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The Untold Truth About Standards and Specifications

Specifications and standards are the essential language of industry. Imagine a world in which they did not exist — purchasing choices would be based more on emotional criteria than on data- driven criteria, systems developments would be left up to the systems supplier and the customer would have no way to understand what he was buying or getting upon delivery. It would largely be chaos. Now imagine a world in which specifications and standards exist, but the industry and products to which they apply were not compliant and the consumer wasn’t aware. The very same chaos would reign.

In the energy storage market, the product specifications and standards by which products are developed or characterized are essential to establish the integrity of the purchasing and integration process. Suppliers and developers bear the burden of full and honest disclosure regarding performance specifications and compliance with standards, but it seems hard to come by in our industry.

First, there is a lack of standardization. The standards are often adopted as de-facto, based on whatever someone did when he got there first, such as setting the common cell diameter of 60 millimeters. Alternatively, standards may be nonexistent, leaving it up to the industry players to decide how to best to serve customer needs. There is a small and growing number of standards built and defined to a widening array of standards topics, but the collection is small, the adherence is scant and the awareness in the industry is low.

Product specifications can be even less developed. They are typically created by the suppliers of the products. Often these specifications are not related to the true performance of the product, which would otherwise enable a potential customer to do a valid comparison and make an informed buying decision. The customer is left to validate the specification on his own. And when the specification is developed in the absence of standards defining how to measure and report performance, then the buyers are subjected to whatever someone wants to tell them about the performance of the product, with no method of understanding its true capability.

Prevalent examples of this are the reports from research and academia highlighting “breakthrough” research technologies and results. For example, energy density improvements are quoted, but no indication is given as to how the value was measured or derived. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the reporting is done to the advantage of the researcher, and often, this is absolutely the case. Reporting energy density of raw materials or technology in a test tube (which inflates the significance of the result when compared to the same material or technology in a full cell) and failing to define how the measurements were conducted is just as misleading as intentionally reporting false information. It is left to the unwary consumer to try to determine what is being reported and how to compare it to a known benchmark.

This is a call to action for customers, potential customers, suppliers and other technologists to work together to create standard methods for developing technology and specification standards that enable a valid comparison so performance differences are understood. Anything less leaves consumer at a serious disadvantage, and those providers of technology or products who stretch the limits of integrity in reporting specifications are hurting entire industries.

55 comments on “The Untold Truth About Standards and Specifications

  1. Vishal Prajapati
    January 23, 2015

    You have put the very important point for neccessity of Standards. It is absolute neccessity of any technology. As we can see there are very less number of standards in the LED Lighting right now. Which means anything and everything is being pushed in the market and people are buying them. There are big companies which are trying to set some standards but others may not follow it.

     

    But often times, the standards are being made only after some adequate penetration of technology in the market. The urgency of the standard is depend upon how big is the market in terms of money.

  2. samicksha
    January 23, 2015

    Yes for sure standard is must to keep technology or product upto expectable and acceptable note, but again we do have some technology like IOT which does not have any rigid or defined set of policy or standard. Please let me know if we have.

  3. geek
    January 25, 2015

    “As we can see there are very less number of standards in the LED Lighting right now. Which means anything and everything is being pushed in the market and people are buying them.”

    @Vishal: I think it depends on the situation. Sometimes the lack of standards can actually be a good sign as it can spur creativity and trigger innovation. In case of LED lighting, the lack of standards has resulted in innovation and generating many new adaptations that standards may have prevented.

  4. geek
    January 25, 2015

     

    “but again we do have some technology like IOT which does not have any rigid or defined set of policy or standard. Please let me know if we have.”

    @Samicksha: IoT doesn't have any concrete standards for now but there's work being done to ensure the standards are developed. IoT is the next big thing for the future and without a standards body there's going to be a big hurdle in the innovation process. I expect to see the standards being developed by an individual company or by an industrial body very soon.

  5. goafrit2
    January 25, 2015

    >> Specifications and standards are the essential language of industry. 

    Great.  But we must not just be fixated that complying with today's standards will elevate development in technology. The goal will be to continue to tighten and push the standards to be higher. I took time to look at the evolution of some standards in the automotive industry. Over time, we have seen them improved. In the software industry, they think going outside the standards (i.e.”celebrated hacking”) mentality could unlock better things.

  6. samicksha
    January 26, 2015

    I would not disagree with fact that specifications are needed to avoid errors due to lack of compatibility or interoperability issues.

