E Pluribus Unum – How Standards Drive the World Around Us
As we mark this year’s World Standards Day, it is worth celebrating the crucial role standards play in facilitating the global spread of advanced technologies and new devices while continually laying the groundwork for what comes next. By ensuring interoperability, standards provide the bedrock for entire technology ecosystems, on top of which trillions of dollars of economic activity might be built.
The importance of standards is only growing. We are sitting on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution during which we expect to see rapid advances in the digitalization of broad swaths of the global economy from manufacturing to healthcare, and from transportation to energy. This shift will be enabled in large part by the ongoing advances being made in the standardized technologies in cellular wireless, WiFi, and in video.
At a time of heightened geopolitical tensions, it is also worth stressing that standards are a byword for global cooperation. Companies, academia, and other stakeholders cooperate with each other at the technical level in order to advance the best solutions for each design requirement. This process is highly competitive and only the best advances make the grade.
Of course, participants are not just participating for personal glory. Standards thrive because of commercial incentives and the promise of advancing existing markets or developing new ones. That’s true for device manufacturers but also for those companies that invest heavily in associated R&D, engage in the standards process, and then license their related standard essential patents to OEMs.
At InterDigital we have been carrying out scientific research in standards-based connected technologies on a commercial basis for the majority of our 50-year existence. Many of our engineers have held leadership positions in various SDOs and our years of research have helped us build a portfolio of more than 28,000 patents. Today the company is recognized as one of the principal contributors to standards in a broad range of connected technologies.
InterDigital's business model is built on investment in foundational scientific research, active participation in standards development organizations worldwide, and the licensing of the company’s innovation to companies that implement this tech in their devices, such as smartphones, laptops and TVs.
Recently this work has been given even greater significance as governments around the world have emphasized the importance of standardized technologies.
In the U.S., the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Kathi Vidal, has been leading the charge in pushing American companies to be more closely involved in standards development. Recently she wrote that the U.S. must, “Continue to encourage U.S. participation in standard-setting organizations and the efficient and effective adoption of those technologies by our industries, as part of our efforts to promote innovation in the standards space and drive sustainable, long-term growth in the U.S. economy.”
I couldn’t agree more. And to put that long-term growth into perspective, according to a recent report from ABI Research, 5G is forecast to create $7 trillion in economic value in 2030 alone.
As a U.S. headquartered company, we at InterDigital understand the importance that standards can play in a country’s economic resilience. But we also appreciate that standards contribute the most to the world economy when they are global in scope and collaborative by nature. On this World Standards Day that is a message that’s worth reiterating.