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Standards are all around us

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Standards are all around us

Whether at work or at play, standards are all around us: in our homes, in our workplaces and even on the routes in between. For example, most of the electrical appliances in our homes conform to one European standard (EN) or another, as do the tiles or other types of flooring you walk on and the lock which secures your front door. At the office, everything from your desktop computer and photocopier to the chair you sit on or the sprinkler system above your head is covered by European standards.

Imagine not being able to withdraw money from an ATM (automated telling machine) because your bank card is too big to fit in the slot; imagine batteries that will not fit any of your electrical equipment; stores without barcodes to quantify and price stocks of goods; imagine Internet sites without standardized domain names.

Standards keep us safe and ensure that the quality of the products we use is high. They also enhance the competitiveness of European industry by facilitating innovation and laying down common requirements upon which a particular product market can be built and a level playing field can be ensured.

For example, the world-leading GSM standard, which was developed in Europe but is used by over 7 billion phone subscribers around the world, placed the EU’s mobile phone manufacturers and content creators in pole position in this massive global market. The virtuous cycle of innovation and competition it generated also served consumers by providing them with top-quality products and services and constantly falling prices.

Standards are not only good for consumers and industry, but they can also be beneficial to the environment. For example, the recent standards for a universal phone charger, in addition to the convenience it will afford millions of mobile phone users by allowing them to use their charger on any phone, will cut waste – and cost – by enabling manufacturers to sell devices and chargers separately.

On this World Standards Day, celebrated each year on 14 October,  it is good to keep in mind that standards are present in almost every aspect of our daily lives and that they contribute, often discretely, to the smooth running of our society.