In computers, conformance testing is an assessment of a piece of hardware or software to ensure that it works the way it should. It is most often used to ensure that computer products are compatible and built to adhere to specifications set for products of the same type. Many conformance standards are set by organizations dedicated to improving the reliability of hardware and software compatibility. If a conformance assessment is not performed, the manufacturer cannot be sure that the product will work as professed.
Essentially, conformance is verification or certification that something meets a set of specified requirements set for it. Conformance testing is important because computer parts require verified compatibility if they are going to work correctly when the consumer gets them home. When two pieces of hardware are compatible, that means that they work together or for the same purpose. Some products, like smart cards and smart card readers, are produced by many manufacturers, but they remain compatible, allowing the user to use multiple manufacturers' smart cards in smart card readers made by different manufacturers, as long as they are built to the same specifications.
To streamline compatibility among different types of hardware, organizations like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)™, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)™, and American National Standards Institute (ANSI)™ set hardware specifications designed to lead manufacturers in building compatible products. These standards make it easier for manufacturers to productively exchange information about product specifications so products can be compatible. Many product specifications can be found online on the websites of the standards organizations.
Though industry standards are an important part of ensuring hardware and software quality and compatibility, conformance testing in computers does not always have to do with standards set by another organization. This type of testing can also be part of a quality control process within the company or organization. A company will often have conformance testing procedures independent of the computer standards organizations that certify that a product meets company standards. Other conformance testing may help ensure that a supplied product or service meets the requirements set in a contract. Sometimes, a conformance assessment can be as simple as a visual inspection of the product.
Conformance testing is used to ensure that products, services, or people meet the requirements set by the organization. When people undergo conformance testing, it often means their behavior, health, and appearance will be examined to ensure that they meet the requirements set by the organization. One example of conformance testing is the physical test military recruits must pass to ensure they are physically fit enough to join the military. If recruits do not meet the testing requirements, they are placed in a remedial physical program which gives them training to help them meet the physical requirements.