  7. ue2014
    January 29, 2015

    Standards and Specifications should be there in any Industry. They will work as guideines and quality measure for the Industry and creates a decipline in Industry in whatever the production or innovation done.

  8. ue2014
    January 29, 2015

    >>>>>>>>>>  In the software industry, they think going outside the standards (i.e.”celebrated hacking”) mentality could unlock better things. >>>>>>>> 

    Its a fact that I also agree. You need to do things out of the way to come out with new things. Standards and Specifications will keep even those out of the box things as well in a acceptable quality which will have a definiete impact on final output. 

  9. Sachin
    January 29, 2015

    Its a fact that I also agree. You need to do things out of the way to come out with new things. Standards and Specifications will keep even those out of the box things as well in a acceptable quality which will have a definiete impact on final output. 


    @ue2014: It sure will have a definite impact on final output, however the real question is how far can you go away from the lines that have been drawn by the said standards? I'm speaking of hardware and software as a collection. There isn't much wriggling space available since making new standards would require huge amount of influx of money into research and development, and even if that isn't the case, introducing a new standard would require thoughtful usage of marketability on an area.

  10. Sachin
    January 29, 2015

    Standards and Specifications should be there in any Industry. They will work as guideines and quality measure for the Industry and creates a decipline in Industry in whatever the production or innovation done.


    Basically standards and specifications can do two things: it can set disciplines for development, and it can also ruin markets. Depending upon what your company wants to do, you should follow these disciplines accordingly.

  11. Sachin
    January 29, 2015

    I would not disagree with fact that specifications are needed to avoid errors due to lack of compatibility or interoperability issues. 


    @samicksha: You are right. Standards are a set of guidelines using which we have to delevop a product, and Specifications are the guidelines using which we have to market-ready the product. Both are needed. 

  12. Sachin
    January 29, 2015

    Great.  But we must not just be fixated that complying with today's standards will elevate development in technology. The goal will be to continue to tighten and push the standards to be higher.


    @goafrit2: Like I said, standards can be either good or bad. Development along only one line of standard without keeping other options open may lead to wastage of resources. Like you said about automotive industries adopting newer and updated standards. The ones who create new standards are cars having price tags of over one million dollars, and what they make creates all new standardized competition.

  13. Sachin
    January 29, 2015

    @tzubair: Indeed. IOT has some confusing standards. Here are some of the big standardization agencies that confuse things up. 

    1. AllSeen Alliance

    2. Open Interconnect Consortium

    3. Thread Group

    4. Industrial Internet Consortium

    5. IEEE P2413

  14. Sachin
    January 29, 2015

    @tzubair: I agree as well. Lack of standardization creates many many opportunities. While standardizations may appear to be “forced” on product developments, developers should really learn to look out for other immediate options for standardizations in the easiest way possible.

  15. samicksha
    January 29, 2015

    One of the noticeable fact is that Standards are updated frequently to keep pace with changing technology, but do all comapnies or enterprise comply the updated standards and specifications.

  16. ue2014
    January 29, 2015

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>  however the real question is how far can you go away from the lines that have been drawn by the said standards? >>>>>>>> There isn't much wriggling space available since making new standards would require huge amount of influx of money into research and development, and even if that isn't the case, introducing a new standard would require thoughtful usage of marketability on an area. >>>>>>>>>>>

    There is a point in what you so too. But standards are required for any industry. How far can we go away from standards – well, standards too get udated time to time and it is required. 

  17. Vishal Prajapati
    January 30, 2015

    Samicksha, improving and updating standard will automatically in a way force companies to comply to new standards to make and market their products to support the newest available standards. They can boast of their technical capabilities by upgrading to new standards. So, for good companies it is very likely to happen to adapt to new standards.

  18. Vishal Prajapati
    January 30, 2015

    I don't think the standard will hamper the creativity. You  have standard for specific quality and efficience but that doesn't mean you can not create the creative and artistic pieces of technology.

     

    And if some creative piece of engineering is not efficient enough, it is not good enough to be commercialized. Enginnering is after all an art of making world batter.

  19. nasimson
    January 30, 2015

    > Basically standards and specifications can do two things: it can
    > set disciplines for development, and it can also ruin markets.

    @Sachin:

    Ruin markets? How? Which standards have ruined markets?

  20. PCR
    January 30, 2015

    True Vishal I also agree with you on this, sometimes standards are define by the manufactures itself, it may be depend on their products. So the universal standards are needed for the better future. 

