We communicate in many ways. Our gestures and expressions convey messages and signals. But without a doubt, our primary form of communication is language. We use it to express our opinions, thoughts, ideas, and reactions. But we often don’t think about technical standards as “the world’s common language,” which is the theme of World Standards Day on 14 October.
When you consider it, though, the more the concept of “standards as language” makes sense. Standards are all about interoperability, and that means working together. To make technology interact requires some means of communication and connection. That’s what standards offer, and IEEE continues to be at the forefront of that activity for more than 120 years.
Many of IEEE’s well-known standards are all about communication. You can go back to the 1960s to find IEEE 297, which offers recommendations for speech quality measurements (what are known as the “Harvard sentences”). And that tradition has grown over the years.
Communications are the bedrock that allow networks to interact, and the applications we use every day take advantage of those networks to connect us both one-on-one and worldwide. IEEE 802.3 standardizes wired communication; IEEE 802.11 and IEEE 802.15 are the basis for our wireless communication. That means everyone in the world uses IEEE standards to connect their laptops, their servers, their mobile phones, and their laptops with one another.
Communication also exists among other types of devices. IEEE’s power standards set the means for transmission and distribution of electricity, and how power systems communicate and share information. The standards IEEE has created to support the smart grid have moved power technology into a new era of connected communication. And a series of standards, IEEE’s 11073, established the means for medical devices to share information with central servers, hospitals, and doctors.
IEEE even has standards that are languages in and of themselves. Its design automation standards provide hardware design languages to build the chips and boards that drive today’s information and communications technology-based world, including IEEE 1800 and IEEE 1076. IEEE’s POSIX (portable operating system interface) standards define the tools and utilities used to create the UNIX operating system.
And as communications and language development move into the future, IEEE is working to match them with standards for new and exciting technologies. IEEE P1589 is an ongoing project that is developing a learning experience model for augmented reality. IEEE 2030.5 offers a message exchange protocol to connect smart vehicles to homes and smart objects within the home. And the IEEE P1907.1 project is looking at the quality of experience for real-time mobile video communications.
It’s hard to imagine a world without standards. They are woven into the foundation of our technological lives, often in such a seamless way that we don’t even realize we’re using them every day. So on World Standards Day, we salute the language of standards, and the gifts that technological fluency gives us.
For more information about IEEE’s standards and the communication they build, watch this video on the global impact of standards.
Celebrate World Standards Day 2015 by letting us know the ways you think IEEE helps to advance the language of standards and enables connections and communications.
Mary Lynne Nielsen is the global operations and outreach program director for IEEE Standards Association, in Piscataway, N.J.