of generic application
many other committees and working groups
involved with RFID. These
just two examples.
ISO standards are also voluntary although,
as with all voluntary standards, marketplace
Creating Order from Chaos
There are two basic methods of developing
The majority of standards today are developed
using the consensus process. In this method,
or materially affected by the standard
under development may comment.
At a national level, this means that ANSI
committee meetings are open to all interested
In some instances,
because of logistical issues, meetings
may not be convenient for
all interested parties but document drafts
are made available and
comments must be reviewed periodically.
For ISO, IEC and JTC-1 committees, only
representatives of national standards bodies
(or their designees)
However, comments are solicited on the
national level prior to any international
Within a typical development cycle there
will be several official public reviews
It's important to note that unanimity is
not required for the approval of a standard.
the document must be addressed but objections
do not necessarily have to be resolved.
An honest effort to
resolve the issue
must be made but it is often not possible
the objection. Thus, a consensus (or majority)
view to adopt
or reject a
standard prevails. Typically, there will
be a set point for action,
for example, greater than 50 percent of
The other method, used by CEN for some
of its standards development, is for a
standards to be tasked
with developing a document. This group
may not be expert on the topic and will
a process is typically closed to outside
comment until an official review is conducted.
As is evident by the above synopsis, understanding
the players and processes for developing
standards is not
you intend to become directly involved
in standards development, the important
- not everything called a standard is a
- technology standards define how a technology
- application standards address how technology
If you do want to get directly involved
in the standards development process,
the trade association
for your industry to see if they have
an official representative on the appropriate
committee. This will help
you get up to speed on current activities.
You can also contact AIM or your local
EAN.UCC office for more information.
A key service
that AIM is developing
our global members with comprehensive
information about the AIDC Standards "landscape." Chapters
and their members will get a summary
version of this information
ChainLink Research, Inc.