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Standards Update

Standards Update

Study lists economic benefits of standardization in Europe

Standards contribute more to economic growth than do patents or licenses. That was a finding in a study of 4,000 companies in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The German Institute for Standardization (DIN) contracted several research groups to jointly carry out the inquiry. Industry-wide standards, the study concludes, present less of a hindrance to innovative projects than do other factors, such as cutbacks in R & D spending. In addition to promoting world trade, standards are seen as benefiting individual businesses that use them as strategic market instruments. Many firms reported that standards help them avoid dependence on a single supplier. The survey further found that businesses that are actively involved in standards work more frequently reap short- and long-term benefits in costs and competitive status than those that do not participate. Cited as a major motivation for participation: a perceived edge over other companies in acquiring insider knowledge. Main reasons given for not helping in drafting standards are fears of high costs in money and time. DIN officials welcome further research on the macro- and microeconomic effects of standards outside Central Europe. A summary of the report is on the Internet at ftp://ftp.din.de/pub/ executive_summary_en.pdf.

German, American agencies agree to harmonize reference materials

Methods for setting international standards for telecommunications will undergo major revisions during the next four years. The work program emerged from an eight-day meeting of the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly in Montreal. Chief aim: to shrink delivery time of guidelines needed to meet rapidly changing needs of the industry and its markets. Under the plan the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), based in Geneva, would become the one-stop shop for such global standards. Fourteen study groups will tackle a variety of objectives. Included is the creation of "virtual" meetings through electronics for fast-track approvals of technical standards. For the first time ITU will specify deadlines. It's hoped approvals can be accomplished in as few as two months from the time texts of proposals have "matured." One study group will seek ways to encourage more participation by developing countries in standardization activities involving telecommunications. E-mail Fabio Bigi at [email protected] .

Center established for analyzing impact of global guidelines

As more and more engineering schools are dropping standards as a required subject, one college is trying to reverse the trend. Catholic University in Washington, DC, has set up the Center for Global Standards Analysis. Don Purcell, the center's president, hopes to provide a neutral think tank that concentrates on international standardization issues. Research projects are underway in various aspects of standards development, including antitrust and competition, technical barriers to trade, national standard policies, liabilities in health and safety standards, the environment, and due process. Already the center has launched a graduate course on strategic standardization. Purcell also has plans to offer the center's courses online. E-mail him at [email protected] .

Designers can track key changes in U.S. military specifications

Engineers designing products for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) often must keep abreast of a profusion of fast-changing military standards. The DOD has set up a new system that automatically notifies registered users by e-mail the same day a change is made to any standardization document of interest to them. Users then log into their personal portals at the Pentagon's ASSIST-Online site. The portal contains links to new documents, notices, amendments, and other material updated over the previous 14 days relating to standards the user specifically wants to watch. Within each portal, the user can scroll through lists of related documents, access revision histories, and view documents online. To register for the free service go to http://astimage.daps.dla.mil/online/

Walter Wingo, Standards Editor

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