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From Landline Calls to Cell Phone Selfies: Standards Support the 2021 Telephone


145 years ago this month, Alexander Graham Bell received the first patent for the telephone, a device that would change the way we communicate with each other forever. In the years since, the evolution of the telephone has shown us different device variations, including liquid transmitters, candlestick desk phones, and rotary dial phones. Today, advanced technology (such as 5G) powers smartphones that we use for much more than just calls— from tracking our health on apps, recording notes, finding directions through GPS, and scanning barcodes and QR-codes for online shopping.

Just days after Mr. Bell filed his telephone patent in 1876, he transmitted the first telephone message, sent to his assistant: “Mr. Watson, come here, I need you." In 2021, virtual "voice assistants" available through cell phone operating systems can offer us nearly anything via a simple voice demand, from music to the weather.

As seen with these great advancements, telephones have proven to be ever-evolving devices. A 2020 article by the Forbes Technology Council shared expert predictions about what the future of smartphones could entail, with forecasts for 5G-enabled hardware, thin, stretchable screens, and 3D face mapping, among other expectations.

Standards have long supported the technology used in the evolution of phones and their many modern day applications. Here's a look at a few of such standards for phones in 2021:

For smartphone cameras, The Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, has developed American National Standards (ANS) for image and camera standards, including ANSI/IST IT10.2000-2015, Photography - Digital Still Cameras - JPEG 2000 DSC Profile. This document specifies decoder conformance requirements for software and hardware devices, including cameras, that read images captured on some digital still cameras.

Another ANS, ANSI/TIA 664-514-B-2007 (R2013)Wireless Features Description: Mobile Access Hunting (MAH), provides recommendations for the implementation of uniform features for use in systems for wireless telecommunications, including mobile access hunting, which allows for the automatic routing of calls to alternate numbers when the original dialed number is busy. This ANS was developed by ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

And ANSI/ATIS 0100518-1998 (S2018), Objective Measurement of Telephone Band Speech Quality Using Measuring Normalizing Blocks (MNBs), was developed by the Alliance For Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer. The ANS defines an algorithm that provides acceptably accurate predictions in the same areas as Recommendation P.861, as well as in additional important conditions, such as transmission channel errors and lower-rate speech coders.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is also involved in standardization work specifically related to phones and mobile devices, and it works to bridge gaps between relevant technologies and advance work in mobile device innovation. IEC 62047-5 Ed. 1.0 b:2011Semiconductor devices - Micro-electromechanical devices - Part 5: RF MEMS switches, describes terminology, definition, symbols, and test methods that can be used to evaluate and determine the essential ratings and characteristic parameters of Radio-frequency microelectromechanical system (RF MEMS switches). The standard was developed by IEC subcommittee 47F: Microelectromechanical systems, of IEC technical committee 47: Semiconductor devices.

With all of the advancements in phones, it is difficult to tell what might be in the future for telephones…or if handheld devices will even exist! Cheers to the next 145 years of telephone evolution.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


[email protected]

Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


[email protected]