Standards Are Our Friends
— November 2002
By Ben Ellison
Standards are our Friends
|NMEA adds installation guidelines to its recent string of successes.|
Here's a paradox that gets me grinning: The National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) seems to be doing a terrific job of bringing standards to increasingly more complex and interrelated technology, yet the center of this work is not some humming urban office suite, but rather a quiet parson's office in a little church out on the tip of a Maine peninsula!
The parson is Larry Anderson, who has chaired NMEA's several standards committees since 1999. During that time the venerable 0183 data standard has firmly established itself as the global link between GPS and mapping devices in cars, planes, computers, and, of course, boats. The ambitious 2000 standard, which allows multiple data talkers and listeners to share one "plug and play" cable, was introduced a year ago and will really begin to show its stuff this winter (which we'll be covering). NMEA's latest offering is an Installation Standard for electronics on boats 25 to 150 feet. I've just read through it, and I'm impressed.
Forging technology standards in a fast-evolving and capitalistic industry has got to be hard work. Imagine corralling a bunch of manufacturers--who tend to be proud (and secretive) about their own gear and disparaging of their competitors'--and getting them to agree on one way to do something. And to see how consumer-unfriendly technology can be when the process falters, try buying a simple cable to connect your cellphone to a marine antenna (see "Electronics Q&A," this story). Thus, I was quite curious to meet Anderson, who is, in the words of NMEA executive director Beth Kahr, the "driving force" behind the organization's standards work.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.