Certification and standards: how Axis goes beyond the baseline

Article
August 17, 2021
Every sector of industry and society has certifications and standards. Covering every area - from the origin of ingredients in our favourite foods to the robustness of industrial machinery – certification plays an important role in trust between organizations and their stakeholders. The surveillance and security sector is no different, with local, regional and international certifications and standards applying to hardware, software and the way that businesses operate. A common misperception is that two products with the same certification are of equal quality, however, and this is often not the case. Axis has a philosophy of looking ‘beyond the standard’; seeing certifications as a baseline not a target, and often bringing new products to market that far exceed the requirements of any existing or future certifications and standards.

There is no doubt that certifications and standards are important. This is reflected by the need for products, services and technologies to be certified being something increasingly mandated by organizations searching for new solutions. Governments, too, in an effort to meet national objectives and goals in areas from sustainability to security, are creating new standards that they demand any businesses operating within their borders adhere to.

Every business in any sector will quickly find its ability to operate and attract customers severely impeded if it can’t show that its products have achieved the required certifications. What may have once been ‘nice to haves’ are today ‘must haves’.

However, there’s also a risk associated with adherence to certifications and standards becoming too much of a ‘box-ticking’ exercise; that once this is achieved, subsequent measures of quality are less rigorously examined. Becoming too reliant on certifications and standards as the de facto measure of product quality – in all factors – can be dangerous, particularly in innovative sectors.

The natural ‘lag’ in certifications

While meeting certifications brings a certain peace of mind to customers and governments, they also come with challenges. In highly-innovative areas – the security and surveillance sector is certainly an example – where new technologies and capabilities are constantly being developed and brought to market, certification inevitably lags behind.

Put simply, it’s impossible to define certifications and standards for something which is yet to be created.

Axis and certification

The fact that certification and standards lag behind innovation means that it is essential that organizations operating in such sectors set their own standards in key areas of product quality, security and ethical practices. This is certainly the case at Axis, where quality in everything the company does has been in the company’s DNA since it was founded, as it created products such as the world’s first network video surveillance camera and in each innovation since.

While quality as a core value is central to what Axis develops and produces, there are three broad areas of focus for the business:

  • Hardware: functionality, robustness, safety, sustainability
  • Software: reliability, availability, cybersecurity
  • People and partners: codes of conduct, ethical behaviour, anti-corruption

In all of these areas there are established international, regional and local certifications, and Axis obtains the relevant certifications and demonstrably meets the standards required in any market in which it operates.

In the vast majority of cases, the process of Axis obtaining certification is one of ‘proving’ that the company’s technologies, products and solutions meet the requirements of the certification – whether existing or new - rather than needing to ‘improve’ them to reach the standard required. The company’s internal systems, processes and frameworks mean that its products usually go far beyond subsequent certifications.

Staying across certifications and standards

As mentioned, it’s vital that companies like Axis are aware of the ever-changing certification and standards that are relevant to the different aspects of the business; in different sectors and industries; in every country around the world where Axis operates. It’s no small task, and one which takes the combined efforts of teams across the organization.

From the perspective of hardware and software, specific Axis teams developing new strategic technologies and products will ensure that they go well beyond the industry standards. In just one recent example, Axis has taken the decision to create a new subsidiary to design and manufacture explosion-protected cameras and which has had its quality management system audited and found to be in compliance with the appropriate international standards. In doing so – and in controlling the production of the explosion-protected cameras from chip to casing – Axis can take full responsibility for product quality.

Many industry segments also have specific certifications and standards, and the segment teams at Axis – from retail to transport – ensure that relevant certifications are obtained (and which can vary significantly from country to country). For instance, in the UK, the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) will approve technologies that it regards as being of the standard required to help secure the nation’s most important facilities. Similar bodies exist in every industry around the world.

Membership of international standards organizations is also an important way to stay informed and achieve relevant certifications. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is one such body, and has established more than 7,000 standards for electrical devices and systems. With more than 500 new standards being published by the IEC in 2020 alone – and this being just one of many international standards organizations – the challenge of staying current is obvious.

Other industry organizations, associations and forums – such as ONVIF, of which Axis was one of the founders, and the Security Industry Association in the USA – can be valuable places for discovery and discussion around relevant new standards.

Compliance can’t mean complacency

As highlighted in the headline of this article, Axis regards certification as a ‘baseline’ – a minimum requirement rather than a target. It’s a common misperception that two products which have the same certification or meet the same standard are of the same quality. This is rarely the case.

Unfortunately, certifications can become a ‘box-ticking’ exercise which takes place during the early stages of a purchasing process and which is then forgotten; the assumption being that manufacturers under consideration are of the same standard.

This dangerous complacency is something that Axis works hard to address with its partners, customers and prospects, encouraging them to look beyond the certification, and examine in detail how Axis addresses the specific area in question.

A manufacturer’s own framework or processes – from ensuring quality throughout its supply chain to meting needs of a ‘zero trust’ approach to cybersecurity – can be far more revealing than its adherence to baseline standards.

Openness sits at the heart of Axis, both in its technology and in its dealings with customers and partners. This extends to discussions around standards and certifications: Axis works with customers and the broader industry to understand which parts of certifications and standards are relevant for a given use case and bring most value to the customer.

Getting certified, but always looking beyond

We live in a world which features ever more regulation, certification, standards, and compliance. This is broadly a good thing – more transparency into how the products we buy, use and consume on a daily basis is useful. But it does carry the risk of complacency, that individuals and businesses become too reliant on certification and standards to define the quality of products, services and technologies.

But certifications are not only just a baseline, they often lag behind the pace of innovation and change. Therefore, other factors influencing the trust we have in organizations become even more important: do we believe that they have the internal systems and processes in place that ensure reliability, robustness, security and quality where standards and certification are yet to exist? Are they setting the standards for others to follow?

Axis is proud of its reputation for innovation and quality. But in a fast-moving world, there’s no time to rest on past success; it’s vital to adhere to the values that mean our products will continue to meet certifications, and much more besides. We will continue to do so.

More about the Axis approach to delivering quality in every aspect of the business can be found here
Defining and delivering quality [Article]
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