ince time immemorial, mankind has recognised the need for standards. Calendars – one of the earliest examples of standardisation – can be traced back to the Sumerians who lived in the Tigris/Euphrates valley some 5,000 years ago. With the benefit of a calendar farmers would know when to till the land, harvest the crops, celebrate holidays and record important events.
Standards gained currency during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. With the transition from manual work to machinery, there was the need for compatibility, interoperability and repeatability, values which standardisation can help maximise.
Today, we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution where emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), addictive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) and the internet of things (IoT) are blurring the traditional boundaries between the physical, digital and biological, and disrupting industries across the world. Robots and AI will take over more and more tasks previously done by humans, 3D printing will change the way we make goods, and the IoT will add a level of digital intelligence to devices that are otherwise dumb.
The rapid pace of change is without precedent and presents immense opportunities for those who embrace it. According to one estimate, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which builds on the digital revolution, can create up to US$3.7 trillion in value to global manufacturing.
Tech savvy Singapore is well placed to reap the benefits of this transition. In the first “Readiness for the Future of Production Report 2018” published by the World Economic Forum, Singapore is among the 25 countries assessed to be in the best position to benefit from the changing nature of production.
The assessment framework is made up of two main components: Structure of Production, or a country’s current baseline of production, and Drivers of Production, or the key enablers that position a country to capitalise on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to transform production systems. The assessment measures readiness for the future, rather than performance today.
While the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are immense, so too are the challenges, from the ethical to the economic and scientific. Just as was the case in the First, Second and Third industrial revolutions, inclusive standardisation processes have a key role to play in ensuring that the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are realised on a global scale.
In his message for the 2018 World Standards Day, ISO secretary-general Sergio Mujica said, “International Standards can help shape our future. Not only do standards support the development of tailor-made solutions for all industries, they are also the tools to spread best practices, knowledge and innovation globally. International Standards have always had a pivotal role in enabling the smooth adoption of technologies.
“In the same way that standards were crucial during the First Industrial Revolution, supporting the specialised mass production of manufactured goods, they will continue to play a critical role in this new era. Standards will ensure compatibility and interoperability around the globe, helping society to adopt technologies seamlessly as they emerge in the future.”
The World Standards Day is celebrated on 14 October to honour the efforts of the thousands of experts who develop voluntary standards within standards development organisations such as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the ISO.