Standards organization

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A standards organization, also sometimes referred to as a standards body, a standards development organization or SDO (depending on what is being referenced), is any entity whose primary activities are developing, coordinating, promulgating, revising, amending, reissuing, interpreting, or otherwise maintaining standards that address the interests of a wide base of users outside the standards development organization.

Most standards organizations are established exclusively for the purposes outlined above. There are, however, a few notable examples of organizations who unintentionally acquired a status as the standards setter when a standard they originally developed for internal use has become widely used and recognized by the industry as the de facto industry standard. This has happened with the modem protocol developed by Hayes, the Apple's TrueType font standard and the PCL protocol used by Hewlett-Packard in the computer printers they produced.

Normally, the term standards organization does not include the parties participating in the standards development organization in the capacity of founders, benefactors, stakeholders, members or contributors, who themselves may function as the standards organizations.


Generally, any given standards organization can be classified by its role, position and the extent of its influence on the local, national, regional and global standardization arena.

By geographic designation, there are international, regional, and national standards bodies (the latter often referred to as NSBs). By technology or industry designation, there are standards developing organizations (SDOs) and also standards setting organizations (SSOs) also known as consortia. Standards organizations may be governmental, quasi-governmental or non-governmental entities. Quasi- and non-governmental standards organizations are often non-profit organizations.

International Standards Organizations

Broadly, an international standards organization develops international standards.

There are many international standards organizations, but the three international organizations having the highest international recognition are the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). All three of these have existed for more than 50 years (founded in 1947, 1906, and 1865, respectively) and they are all based in Geneva, Switzerland. They have established tens of thousands of standards covering almost every conceivable topic. Many of these are then adopted worldwide replacing various incompatible 'homegrown' standards. Many of these standards are naturally evolved from those designed in-house within an industry, or by a particular country, whilst others have been built from scratch by groups of experts who sit on various technical committees (TCs).

ISO is composed of the National Standards Bodies (NSBs), one per member economy. The IEC is composed of “National Committees”, one per member economy. In some cases, the National Committee to the IEC of an economy may be the ISO member from that country or economy.

The World Standards Cooperation (WSC) is a cooperative effort between ISO, the IEC, and the ITU.

ISO and IEC are non-treaty international organizations. Their members may be non-governmental organizations or governmental agencies. The ITU and Codex Alimentarius are two examples of treaty-based organizations (where only governments are the primary members). The members of these organizations are the government foreign ministry, and/or appropriate regulatory body (telecoms regulator, agricultural, food safety or pharmaceuticals regulator, etc).

In addition to these organizations, there exist thousands of standards organizations that set standards within some more specialized context, such as IETF, W3C, IEEE or API. Often, these international standards organizations are not based on the principle of one member per country. Rather, membership in such international organizations is more granular having either organizational/corporate or individual technical expert members from around the globe.

Regional Standards Organizations

Regional standards bodies also exist such as CEN, CENELEC, ETSI, and the IRMM in Europe, the Pacific Area Standards Congress (PASC), the Pan American Standards Commission (COPANT), the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO), the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO), and others.

Sub-regional standards organizations also exist such as the MERCOSUR Standardization Association (AMN), the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), and the ASEAN Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality (ACCSQ).

National Standards Bodies (NSBs)

In general, each country or economy has a single recognized Standards Body (NSB). Examples include ABNT, ANSI, BSI, DGN, DIN, IRAM, JISC, KATS, SABS, SAC, SCC, SIS, SNZ. An NSB is likely the sole member from that economy in ISO.

NSBs may be either public or private sector organizations, or combinations of the two. For example, the three NSBs of Canada, Mexico and the United States are respectively the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), the General Bureau of Standards (Dirección General de Normas, DGN), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). SCC is a Canadian Crown Corporation, DGN is a governmental agency within the Mexican Ministry of Economy, and ANSI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with members from both the private and public sectors. The determinates of whether an NSB for a particular economy is a public or private sector body may include the historical and traditional roles that the private sector fills in public affairs in that economy or the development stage of that economy.

Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs)

Whereas the term national standards body (NSB) is generally used to refer to the one-per-country standardization organization which is that country’s member to ISO, the term Standards Developing Organization (SDO) generally refers to the thousands of industry or sector based standards organizations which develop and publish industry specific standards. Some economies feature only an NSB with no other SDOs. Large economies like the United States and Japan feature several hundred SDOs which are coordinated by the central NSBs of each country (ANSI and JISC in this case). SDOs are differentiated from Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs) (see Trends below) in that SDOs may be accredited to develop standards using open and transparent processes.

Scope of work

The developers of technical standards are generally concerned with interface standards, which detail how products interconnect with one another, and safety standards, which establish characteristics required for a product or process to be safe for the humans, animals and environment. The subject of their work can be narrow or broad.

Overlapping or competing standards bodies tend to cooperate purposefully, by seeking to define boundaries between the scope of their work, and by operating in a hierarchical fashion in terms of national, regional and international scope; international organizations tend to have as members national organizations; and standards emerging at national level (such as BS 5750) can be adopted at regional levels (BS 5750 was adopted as EN 29000) and at international levels (BS 5750 was adopted as ISO 9000).

