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Everyone needs standards

Few people give much thought to standards, yet from the GSM mobile phone system to the ISBN code they make the world go round. I visited Geneva, home to the world's main standardisation body, to learn more about this engine of globalisation

By Sam Knight   March 2008

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is housed in a bland office on a quiet street in Geneva. Since it was formed in 1947, it has produced guidelines for pretty much every aspect of human life you can think of and a lot more besides. Its work is absolutely vital, and yet almost universally overlooked. Standards touch your life wherever you are standing: in your clothes, your bathroom, the road signs that you read. They are a kind of pedant’s potion that makes the world go round.

I visited the ISO’s headquarters last autumn, during the organisation’s three-day general assembly.…

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