MOTOR Magazine

A MOTOR Magazine Newsletter
September 5, 2017

Contributed by Bob Chabot
International Standards Are Silent Game Changers

Standards harness and focus how technology is implemented

Tools, equipment and technology are constantly evolving, sometimes as the result of innovation, at others due to new invention outright. For instance, in 2017, an automobile industry without computers, the Internet or the cloud is old news. Advances continue to accelerate and grow momentum with exciting developments inbound. Examples include augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, intelligent transportation systems and others.

A Lack of Congruent Standards Can be Catastrophic
History has shown us this repeatedly. For instance, do you remember when NASA lost a $125 million Mars Orbiter that exploded soon after launch in 1999? The disaster was the result of the NASA team using standardized metric units of measurement, while its partner, Lockheed Martin, used imperial units. In our ever more connected world, a lack of any common standards whatsoever is also a recipe for disaster.

On the other hand, especially for those of us who rely on the tools and equipment of the future to be there when needed, do you sometimes wonder how long, or if, we can keep this up, let alone how we can manage it all when technology can seemingly dog pile us? How orderly we can harness, manage and implement change boils down to structure and organization. To that end, we can thank standards, and increasingly, international standards as globalization ramps up.

As in the past, current and emerging developments will impact the tool and equipment industry. Additive manufacturing (aka 3-D printing), telematics, connectivity, advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving are changing our work world today. Expect the future products we use to service and repair vehicles to embrace emerging technologies, especially those that are connected.

Technology allows us to push past limitations. It’s hard to imagine anything that we cannot achieve if we’re given enough time. With technology we can go further and higher. It helps us transform our work and home lives. We can make more with less. It is a powerful enabler for comfort, safety, connection and more. It’s as close as we get to real-life magic.

But if we are to be ready for what is to come, we must first understand how we got here, acknowledge the silent game changers that are paving the way forward and embrace changes in servicing and tooling through training that will fuel our sustainability.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has established a strong foothold in vehicles, one that is poised to ramp up dramatically in the next decade. By 2020, consultancy Gartner estimates that nearly 250 million cars will be connected to the Internet, and PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts that the connected car market will be worth US $149 billion by that year. Consequently, the IoT is influencing how automakers are building their vehicles and how they think of the future of their products. It also promises to bring to the automotive industry changes that can’t even be predicted yet. (Image — ISO/TC 204)

An Orderly Changing of the Guard
The advent of international standards has played an unexpected, but integral part through the high-tech boom. They provide a solid foundation upon which successful implementation is based. Without them, it would have taken us much longer to get to where we are today.

For instance, consider two of the most basic benefits of standardization: compatibility and interoperability. These are what allow credit cards to be read by any machine around the world, computer files to be understood by different programs and devices to connect with other devices. Without those cornerstones, new technologies would not work with existing technologies, the Internet of Things would not be possible and the adoption of transportation grid-based innovations (such as electric vehicles or automated driving) would be much more complex.

History has shown us that humans have been relying on standard measurements, processes and technology in general, since ancient times. But their use was localized before gradually spreading to regions and nations in scope.

When the International Standards Organization (ISO) was established nearly 70 years ago, something unique happened. For the first time, standards in several technical fields — from screws to aircraft — were being consistently developed with the best expertise the world had to offer. In addition, they were being adopted on a global scale, where their benefits were multiplied exponentially and it became possible to pool together research, talent and capacity from all corners of the world.

International standards are playing a huge role in enabling the Internet of Things within the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) domain. For instance, the ISO Intelligent Transportation System technical committee (ISO/TC 204) laid the groundwork that enabled the ability to listen to satellite radio, view streaming video, display and use smartphone apps, navigate roadways, request roadside assistance, unlock doors remotely, and find open parking spaces — early first steps in the ITS. Standards will continue to be integral in meeting the technological challenges that lie ahead in broadening the role of ITS technologies, with a focus on safe mobility. (Image — ISO/TC 204)

International Standards Reflect the Technology of Their Times
From its beginning, the ISO did not work in a vacuum. It was set up as a network of national standards bodies and has always worked closely with international organizations and other key stakeholders. For example, its partnership with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) gave birth to one of the largest and most prolific committees for technology standards, namely the Information Technology Standard, ISO/IEC JTC 1.

