American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute or ANSI (pronounced "an-see") is a private nonprofit organization that oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for products, services, processes, systems, and personnel in the United States. The organization also coordinates U.S. standards with international standards so that American products can be used worldwide. For example, standards make sure that people who own cameras can find the film they need for them anywhere around the globe.
ANSI accredits standards that are developed by representatives of standards developing organizations, government agencies, consumer groups, companies, and others. These standards ensure that the characteristics and performance of products are consistent, that people use the same definitions and terms, and that products are tested the same way. ANSI also accredits organizations that carry out product or personnel certification in accordance with requirements defined in international standards.
ANSI was formed in 1918 when five engineering societies and three government agencies founded the American Engineering Standards Committee (AESC). The AESC became the American Standards Association (ASA) in 1928. In 1966, the ASA was reorganized and became the United States of America Standards Institute (USASI). The present name was adopted in 1969.
ANSI's membership is comprised of government agencies, organizations, corporations, academic and international bodies, and individuals. In total, the Institute represents the interests of more than 125,000 companies and 3.5 million professionals.
The ANSI Process
Though ANSI itself does not develop standards, the Institute facilitates the development of American National Standards, also known as ANS, by accrediting the procedures of standards developing organizations. ANSI accreditation signifies that the procedures used by standards setting organizations meet the Institute's requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process.
Voluntary consensus standards quicken the market acceptance of products while making clear how to improve the safety of those products for the protection of consumers. There are approximately 10,500 American National Standards that carry the ANSI designation.
The American National Standards process involves:
- consensus by a group that is open to representatives from all interested parties
- broad-based public review and comment on draft standards
- consideration of and response to comments
- incorporation of submitted changes that meet the same consensus requirements into a draft standard
- availability of an appeal by any participant alleging that these principles were not respected during the standards-development process
Involvement in International Standards Activities
In addition to facilitating the formation of standards in the U.S., ANSI promotes the use of U.S. standards internationally, advocates U.S. policy and technical positions in international and regional standards organizations and encourages the adoption of international standards as national standards where appropriate.
The Institute is the official U.S. representative to the two major international standards organizations, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), via the U.S. National Committee (USNC). ANSI participates in almost the entire technical program of both the ISO and the IEC, and administers many key committees and subgroups. In many instances, U.S. standards are taken forward to ISO and IEC, through ANSI or the USNC, where they are adopted in whole or in part as international standards.
Examples of Standardization Activities Under the ANSI Umbrella
The Institute administers four standards panels:
- The Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel
- The ANSI Homeland Security Standards Panel
- The ANSI Nanotechnology Standards Panel
- The Identity Theft Prevention and Identity Management Standards Panel
Each of the panels works to identify, coordinate, and harmonize voluntary standards relevant to these areas.
American National Standards include:
- The ASA (American Standards Association) photographic exposure system became the basis for the ISO film speed system, currently used worldwide.
- ASCII art which is colorized or animated by way of ANSI terminal control codes (X3.64 sequences) are commonly referred to as "ANSI art" and were predominantly popular on bulletin board systems throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
- The original standard implementation of the computer language C was standardized by ANSI, becoming the well-known ANSI C.
- In Microsoft Windows, the phrase "ANSI" refers to the Windows ANSI code pages (even though they are not ANSI standards). Most of these are fixed width though there are some variable width ones for ideographic languages. Some of these are very close to the ISO-8859 series leading many to falsely assume that they are identical.
- The ANS for eye protection is Z87.1, which gives a specific impact resistance rating to the eyewear. This standard is commonly used for shop glasses, shooting glasses, and many other examples of protective eyewear.