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Standards Keep Innovation Alive on National Inventors' Day

February 11 is National Inventors' Day, a holiday declared by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 to recognize the significant contributions that inventors make to the nation and the world. Many of the country's most impactful inventions and technologies of the past two centuries are still being used today, thanks to standards that support their continuing advancement.

National Inventors' Day is held on the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Alva Edison, one of the country's greatest inventors, who held over 1,000 patents. One of his many inventions was the incandescent light bulb, developed by Edison as part of an integrated system of electric lighting in the late 1800s. His first design of an incandescent light bulb using a carbon filament lasted for 40 hours; later iterations with a carbonized bamboo filament could last for over 1,200 hours.

Today, advancements from Edison's original designs have resulted in more sophisticated forms of light bulbs offering longer lifespan than traditional incandescent bulbs. For example, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) - the bulbs used in a quarter of all homes nationwide - demonstrate a longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs. A standard developed by the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member and accredited standards developer, provides guidelines for determining a more exact life expectancy for these bulbs. IESNA LM-65-01, Life Testing of Single-Ended Compact Fluorescent Lamps, describes the procedures by which CFLs can be operated under controlled conditions to obtain optimally comparable data on individual lamp life, changes in light output, and other parameters that vary during the life of the lamp.

One standard for lamp safety developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) addresses LED lamps. These solid-state lighting units are highly efficient, reducing energy use and outliving traditional light bulbs by many years. IEC 62031 Ed. 1.0 b:2008, LED modules for general lighting - Safety specifications, specifies general safety requirements for these earth-friendly luminaries. This standard was developed by the IEC Technical Committee (TC) 34A, Lamps. The United States National Committee (USNC)-approved Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator for TC 34A is National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.

At the same time in history as Edison was busy inventing, another brilliant mind was working to improve communication between trains and stations. Granville T. Woods invented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph in 1892, making it possible for trains to communicate with the station and with other trains - avoiding schedule delays, increasing efficiency, and avoiding collisions.

Today, standards assure that communication networks for trains and stations are efficient and effective, even over international borders. IEC 61375-1 Ed. 2.0 en:2007, Electric railway equipment - Train bus - Part 1: Train communication network, allows for interoperability of individual vehicles within open trains in international traffic. This standard was developed by IEC TC 9, Electrical equipment and systems for railways. IEEE, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, is the USNC-approved TAG Administrator to TC 9, carrying U.S. positions forward to the committee.

Over a century later, another American invention brought comfort into homes nationwide - especially those in the steamy South. In the early 1900s, Willis Carrier invented a mechanical humidity controller that passed air through a filter, then over coils containing a coolant - the same basic design used in air conditioners today.

A number of standards are in place to assure that today's air conditioners are both effective and safe for residential, commercial, and industrial sites. An American National Standard (ANS) developed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) establishes a uniform method for measuring specified product characteristics of room air conditioners. ANSI/AHAM RAC-1-2003, Room Air Conditioners, can be used to measure cooling capacity, heating capacity, moisture removal capacity, recirculated air quantity, ventilating air quantity, exhaust air quantity, and electrical input.

One highly popular advancement of air-conditioning technology is central air. ANSI/AHRI 430-1999, Central Station Air-Handing Units, establishes definitions and classifications, specifications for standard equipment, requirements for testing and rating, and conformance conditions for central station air-handling units. This ANS was developed by the Air-Conditioning Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer.

Today's air conditioners aren't used only to cool people: they're also highly important in computer server and data processing rooms, where high temperatures could cause computers systems to fail. ANSI/ASHRAE 127-2007, Method of Testing for Rating Computer and Data Processing Room Unitary Air-Conditioners, is a standard that addresses this issue. It was developed by American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), an ANSI member and audited designator.

From light bulbs to train schedules to air conditioners, many key elements of American life have come about thanks to inventors. With the help of standards, these inventions will continue to become more advanced and even more useful in the 21st century and beyond.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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