For the past twenty years, I have worked with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop standards for the photographic industry. All too often, the standards group comes to the conclusion that because too many factors are involved, it is too difficult to come up with a standardized test that will determine how long a product will last or to determine if it is suitable for its intended application. The committee gives up and choses to work on a different question which has an easier answer.
Questions which currently have no ISO answer include:
- How long can I display a photograph before it fades unacceptably?
- How long will photos in a scrapbook last?
- Is a photo book suitable for long-term preservation?
- Will digital photos last longer than traditional photographic prints?
The common thread with these questions is that they address issues that are relevant to typical photo consumers. They are non-technical questions that are relate to how photos are used.
The printed security card industry has taken a different approach. Instead of worrying about the perfect answer, the security card industry has developed standards that combine usage, application, and lifetime requirements into single, probabilistic assessment as to whether the card is suitable for a specific application. The example given here is for an access card, but the standards also include application profiles for health care, national ID, transportation, campus card, driving license, and financial card.
My challenge to the photographic industry is to do the same thing: develop standards that provide consumers with guidance as to whether a product will meet their needs, without worrying about the fact that the answer may not be perfect. To assist in this process, I presented a talk on The Expected Lifetime for Printed Security Cards at the 2017 Printing for Fabrication Conference in Denver, Colorado., and at the Fall 2017 TC42 WG5 Photographic Standards Meeting in Washington, D.C.