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What You Need To Know about Standards

Jan. 27, 2016
Standards. Sounds boooooring….. doesn’t it? It could be if standards were not so important.
(Image courtesy of Thinkstock).

Standards. Sounds boooooring….. doesn’t it? It could be if standards were not so important. Just think about it. Just about everything we do in electronics involves some standard. Most of the parts we use are standardized and virtually all the technologies we deploy conform to some standard. Most products and technologies do not become successful until they are standardized. So be positive and think of standards as a good, if not necessary, thing. Then realize that maybe you need to know more about standards, like I did recently. I write a lot about standards, so the more I know the better.

If you want the latest word on standards, I highly recommend the new book Modern Standardization, Case Studies at the Crossroads of Technology, Economics, and Politics. Written by an editorial colleague of mine, Ron Schneiderman, the book is published jointly by the IEEE Press and John Wiley & Sons, Inc. When I got my copy I was somewhat hesitant to dive into a tome on standards. But once I did, I was surprised how interested I got. The book is well written and easy to read. I actually read the whole thing, realizing how important a topic it covers.

The Introduction chapter sets the stage for the later chapters, giving you the big picture on standards and their importance and impact on the industry. It also discusses open standards and the impact of the Internet. This chapter also discusses consortia, those forums, SIGs, and alliances that promote, certify and support standards. Good reading .

Chapter 1 gets right to the details with a discussion of Smart Grid standards. Topics include smart meters, wireless coverage, the role of home networks, and security. Chapter 2 covers Bluetooth and ZigBee wireless standards. Here you learn of the challenge of keeping up with fast-paced technology.

Chapter 3 is a case study on heat-trace standards. You probably never heard of heat trace, but it is a wiring technology that keeps pipes from freezing or liquids from becoming too viscous. Chapter 4 deals with the TV white space, the unused VHF and UHF TV channels and their potential. It is a good discussion about the spectrum shortage and sharing issues.

As for Chapter 5, get ready to read about the knotty problems with medical standards. Lots of players and considerations, like the FDA and its view. An interesting discussion on wireless charging takes place in Chapter 6. There should have been a resolution to this technology before now, but the chapter shows the complexity of getting to one standard, if that is even possible.

Chapter 7 is all about vehicle “black boxes” or event data recorders (EDRs). Do  you want the government to mandate EDRs in  your vehicles?  Read about it here. Chapter 8 covers electronic design automation (EDA) standards. Did you even know there were EDA software standards?

Chapter 9 gets into a discussion of the hot topics of the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M). It is certainly a work in progress as the book says. Here is an overview of the various standards issues that make this technology so complex. A good summary.

Finally, the Epilogue gives a good picture of the politics of standards development and the related patent and other intellectual property (IP) issues. Something you really need to know. The book wraps up with a list of the key standards development organizations (SDOs) for your reference.

If you are looking for a new book to read, give this one a look. It gives a good summary about standards and provides a snapshot of what is going on in the electronics industry today. And it fills in those gaps in knowledge we all have about seemingly boring topics.

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