  21. PCR
    January 30, 2015

    Tzubair, you may be right thou always there is too side of the coin aren't it?

  22. geek
    January 30, 2015

    “While standardizations may appear to be “forced” on product developments, developers should really learn to look out for other immediate options for standardizations in the easiest way possible”

    @SachinEE: I think, if left alone, developers won't pay a lot to standards because there's no incentive. It's the responsibility of the project manager to first use a development methodology and then adopt relevant standards to be used in the products.

  23. geek
    January 30, 2015

    “And if some creative piece of engineering is not efficient enough, it is not good enough to be commercialized. Enginnering is after all an art of making world batter.”

    @Vishal: I think the efficiency part has to come later when the product is mature. You need sufficient creativity at the start and the freedom to operate so that innovation can take place. Restricting it with standards and the need for efficiency at the very beginning doesn't take the process too far.

  24. PCR
    January 30, 2015

    “They will work as guidelines”
    Exactly ue2014, but the thing is feasibility or the dependability of the standards and specification setters' .

  25. PCR
    January 30, 2015

    “They will work as guidelines”
    Exactly ue2014, but the thing is feasibility or the dependability of the standards and specification setters' .

  26. PCR
    January 30, 2015

    Ue2014 I believe that thinking out of the box is only suitable at the stage of development of the products, not at the all time. 

  27. PCR
    January 30, 2015

    ” it can set disciplines for development, and it can also ruin markets. “
    True SachinEE, I do agree. When it comes to define the specification and the standers collaborative effort by the market leaders and the government body will lead to have a more disciplines.

  28. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @Ranasinghe: Why do you feel that disciplines can ruin the market ? Any specific experience related to it ?

  29. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @Ranasinghe : Why not ? After developing there are so many other factors involved to make it a profitable product. For that you need to be innovative. Development process is just 1 factor of it. 

  30. chirshadblog
    January 31, 2015

    @dassa.an: Exactly, its just one entity. There are many to follow to make it to the market and thereafter to go ahead and compete with others.

  31. yalanand
    January 31, 2015

    ” it can set disciplines for development, and it can also ruin markets. “
    True SachinEE, I do agree. When it comes to define the specification and the standers collaborative effort by the market leaders and the government body will lead to have a more disciplines.


    I really see what SachinEE tells about how standards can also have an adverse effect on the market. True indeed. More standardization means more usage of already known knowledge without implementing other standards.

  32. yalanand
    January 31, 2015

    @Ranasinghe: Why do you feel that disciplines can ruin the market ? Any specific experience related to it ?


    @dassa.an: Well for starters, standards generally mean you are milking the known technology into the market of your choice because you know you have a decent stronghold there, but you never take risks that also means you never understand the market fully and whether the market is ready to see some new technology running on different standard tags.

  33. chirshadblog
    January 31, 2015

    Well I feel that its because when you tighten so many areas, there are no space for you to make adjustments as and when it requires. You cannot follow the book all the time when you are thrown into the deep sea. You have to be smart in some ways

  34. yalanand
    January 31, 2015

    Ue2014 I believe that thinking out of the box is only suitable at the stage of development of the products, not at the all time. 


    @ranasinghe: Not just at the stage of producing, the blueprint for success using a standard comes from the abode of R&D sections of every organisation. If the companies invest in R&D (for finding out new standards) then a greater view of things can be had.

  35. yalanand
    January 31, 2015

    Well I feel that its because when you tighten so many areas, there are no space for you to make adjustments as and when it requires. You cannot follow the book all the time when you are thrown into the deep sea. You have to be smart in some ways.


    How does a company know when its time to make a new standard? When the market wants it, but how would a market come to know that it is ready? Analysts would know when a said standard is drawing its halt in the current market. That is the time for developers to rack their brains and get going developing a newer standard of approach.

  36. yalanand
    January 31, 2015

    @SachinEE: I think, if left alone, developers won't pay a lot to standards because there's no incentive. It's the responsibility of the project manager to first use a development methodology and then adopt relevant standards to be used in the products.


    For tacking standards, cost of development may surpass every other cost parameter in the beginning, and even management of a company may frown realizing they would have to draw lines for investing in a totally blind direction with no surety of output, but then again, standards are needed. 

  37. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @yalanand: Well they have to forecast things and figure it out. If not they have to hire an outside consultant to do the job for them. 

