Before one can discuss standards, one must first establish a common frame of reference.

I write this having recently attended the first Digital Power Forum (held by the Darnell Group in San Jose, CA). The conference covered a range of topics, from nuts-and-bolts questions on hardware used in providing and controlling power, to issues of control and monitoring software, to a discussion about the need for standards in both.

The problem with discussing standards in a developing field like digital power starts with confusion about the topic itself. In this case, digital control of power has been around for some time (in motor control for example), but what most people are referring to when they use the term is board-level dc/dc power control and systems monitoring.

However, even if you narrow the discussion to that aspect of digital power alone, there is still plenty of room for debate, from deciding which hardware configurations are best to the choice of software protocols. I liken the problem to the old story about the blind men and the elephant.

The tale is about how each of the blind men's conclusions of the nature of the elephant is guided by the part of the elephant they encounter, from the trunk to the tail. The moral of the story is that although each one of the men are right in their own way, they are all wrong on the true overall nature of the animal.

The story could have ended differently if each of the blind men had told the others of their findings, and if they had combined their viewpoints and observations to arrive at a group consensus. By realizing that each member of the group had a unique viewpoint, and that each viewpoint covered an aspect of the whole, the group would have come away from the experience with a better knowledge of the true nature of the beast.

When discussing digital power—or anything—every player has their own viewpoint, and only by communicating can the true nature of the industry be determined and any standards established have any credibility. Even if no standards are set beyond those that already exist, the act of communicating will strengthen the industry and help create a frame of reference from which everyone can begin to ensure that they are at least talking about the same thing.