Yesterday, the Deputy CTO of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a press release highlighting the efforts (and success) of the Obama Administration in getting data compiled at public expense into the hands of the private sector for commercial repurposing. The release refers to a McKinsey & Company report that estimates that making such data publicly available “can generate more than $3 trillion a year in additional value in seven key domains of the global economy, including education, transportation, and electricity.”
If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants
Sir Isaac Newton, 1676
If the phrase “open innovation” has a familiar ring, that’s not surprising. It’s not only a popular buzz phrase, but it has the type of virtuous ring to it that instinctively inspires a favorable reaction. But like most simple phrases, it intrigues rather than enlightens. For example, is open innovation feasible in all areas of creative, commercial and scientific endeavor? If so, do the rules, challenges and rewards differ from discipline to discipline, and if it’s not universally feasible, why not?
The big news in the standards arena yesterday was a joint announcement by five of the standards setting organizations (SSOs) that have been most essential to the creation of the Internet and the Web: IEEE, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and Internet Society (the last three being closely affiliated entities).
Joint announcements by SSOs are rare, and the subject matter of this announcement was more so: each organization was joining in the endorsement of a set of five principles that they assert support a “new paradigm for standards” development.
It’s very rare for me to write a blog entry directed solely at what someone else has written, but there’s an exception to every rule. This one is directed at a posting by Alex Brown, entitled UK Open Standards *Sigh*.
The short blog entry begins with Alex bemoaning the hard, cruel life of the selfless engineers that create technical standards:
It can be tough, putting effort into standardization activities – particularly if you're not paid to do it by your employer. The tedious meetings, the jet lag, the bureaucratic friction and the engineering compromises can all eat away at the soul.
The following is the introduction to the Feature Article in the most recent issue of Standards Today, the free "eJournal of News, Ideas and Analysis" that I have been writing for the last seven years. You can read the entire article here, and sign up for a free subscription here.
For more than 100 years, the United States has been the exemplar of the "bottom up" model of standards development. Under this methodology, society relies on the private sector to identify standards-related needs and opportunities in most sectors, and then develops responsive specifications. Government, for its part, retains ultimate control over domains such as health, safety, and environmental protection, but preferentially uses private sector standards in procurement, and also references private sector standards into law when appropriate (e.g., as building codes).
Until recently, government agencies in the United States commonly developed their own standards for procurement purposes. This era of separate but equal standards creation officially came to an end with the passage of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995. With this legislation, Congress directed government agencies to use "voluntary consensus standards" (VCSs) and other private sector specifications wherever practical rather than "government unique standards," and to participate in the development of these standards as well. In 1998, Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119 was amended to provide additional guidance to the Federal agencies on complying with the NTTAA.
The pace of technology is wondrous indeed. No corner of our lives seems safe from digital invasion, from picture frames to pasta makers. For years now, we have been threatened with Internet-enabled refrigerators, and perhaps 2011 will see it so.
Nor is the process likely to stop there. Soon, we are told, our homes will become infested by "mesh networks" of sensors, each one whispering information surreptitiously to its neighbor, in order to render our lives more energy efficient. But in so doing, they will observe our every move and report it to heavens knows whom.
On December 8, the U.S. National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) issued a public Request for Information on behalf of the recently formed Sub-Committee on Standards of the National Council of Research and Technology. The titular goal of the RFI is to assist the Sub-Committee in assessing the “Effectiveness of Federal Agency Participation in Standardization in Select Technology Sectors.” Although the publication of the RFI gave rise to not a single article in the press, this event was none the less extremely consequential.
Standards cover an awful lot of ground — how big things are; how much they weigh; how fast they go; how much power they consume; how pure they are; how they must be shaped so that they fit together — the list goes on and on. But despite the enormous range of characteristics that standards define, you notice that they all have one thing in common: you can describe them by using the word "how."
In short, standards relate to measurable things. Indeed, the earliest formal standards created in societies everywhere were usually those related to weights and measures. Invariably these were established when trade became more sophisticated than tribal bartering. Ever since, the history of standards has largely been one of establishing ways to define more and more measurable characteristics as they became important and as the scientific ability to test them came along.
There is, however, one exception to this rule. Curiously enough, it involves a standard that is as old as weights and measures themselves. And despite its ancient lineage, nations still can't agree for very long on what measuring stick should be used, or how it should work. This is rather remarkable, given that the standard in question is perhaps the only one that nearly everyone makes use of almost very day of their lives.