  38. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @yalanand: Exactly and as I said earlier production is just one factor

  39. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @chris: Yes you do have a good point. Anyway its not that easy to do. You have to be very skillful isn't it ? 

  40. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @yalanand: Well isn't it a positive sign ? 

  41. dassa.an
    January 31, 2015

    @yalanand: Yes its good to have standards but you have to make use of it. If not they will have no value at all. 

  42. chirshadblog
    January 31, 2015

    @dassa.an: Yes you have to put those standards into practice at every possible opportunity. There will be certain pitfalls but still its something which will get things in order 

  43. chirshadblog
    January 31, 2015

    @dassa.an: Not easy and agreed but still there are people who succeed by doing the change and being responsible for the change itself. 

  44. goafrit2
    February 1, 2015

    >>  IoT is the next big thing for the future and without a standards body there's going to be a big hurdle in the innovation process

    Most times when a product is very cheap, having standards may not be a huge urgency. These things cost cents and some may not care that we need a standard.

  45. goafrit2
    February 1, 2015

    >> I would not disagree with fact that specifications are needed to avoid errors due to lack of compatibility or interoperability issues. 

    Every technology sector needs standards. However, if these products are not standardized and they cost $20, not many people will bother. It is a different game when it is automotive or something that costs lots of money. In this one, it is not a big deal

  46. goafrit2
    February 1, 2015

    >> For tacking standards, cost of development may surpass every other cost parameter in the beginning,

    Engineering lives on standards but now that we are in the era where software is redesigning all aspects of engineering, we wil have more challenges. Imagine if we have a standard that irrespective of new software, once you know one, youc an know the others. Just as we have with driving cars – drive one car, you can drive others. That is s standard for engineering but is that necessary?

  47. fasmicro
    February 1, 2015

    Standards and Specifications should be there in any Industry. They will work as guideines and quality measure for the Industry and creates a decipline in Industry in whatever the production or innovation done.

    But always remember that standards cannot be blindfolded. You can have standards to create monopoly. The key is making sure the standards are fair and transparent. 

  48. fasmicro
    February 1, 2015

    Standards and Specifications will keep even those out of the box things as well in a acceptable quality which will have a definiete impact on final output. 

    You are correct, if we just believe that standards are there, the hacker's movement where people break hardware in order to innovate will not happen. It happens all the time as people continue to improve things and products. Standards are good but the ability to tinker must not be lost

  49. fasmicro
    February 1, 2015

    Development along only one line of standard without keeping other options open may lead to wastage of resources.

    If you follow standards that way, you cannot INNOVATE. Innovation comes from pushing the limits and that could mean standards.  You need to develop new products and services and having a means of becoming a leader will mean changing the standards.

  50. Davidled
    February 1, 2015

    There are a few CRI metric codes from which many LED manufacture are producting LED with CRI value. Some documentation related to verification of LED product such as IES LM-79, LM-80 and TM-21, are available. In addition to the U.S. Department of Energy's CALiPER program, Design Lights Consirtium and Energy Star Qualified LED lighting request that LED product meet performance standard.

  51. nasimson
    February 2, 2015

    @fasmicro: Companies like Google invent, influence and garner support for their standards pushing the limits of innovation. On the other hand there are once-industry-leaders like Xerox like that reap profits from decade old patents that became defacto industry standards.

  52. nasimson
    February 2, 2015

    @goafrit: > Most times when a product is very cheap, having > standards may not be a huge urgency. These things > cost cents and some may not care that we need a standard. Even with cheap IoT or M2M devices interoperability is a MUST and thus standards are important.

  53. fasmicro
    February 2, 2015

    >> There are a few CRI metric codes from which many LED manufacture are producting LED with CRI value.

    The main challenge is that the country that ships most of these products does not have much to do with most of these standards in LED. Go to Walmart and you can see where most LED products are imported from

  54. fasmicro
    February 2, 2015

    >> On the other hand there are once-industry-leaders like Xerox like that reap profits from decade old patents that became defacto industry standards.

    They are all the same except that the straegy has changed. The old Xerox did not build platforms like App Store which means they were not locking up customers. Today, Google and others invented that. It is the same old style – make is harder for others to compete

  55. fasmicro
    February 2, 2015

    >> Even with cheap IoT or M2M devices interoperability is a MUST and thus standards are important. 

    There is no argument. But remember that we already have IP and HTTP. The question is what is going to be the cost model to creating duplicative standards around these IoT systems

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