Standards development process

Although it can be a tedious and lengthy process, formal standard setting is essential to developing new technologies. For example, since 1865, the telecommunications industry has depended on the ITU to establish the telecommunications standards that have been adopted worldwide. The ITU has created numerous telecommunications standards including telegraph specifications, allocation of telephone numbers, interference protection, and protocols for a variety of communications technologies. The standards that are created through standards organizations lead to improved product quality, ensured interoperability of competitors’ products, and they provide a technological baseline for future research and product development. Formal standard setting through standards organizations has numerous benefits for consumers including increased innovation, multiple market participants, reduced production costs, and the efficiency effects of product interchangeability.

Standards distribution

Since the standards development process costs a great deal of money, time and resources, virtually all but a few standards are distributed on a commercial basis rather than being provided free. Giving standards away free of charge would eliminate the significant source of funding for standards developers.

Some users of standards mistakenly assume that all standards are the works in the public domain. This assumption is correct only for standards produced by the central governments whose publications are not amenable to copyright. Any standards produced by non-governmental entities remain the intellectual property of their developers and are protected, just like any other publications, by copyright laws and international treaties.


The ever-quickening pace of technology evolution is now more than ever affecting the way new standards are proposed, developed and implemented.

Since traditional, widely respected standards organizations tend to operate at a slower pace than technology evolves, many standards they develop are becoming less relevant because of the inability of their developers to keep abreast with the technological innovation. As a result, a new class of standards setters appeared on the standardization arena: the industry consortia or Standards Setting Organization (SSO). Despite having limited financial resources, some of them enjoy truly international acceptance. One example is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) whose standards for HTML, CSS, and XML are used universally throughout the world. There are also community-driven associations such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a world-wide network of volunteers who collaborate to set standards for lower level software solutions.

Some industry-driven standards development efforts don't even have a formal organizational structure. They are projects funded by large corporations. Among them are the, a Sun Microsystems-sponsored international community of volunteers working on an open-standard software that aims to compete with Microsoft Office, and two commercial groups competing fiercely with each other to develop an industry-wide standard for high-density optical storage.

International standards organizations

  • 3GPP - 3rd Generation Partnership Project - Website
  • 3GPP2 - 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 - Website
  • Accellera - Accellera Organization - Website
  • AIIM - Association for Information and Image Management - Website
  • ASTM International
  • AUTOSAR - Automotive technology - Website
  • BIPM, CGPM, and CIPM - Bureau International des Poids et Mesures and the related organizations established under the Metre Convention of 1875. Website
  • CableLabs - Cable Television Laboratories - Website
  • CISPR - International Special Committee on Radio Interference
  • DIN - Deutsches Institut fuer Normung e.V. Website (english version)
  • Ecma International - Ecma International (previously called ECMA)
  • FAI - Fédération Aéronautique Internationale - Website
  • GS1 - Global supply chain standards (identification numbers, barcodes, electronic commerce transactions, RFID) - Website
  • IBTA - Infiniband Trade Association
  • IEC - International Electrotechnical Commission - Website
  • IEEE - Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers - Website
  • IETF - Internet Engineering Task Force - Website
  • IFOAM - International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements - Website
  • ISO - International Organization for Standardization - Website
  • ITU - The International Telecommunication Union - Website
    • ITU-R - ITU Radiocommunications Sector (formerly known as CCIR)
    • ITU-T - ITU Telecommunications Sector (formerly known as CCITT)
    • ITU-D - ITU Telecom Development (formerly known as BDT)
  • IUPAC - International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry - Website
  • Liberty Alliance - Liberty Alliance - Website
  • Media Grid - Media Grid Standards Organization - Website
  • N3P - Neutral Third Party - Website
  • OASIS - Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards - Website
  • OGC - Open Geospatial Consortium - Website
  • OGF - Open Grid Forum (merger of Global Grid Forum (GGF) and Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA)) - Website
  • SAI - Social Accountability International - Website
  • SI - Système International d'Unités (International System of Units) - this is a standard, rather than a standards organization. See BIPM above (ISO and many other standards organizations ar also involved in maintaining this standard). Website
  • SIF - Schools Interoperability Framework - SIF Website
  • WMO - World Meteorological Organization
  • W3C - World Wide Web Consortium - Website
  • WSA - Website Standards Association Website

Regional standards organizations


  • ARSO - African Regional Organization for Standardization - Website
  • SADCSTAN - Southern African Development Community (SADC) Cooperation in Standardization – Website


  • COPANT - Pan American Standards Commission - Website
  • AMN - MERCOSUR Standardization Association – Website (in Portuguese)
  • CROSQ - CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality – Website

Asia Pacific

  • PASC - Pacific Area Standards Congress – Website
  • ACCSQ - ASEAN Consultative Committee for Standards and Quality - Website


Middle East

  • AIDMO - Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization – Website

National standards organizations

See also

External links

da:Standardiseringsorgan de:Normungsorganisation