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  A Standards Update - The ISO process

Welcome to this edition of a regular column about standards in the Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) industry. This column will be updated regularly to keep you current on news of standards and their impact on the industry.

In the coming months, we will try to educate you on the various technologies covered under the AIDC umbrella as well as bring news of the standardization process and its progress. If you have news about standards that you want to share, or questions you want to ask, send them to steve@hightechaid.com and we will try to incorporate them into the next column.

In last month's issue of this column, we looked at the work of SC 31 in more detail, including the work load and the prospects for standardization from this committee.

This month we will talk about the ISO process and how it works. This process is clearly defined for our industry (AIDC) in the JTC 1 (Joint Technical Committee 1 - see previous column for more details) procedures (called directives) and the information below is summarized from this document. We mentioned the process for the completion of an ISO standard as follows:

  • Stage 0 Investigation
  • 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/FCD (Committee Draft/Final Committee Draft) 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 Resources in 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).

Stage 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 Final Committee Draft (FCD). 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 FCD 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 FCD ballot. A CD ballot is a 3 month ballot, whereas a FCD ballot is a four month ballot. However, if a document fails FCD ballot it must go back to the CD ballot stage, so it is better to be sure of the consensus before submitting to FCD. 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 FCD ballot the document is registered for Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) ballot.

High Tech Aid offers Knowledge about AIDC technologies such as RFID and barcode as well as NFC and Internet of ThingsStage 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.

To summarize, the project may go through a study period, the outcome of which is an NP. The NP goes for a three month ballot. If approved it goes into a workgroup for a period of time (one to three years typically). The document then goes through a CD ballot (three months minimum), followed by a FCD ballot (four months minimum), followed by a FDIS ballot (two months), followed by publication. So we typically have a two to four year time period to create a standard.

This brief summary, shows you the stages that a project goes through in the JTC 1 arena. It does not cover all the possibilities, but is the most common path. The full text of the directives is available at http://isotc.iso.org/livelink/livelink?func=ll&objId=6721404&objAction=browse&sort=name.

Next month we will talk about Fast Track and other possible short cuts to the system.