ACORD's job is to make information move. We began by facilitating communications between agents and brokers. ACORD Forms continue to be the basic communications currency of the insurance industry. The data standards we have developed for the global insurance community ensure data moves between teams, customers, and business partners with total retention of meaning and credibility.
It used to be that data was created and consumed only by people. Even as computer systems began to talk with each other, they were doing so in a limited fashion. Such communications served fairly discrete steps in business processes which were otherwise clearly human in nature and execution.
We are witnessing a shift. The falling cost of sensors, storage, and communications, means that data is being produced by more and more devices. This data is consumed by other systems which may act on it. So, for example, your smart thermostat might sample temperature and send data to a system that controls the heating.
The world around us is becoming truly automated as invisible streams of data issue from our phones, tablets, appliances, and cars. The built environment is listening and reacting to those streams.
The implication for the standards profession is profound. Data standards are usually catch-up exercises. Needless diversity in data standards proliferates, costs of doing business rise as a consequence, and then people get together to create a common standard for the common good. In sectors with mature standards organizations, such as insurance, we can get ahead of the curve and craft data standards before proliferation gets a hold.
But who is going to pick up the standards challenge underlying the smart world? Standards are barely mentioned in forecasts of technological impact on business and society, and when they are, it's in the form of a general need, not any suggestion of who ought to be responsible for standards.
Where should we look for leadership on this issue? I believe a good place to start is with standards adopters in business and industry. These are the people who can best articulate – and demonstrate – the value of data standards. They have the experience and the business cases to substantiate their advice. Their task is to educate consumers to choose standards-based solutions and service providers who collaborate on standards.
We're on the edge of a great opportunity to save time, money, and pain. We can shift into a dramatically more informed and enabled world without going through a wasteful period of unnecessary complexity. Let products and services compete on their true value to customers, not on format lockout. It'll be better for everybody.