Regulate or Certify?

With so many disruptive technologies out there, we can never forget the biggest stakeholder of all the projects: the Government. How will it handle this?

One Wrong Idea…

I’m going to confess my foolishness here.

One day, with my team, I commented that the professional developer (in that time I meant of microcontroller and FPGA) should, somehow, be regulated. After all, the university, neither the best ones, were enough to attest professional excellence anymore.

There’s another thing here: how could someone say that a product is indeed good? There exist a company that would review all design process through development departments to make sure only good guys made a product.

Regulation was the key!

No. It isn’t.

I was deeply mistaken and at the same time very correct. There was a problem word choice here: I meant to CERTIFY in place of REGULATE. Some company could certify that the products manufactured by another company were good and developed by good guys.

As for regulating, I never believed that government organs will be able to follow the technological world. This premise remains valid.

Regulate x Certify

Dictionary above us. Regulate is …

Re · gu · la · te (from Latin regula, meaning rule)

  • Make regulation to;
  • Control by rules;
  • Establish regulation or standard in.

… and certify …

Cer · ti · fy (From Latin certificare, meaning to make certain)


  • To attest as certain; give reliable information of, confirm;
  • To guarantee; endorse reliably.

What should be understood from this? Well, there is a very big difference between creating laws for a particular activity or defining which particular activity is right.

This is very important especially for technology market. Would it be ideal to regulate new technologies? Or some sort of simple certification would be enough?

But more fundamental than that … The more advanced technologies are, the fewer are the people who really understand how it works…

Bureaucracy and Fear

A bureaucrat’s tendency is always to opt for the safer apparent route. In a way, this is interesting, but if we say today that we would sell a device that has high voltage inside and it fires a high-power beam at the user’s direction, it would certainly be banned.

The name of this device is “cathode ray tube” and decorated the televisions until a few years ago.

See, it is very difficult for bureaucrats (i.e. governments) to keep up with technological trends. Until a law is passed and a new regulation is defined, one can flood the market with some crapy product. Then we enter into a rhythm of “what is not allowed is forbidden”. And it should be the other way around…

State Agencies Do Not Certify.

That’s it. Everyone knows of “certified” products to comply with some regulation. Just for that. Basically, such a regulation has no social, technical or ecological effect. That is, it only serves to adapt a product to a law. And law is law, make it sense or not.

Laws do not define quality (quality, in the sense of being good or bad) of a product: think of the laws to certify a cell phone. The same bad cheap cell phone is certified by Anatel (Brazilian version of FCC), just like an Iphone do. So what’s the value of this regulation? Exclusively legal: good and crap products can share the shelves.

But then you ask me: “and ISO? My company is certified, but it’s just a make up for certification.”

Well, this is named FRAUD. And there is no certificate or regulation immune to this…

You already believe in Certificates!

I assure that more people chose restaurants through Guia 4 Rodas (a guide to restaurants in Brazil, foreign visitors should have one) than for regulated places by Anvisa (Brazilian FDA). I guarantee you have already bought things because the brand, without even worrying if it had an Inmetro (another regulatory agency here) certificate or not.

More examples? PMP, Green Belt, Lean, ISO, ITIL … All certifications. Nothing from them is regulated. I could extend this idea to almost every area, from medicine to engineering and also some developing sectors.

Certainly, people would tend to seek professionals with good certificates. Some time ago, the universities used to issue diplomas that were just this. A very reliable certificate.

And sometimes you do not even need them.

A regulation is not always necessary. The Internet, which you use, follows IETF recommendations. There is no law on the internet (though government often try to stick rules in it). Sometimes the simple desire to be compatible to gain more market may be enough for people to follow some standard. Examples:

  • IEEE802.3 (simplifying a lot, the network port of your PC and the router), is not law, but everyone follows.
  • ITU-T standards also, in theory, do not.
  • PC Platform

Why Certification is Good for Disruptive Technologies?

Disruptive, the great word of the moment. Accompanied by Start-Up then, it forms a very agile and very difficult thing to follow. Companies love investing in start-ups. Everyone thinks about putting together a start-up. Better still if it comes with some technology to change the world … Only that there is a problem.

There is the barrier of regulation.

If one day you invent the teleport, you can be sure that you will not be able to operate it, because it is something that is not regulated. Then what? How does your invention go? It does not. It remains stuck.

Therefore, it is much smarter for anyone who really wants to innovate to rely more on certificates issued by outsourced companies than for regulations issued by governments. So by launching something new, an exempt company says that, in fact, is good. Almost as if it were a guarantee: the company puts its reputation as the guardian of the quality of something.

By this attitude, the innovation thanks.

About rftafas 183 Articles
Ricardo F. Tafas Jr graduated in Electrical Engineering at UFRGS with focus on Digital Systems and achieved his Masters also in Electrical Engineering on Telecomunications Network Management. He also author of "Autodesenvolvimento para Desenvolvedores (Self-development for developers). Ricardo has +10 years experience on R&D Management and +13 years on Embedded Eystem Development. His interest lay on Applied Strategic HR, Innovation Management and Embedded Technology as a differentiator and also on High Performance Digital Systems and FPGAs. Actually, he is editor and writer for “Repositório” blog (, editorial board member at Embarcados ( and he is Management and Innovation Specialist at Repo Dinâmica - Aceleradora de Produtos.
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