For the most part, the earliest ISO committees were predominantly technology-related. Because these standards made it easier to specialize on parts and applications, manufacturers did not have to build their entire product from scratch. A vehicle producer, for instance, could outsource its tires, thereby reducing costs and streamlining investments. From nuts and bolts, to cars and trucks, international standards have always reflected the technology of their times, supported the development of mass production, provided economies of scale and adapted over time.

The collaborative knowledge found in standards and open systems has diversified and democratized innovation and technological change. This is also good news for consumers, for whom more competition means lower costs. In addition, standards also serve regulators, who can reduce any regulatory overreach and the strain on their resources by relying on international industry standards.

Consider the integration of smartphones and automobiles as an example. Ready-made globally standardized operating systems such as Android allowed phone manufacturers to focus their resources on hardware. When OS developers released application program interfaces (API) — a common shared language that everyone can use — OS developers no longer need to think which tools we may want on our device. Anyone can create a compatible software application for us to download, be it a flashlight, in-car GPS, automotive diagnostic tool app and who knows what in the years ahead.

To create the innovations of today and tomorrow we have to work together, but first we need to understand each other. To exchange knowledge, to make things compatible, ISO standards are the solid base, the common language that humanity can rely on. (Video — International Standards Organization)

International Standards Can Fuel Innovation and Push Limits
The idea of a shared language is at the heart of standardization, so much so that today there are hundreds of ISO standards dedicated to terminology, vocabulary and unified measurements. This might not sound very revolutionary, but can you imagine international collaboration without such standards?

International standards allow plenty of scope for originality, while enabling reproducibility, maintaining quality and ensuring safety. Consider the controversy and fear surrounding nanotechnology, which first became popular in the 1980s. The creation of standards between then and now by the ISO Nanotechnologies Technical Committee, ISO/TC 229, went a long way toward allaying some of these doubts and bolstering trust amongst the public and investors, by setting parameters to guide safety and test quality.

“By providing clarity and dispelling concerns, international standards can push technology deeper into the market by fostering safety, reliability and acceptance,” explained ISO spokesperson Jörg Lenz, Chair of the ISO Additive Manufacturing technical committee (ISO/TC 261). “But if standards development is left too late, we risk the emergence of competing parallel systems, added complexity and unnecessary waste. Of course, all standards need to maintain a level of flexibility, and adapt as the technology evolves, to avoid hindering the innovation process.”

By offering the foundation and added layer of confidence that help our greatest minds probe the limits of innovation and science, standards have been the silent game changers of this tech revolution. Going forward, expect innovators to continue molding and changing our world at an accelerated pace. International standards have an invaluable role to play as they raise the important questions around safety, sustainability, environmental impact and even human cost. By encouraging healthy competition and bringing down costs, standards will ensure that technology remains accessible, so that a significant part of humanity is not left behind.

“We’re living in the Age of Accelerations,” Thomas Friedman wrote in his book, Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. He sees the world at a turning point: “Technology, globalization and other forces are rapidly reshaping our institutions — we all need to keep up or risk getting left behind. Given the rapid changes in today’s ever-interconnected world and the disruptions they can cause, international standards are more important than ever, for they provide vital confidence to buyers and sellers along the value chain that inputs are compatible and safe.”

He espouses the “Made in the World” concept. “Today, companies divide their operations across the world, from the design of the product and manufacturing of components to assembly and marketing, creating international production chains. More and more products are ‘Made in the World,’ rather than ‘Made in the USA’ or ‘Made in China.’"

“It’s a natural consequence of globalization connecting economies and cultures worldwide. Case-in-point: An automobile sold in the United States today, can be designed in France, with parts from Mexico, Japan and Austria. For that matter, the tools and equipment used to service and repair vehicles have been globalized too.”

[Editor's note: Visit for the latest diagnostic and service insights.]

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