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  How does ISO Work?

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How does ISO work
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Ever wondered about the process that creates an ISO standard? Or even who ISO is? Here are the answers to some of those questions.

At the International Standards Organization (ISO) the standards for our industry fall in the Information Technology area. A committee called JTC1 (Joint Technical Committee 1), uniting the various groups within ISO and IEC (International Electrotechnical Committee), has been formed for all IT (Information Technology) standards. The Sub-Committee that is responsible for Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) is SC31. The secretary for this international committee is GS 1, with AIM acting as the administrator for the United States national position. The process to create an ISO standard is complicated and based on a six step process:

  • Stage 0 (preliminary stage): A study period is underway.
  • Stage 1 (proposal stage): An NP (New Project) is under consideration.
  • Stage 2 (preparatory stage): A WD (Working Draft) is under consideration.
  • Stage 3 (committee stage): A CD/DIS (Committee Draft/Draft International Standard) is under consideration.
  • Stage 4 (approval stage): An FDIS (Final Draft International Standard) is under consideration.
  • Stage 5 (publication stage): An IS (International Standard) is being prepared for publication.


High Tech Aid offers Knowledge about AIDC technologies such as RFID and barcode as well as NFC and Internet of ThingsThese six steps form the foundation for the creation of an ISO standard, so we will go through each one in turn to better understand the process.

Stage 0: This is a time when a group of people think that there may be a need for a standard. It is an optional stage in the process, and usually only occurs when there is agreement that standardization is likely, but there are no specific projects identified. This stage allows a workgroup to create a plan and get international approval for standardization before significant amounts of effort are expended.

Stage 1: A proposal for a new work item (NP) can be submitted by JTC 1, a National Body (NB) (USA, UK etc.), a subcommittee (SC) or Technical Committee (TC), or certain liaison members of JTC 1. An NP document includes enough information about the project to allow a NB to decide if it is going to participate in a project. This information includes the obvious things like title, scope, and program of work as well as a business case that sets out the purpose and justification for doing the standardization. Once an NP is submitted, all the NBs in JTC 1 have to vote on accepting the work. This is a three month ballot. In order to be accepted, a majority of the P (Principal) members of JTC 1 must approve the work and at least five P members must agree to participate in the work. (Not every NB must participate in every standard at the working level, though all P members have a vote to approve the work).

High Tech Aid offers Resources in AIDC technologies such as RFID and barcode as well as NFC and Internet of ThingsStage 2: After approval of the NP, it is assigned to a subcommittee for the work to be done. The subcommittee establishes a workgroup to take responsibility, and work starts on the project. The workgroup identifies a project editor for the project, and work commences to create a document. This working draft (WD) will typically go through several revisions as more of the technical detail is created and consensus of the group is achieved. This process can take some time, and so JTC 1 has some procedures to flag anything that is still in this stage at the third year anniversary of the NP date. At some point the workgroup decides that the document is materially complete (main elements included), it is in a format approximating a standard, and there is consensus as to its content. At this point the workgroup recommends that the WD be sent for registration as a Committee Draft (CD).

Stage 3: The document is forwarded by the SC into JTC 1 for registration as a CD. With this recommendation is a letter which states whether this is a Committee Draft (CD) or a Draft International Standard (DIS). If the workgroup considers that this document is basically complete and that there are unlikely to be any changes suggested during the ballot process then it may recommend that this is an DIS immediately. However, if changes are likely, the CD is the route to go. The document is put up for CD ballot as many times as needed to get enough consensus to get it through the DIS ballot. A CD ballot is a 3 month ballot, whereas a DIS ballot is a five month ballot. However, if a document fails DIS ballot it must go back to the CD ballot stage, so it is better to be sure of the consensus before submitting to DIS. In both cases, votes may be for or against the document, though negative votes must include reasons. After the close of the ballot the workgroup is required to consider every comment made and produce a disposition of comments report that explains their reasons for their actions (the workgroup is not required to accept all the comments, but they must explain their decisions). Following a successful DIS ballot the document is registered for Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) ballot.

Stage 4: The document is now sent out for a FDIS ballot. This is a two month ballot, that requires at least two thirds of the P members approval, along with no more than one-quarter of the total number of cast votes being negative. The vote can only be approval or disapproval (for stated technical reasons) and abstention. If the vote fails, the document goes back to the CD stage. If it passes only minor editorial changes are possible to the document before it goes to the next stage and is published.

Stage 5: The document is finally sent to JTC 1 to be published.

As you can see, the process takes time. The balloting process alone takes a minimum of 12 months, assuming that there are no needs for multiple CD of FCD ballots. With the extra time taken to actually write the technical details of the standard and get consensus about the content, you can see that the standardization process is not a quick one.

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