Things not working together. We’ve most likely all experienced it or witnessed a friend, colleague or family member struggle with it. Recently, hearing a colleague’s frustration I approached his desk to see what was happening. I found him attempting to plug a device into his laptop. Holding the connector in his hand, he said (verbatim), “Why don’t they just make this work with this!”

Evidence of this phenomenon is not rare. I think in many ways it is because technology has jaded us. We get used to the benefits that technology has provided. We’ve become accustomed to being able to check our e-mails from anywhere, but when that ability is denied for a brief moment we do not look back and remember the time that it wasn’t possible at all and marvel at the progress we have made as a society. No, we become frustrated that we can’t check that e-mail or search that web site as we ride a shuttle from the parking lot to the airport terminal. Just human nature, I guess.

In other ways, it is because of the fast-paced growth of technology itself. I remember back when VHS was the new great thing. I built my movie collection and relished the fact that I could watch my favorite movies over and over again from the comfort of my home. Then, DVD became the standard, and, not just because of the better quality, convenience, and longevity of the new format, but also because VHS players became obsolete and hard to find, I was basically forced to replace all of my beloved VHS movies with DVDs.

This idea also extends to cultural and geographic differences. Anyone who has ever traveled from one part of the world to another has most likely come across the differences that exist among power outlets, realizing, often quite suddenly, that their electric razor or smartphone won’t receive a charge in the Czech Republic without the right adapter.

Sometimes these differences are even evident among the same products produced by different companies, a few times even as a result of the same company updating its product. Some video games were only available to play on a certain system. For instance, “Ace Combat 7” is exclusive to PlayStation 4, so good luck if you own an X-Box and want to fly combat missions over hostile territory. And for a guy who has, or at least had, every adapter imaginable to plug his smartphone into his TV to watch the content from my phone on the big screen, I was heartbroken to find that the company had changed the configuration of its connector interfaces for the updated version of the device, so when I purchased my new smartphone—and another device purchased from the same company—my connectors were no longer usable.

Before this starts to sound too much like a bad review on Amazon, let me bring it back around. Usually, when we talk about standards we are talking of maintaining a certain level of quality, a certain level of safety, a certain level of energy efficiency. Even with software development, isn’t it ultimately about standards not only ensuring the best product for the consumer, but also the companies’ ability to deliver that product? For example, the QIF standard.

Is a standard that moves us toward “universality” a good thing? A bad thing? Have you ever heard of the QIF standard? We want to know your thoughts so join the discussion on our LinkedIn page. In the meantime, catch up on the latest in quality and metrology in the pages of this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!