FIG Standards Network
The Network is continuing the work of an
FIG Task Force which was established in 1998 in response to concerns from
the Commissions, the Council and the General Assembly that standards were
becoming increasingly important in the work of surveyors, and that the issue
was not being addressed sufficiently by FIG.
Why standards are important
This topic is addressed in a number of papers and reports presented by
the Task Force (e.g.
FIG WW2000, Prague, Intergeo 2001, and
FIG Congress 2002, Washington. In summary there are perhaps three ways
in which to make a case that standards are important.
Firstly, the breadth of standardisation activities. To put some numbers
on this, there were 17,041 ISO standards in print at the end of 2007,
amounting to 652,340 pages. The current standard set includes:
- ISO 2172 - Fruit juice - determination of soluble solids content -
- ISO 6806 - Rubber hoses and hose assemblies for use in oil burners -
- ISO 8192 - Water quality - test for inhibition of oxygen consumption
by activated sludge
- ISO 11540 - Caps for writing and marking instruments intended for use
by children up to 14 years of age - safety requirements
- ISO 17123-3 - Optics and optical instruments – field procedures for
testing geodetic and survey instruments - theodolites
- ISO 19111 - Geographic information - spatial referencing by
Secondly, there are the benefits of standardisation. Research undertaken
by the Technical University of Dresden and the Fraunhofer Institute for
Systems and Innovations
found that the benefit to the German economy from standardisation amounts to
more than US$ 15 billion per year (more than standards and patents). Other
studies for the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Delphi
Foundation, have also stressed the very significant benefits brought by
standardisation. For instance, a 2005 study for the DTI found that 13% of
the UK’s economic growth between 1948 and 2002 could be attributed to
Thirdly, at a very practical level, all aspects of our lives involve
standardisation. Perhaps the difficulties caused by the lack of standardisation
in some areas make the benefits more clear: how many times has anyone forgotten
their international plug adapter and been unable to charge electronic equipment
in another country? And how often have we all been frustrated (or worse) by the
American insistence on using a different standard paper size (and a different
measurement system) from the rest of the world?
Turning to the field of surveying, many of the disciplines within the
profession have not to date been subject to de jure standards. Some
have existed for land survey instruments but these have not been widely
used. In the valuation field, national standards have long existed. For the
suppliers and users of geographic information, however, standards in
the series ISO 191xx are being developed by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 211
and a series of them have already been published.
The process of creating standards is a lengthy one - most ISO standards are
under development for more than three years. This time scale has to be shortened
in a world where technological developments are happening more and more
frequently; standards will otherwise constrain development. The same
difficulties can arise with legislation - the cadastral survey regulations of
many countries prescribe methodologies which must be used, thereby often
disallowing GPS methods.
The main participants in the process of developing standards are
generally academics and public servants - people whose organisations can
afford for them to spend time on, and travel to, the necessary meetings. In
general, practitioners are present in much more limited numbers. This means
that standardisation bodies will often have limited knowledge of other
initiatives - they will assume a 'green field site' when in fact a good deal
is already in hand.
These reasons summarise why FIG felt that it should become more involved
in and aware of standardisation activities.