1.2 What is a Standard?

Standards are everywhere, though one is not always aware of them. For example, everyday expressions such as “a standard bed” or "a standard size photograph" or "standard time” are frequently used without the user thinking twice about what “standard” might actually mean.

A Standard can be defined as: “a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context” (source: European Standards Bodies: CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI).

To illustrate this definition, let’s look at an example of a Standard that is used every day: a sheet of A4 paper. Not many people know the real dimensions of an A4 sheet of paper. Still, A4 has become the reference for printers, folders, envelopes, publications, software, etc. No one is obliged to follow the standard, though manufacturers who do not apply it may risk a difficult and slow acceptance by consumers. A4 has certainly become the rule, the reference, and the recognized non-written law.

Just consider what would happen if one had to use different sizes of paper for the printer, the copy machine, letters, and folders – depending on the country one is communicating with! So, standards make life easier to both consumers and manufacturers.

What is more, standards do not constrain market development. A manufacturer with a great new idea may develop this idea and put it on the market. If the market and consumers accept it, others will certainly follow the idea, hence giving the opportunity for new standards to be developed.

  • 1.2 What is a Standard?