That standard, of course, is money — dollars, Euros, renminbi — each one a measure of value.
The last issue of Standards Today focused on XML - the underpinning of ODF and hundreds of other standards - and one of the most important standards ever developed. Here is the editorial from that issue.
One of the many intriguing concepts mooted by Pierre Tielhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest with polymathic insights (his academic explorations range from paleontology to the meaning of the Cosmos) is the "noosphere." In de Chardin's vision, the reality of the world encompassed not just the geosphere (inanimate matter) and biosphere (all forms of life), but an ever expanding nimbus of knowledge representing the fusion of the minds and knowledge of all humans.
In a short while, an important vote will be taken in downtown Denver, Colorado. If as expected that vote is in the affirmative, a unique and important public-private partnership will spring into being. It will also have an extremely ambitious goal: to assess, assemble, explain and promote the complex and evolving web of standards that will be needed to make the vision of a Smart Grid in the United States a reality. It will also mark the end of the first chapter in a journey that began with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
What is a Smart Grid, compared to what we have now? Today, we have centralized production of electricity, with distribution of that power being handled by somewhat interconnected, regional networks to commercial and home users. We also have burgeoning green house gas emissions, growing dependence on foreign oil, both as a result of our need to keep increasing our generating capacity in order to meet whatever the peak national electrical need may be.
Quote of the Day
“Announcements about standards committees tend to rank just above earnings calls and chipset specs on the excitement scale”
Outdated copyright laws must adapt to the new digital age Maël Brunet PolicyReview.eu March 10, 2014 - Yesterday the public consultation opened by the European Commission on the review of the copyright rules closed. This is an important first step in the legislative process that is expected to span the next few years. Now is a good time to look back at how the current system was originally set up and think about whether it is still fit for purpose to achieve its objectives.
The European Union copyright rules are based on a directive from 2001 implementing the World Intellectual Property Organisation Copyright Treaty of 1996. Since that time, technology has profoundly and irrevocably remodelled the way that content is created and consumed, and our legal system is increasingly struggling to achieve its stated objective of enabling creation – and open innovation.... ...Full Story
Getty Images Makes 35 Million Photos Free to Use Online OpenCulture.com March 10, 2014 - Founded in 1997, Getty Images has made a business out of licensing stock photography to web sites. But, in recent years, the company has struggled, facing stiffer competition from other companies …. and from online piracy....Fighting a losing battle against infringers, Getty Images surprised consumers and competitors yesterday when it announced that it would make 35 [out of 80] million images free for publishers to use, with a few strings attached.... ...Full Story
Are you a member of GoodReads If so, then I'm running a giveaway of 10 signed copies there right now. Below is the latest review (40 reviews, 4.9 stars average)http://bit.ly/1gft8Ix
5.0 out of 5 stars A Thinking Person's Cyber-Thriller Amazon Reader Reviews March 7, 2014 - This review is from: The Alexandria Project: A Tale of Treachery and Technology (Kindle Edition)
If you think a mystery novel containing elements of international espionage, politics, finance, cryptography, law, Internet technology and inter-governmental agency turf battles might appeal to you, I highly recommend this novel. It contains all this, plus much more (did I mention the Mother Of All Hacker Attacks and plot twists that will have you calling your chiropractor)? It will make you think twice (thrice?) about U.S. data security almost every time you read the international headlines. And the protagonist -- Frank Adversego -- may become your new anti-terrorist fictional hero. Highly recommended. ...Full Story
President Xi's Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Group Approves Work Plan USITO.org Weekly March 7, 2014 - China's Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Group (CCILG) approved its work plan and priorities in an inaugural meeting on February 27th, according to a report on the State Council website. The leading group is led by China President Xi Jinping and two deputy heads, Premier Li Keqiang and party propaganda department head Liu Yunshan, and is comprised of ministerial leaders. The leading group will play a central leading role in coordination of China's cybersecurity and informatization strategies, plans and policies.
At the meeting, Xi emphasized that cybersecurity and informatization play a strategic role in China's national security, economic development, and the daily life of the people. Xi said that China's development as a cyber power would require a focus on the overall landscape, ministerial coordination and innovative development....[Announcement is in Chinese] ...Full Story
As smart as it gets STR Team/Business Standard AFAQS March 6, 2014 - In January this year at Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Google announced the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), which aims to bridge that gap by plugging cars - and their amazing capabilities - into the same mobile ecosystem that powers your Android smartphone, tablet and television.
At Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, Google announced the Open Auto Alliance, a partnership with Audi, GM, Honda and Hyundai to bring Android to the dashboards of these car manufacturers. Apple is working with both BMW and Mercedes to bring its iOS into the cars. Then there is Ford's Sync, a platform developed by Ford and Microsoft, which provides real time information on traffic, directions among other things. What do 'smart dashboards' mean for the consumer and what opportunities do they open up for brands?.... ...Full Story
OECD Crafts Global Standard for Sharing Tax Information Joe Mont ComplianceWeek March 5, 2014 - Stepping up efforts to curb international tax evasion, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a global economic policy forum with 34 member government, has unveiled a new data-sharing initiative aimed at exposing the practice.
Responding to a mandate from G20 leaders to reinforce action against tax avoidance and evasion, OECD developed a new global standard for the automatic exchange of information between tax authorities worldwide.The standard calls for information from financial institutions to be automatically shared with other countries on an annual basis. The protocol details the account information to be exchanged, the financial institutions that need to report, the different types of accounts and taxpayers covered, and common due diligence procedures to be followed by financial institutions.... ...Full Story
Significant changes to public procurement rules: Recently, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposed changes to the rules that govern not only participation by agency personnel in standards development, but also all procurement by government agencies as well. These changes are far-ranging, and some could have a significant negative impact on consortium-developed standards unless the proposed changes are modified. Public comments will be accepted through May 14.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which seeks to facilitate all standards development activities in the U.S., will be holding a Webinar tomorrow which outlines the proposed amendments. The Webinar is free, and open to non-members as well as members of ANSI. As I will be filing comments with OMB, please contact me if you would like to participate in those comments.
ANSI to Host OMB A-119 Revision Webinar for Members on March 6 ANSI.org March 4, 2014 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will hold a free, members-only webinar discussing proposed revisions to White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, "Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities,” from 2:00 pm to 3:45 pm on Thursday, March 6, 2014....
The circular...was last updated in 1998 and is being revised again to reflect notable changes that have occurred in the ensuing years in connection with voluntary consensus standards, conformity assessment activities, and government regulatory work. A draft of the proposed update has been published online.
The March 6 webinar will look at the proposed revisions to OMB Circular A-119 in connection with intellectual property rights (IPR), incorporation by reference (IBR), standards development organization (SDO) process issues, and conformity assessment, among other topics....
All individuals interesting in taking part in the webinar must register in advance....Given the importance of the proposed revision, ANSI will develop a consensus response on behalf of the standardization community. Stakeholders are encouraged to review the draft revision – which is available online – and to submit input on the proposed changes to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 21, 2014. ANSI also encourages organizations to submit their own comments in direct response to OMB’s Federal Register notice.... ...Full Story
Now comes the acid test for the government's open standards policy bryang Bryan Glick ComputerWeekly.com March 4, 2014 - The UK government's consultation on the use of open document formats has closed, and we now wait for the acid test of the Cabinet Office commitment to open standards.
The outcome of this process will determine the government's ability to break its lock-in to proprietary software for years to come....The responses are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed use of ODF as the standard for documents - a format support by Microsoft Office, and by plenty of other non-Microsoft applications.
The controversy arises from the omission of OOXML - the standard proposed and designed by Microsoft, used (in one of its forms) as the default for Office, and by, well, not very many others....So, what happens next?
The government has only two options - to stick with its proposal and exclude OOXML, or accede to Microsoft's wishes and allow both ODF and OOXML.
If they choose the latter, the Cabinet Office will stand accused of crumbling in the face of the big supplier power it has said so often it wishes to break away from. The open standards policy would be in tatters.
If they stick to their preferred option, then it must be likely that Microsoft will formally challenge the outcome of the consultation process, leaving it mired in legalities for ages - and possibly until a change of government in 2015 decides it's not worth the hassle.... ...Full Story
China Establishes Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Group USITO.org Weekly March 4, 2014 - On Feb. 21st, Mr. WU Hequan, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, stated at the ICT In-depth Observation Conference 2014 hosted by the China Academy of Telecommunication Research (CATR) that the Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Group has been established, as reported by a website under the Shanghai Information Security Association.
Domestic media, including Aastock, a well known stock market media organization, previously reported on January 23rd that China was drafting a National Information Security Strategy and would release it following the establishment of a Central Cybersecurity and Informatization Leading Group. ...Full Story