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
“Pulling an open-source project upon which people may depend is total jerk behavior”
-Anonymous hacker commenting on Apple's pulling the FoundationDB codebase off of GitHub
“Apple is essentially saying that everything that FoundationDB, and its community, created during the lifetime of the project is now wrapped up and for the sole benefit of Cupertino. Ouch”
-Ben Keppes, writing in Forbes Magazine following Apple's acquisition of open source vendor FoundationDB
Interoperability across Europe in 2014: main findings from the analysis of the National Interoperability Frameworks EU Joinup April 23, 2015 - The 2014 State of Play Report on Interoperability in Europe measures an average alignment of 74% for 19 assessed countries. Of these countries, 5 reach over 90% alignment.
The report details all areas of progress and identifies the main trends and challenges that administrations face when designing and implementing their National Interoperability Frameworks (NIFs)...."A centralised regular monitoring of interoperability initiatives and a strong cooperation effort among public administrations are the basis for an effective NIF implementation", the report says. There is a need to establish effective monitoring activities to ensure NIF implementation. The report identifies a wide divergence in the scores which reflects the different levels of maturity of the NIFs in the countries analysed....One of the challenges listed in the report are the budgetary constraints hindering the pursuing of current work or carrying out new initiatives. Legal aspects such as multiple and conflicting laws on base registries are also underlined. Other challenges can be found in the area of semantics and multilingualism, and in the legacy technology in place.... ...Full Story
Dutch parliament: Vendor dependence too high a cost Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup April 22, 2015 - The Dutch government’s lack of vendor independence is too high a cost for society, the Dutch Parliament concludes. The government should enforce its policy on open standards in ICT procurement and should also devise exit strategies - to reduce its dependence on ICT suppliers.
This week Tuesday, the parliament adopted a resolution criticising the government for having no open source ambition. The resolution was adopted with 136 votes in favour and 14 against.... ...Full Story
TC260 Discloses 2015 Standards Formulation and Revision Plan USITO.org Weekly April 21, 2015 - On April 7th, the National Information Security Standardization Technical Committee (TC260) released a Notice on Application Guidance for 2015 Formulation and Revision Projects of Network Security National Standards.
The Notice highlights the prominence of network security and indigenous innovation in this year's plan for standards development and revision, with the stated aim of implementing key tasks designated by the China Leading Small Group for Cybersecurity and Informatization and the standardization reform agenda led by the State Council.
The Notice outlines six main focal areas of standardization:
- network security review
- critical information infrastructure protection
- network trusted ID management
- new technology/application security
- other urgent issues... ...Full Story
ANSI Announces June Webinar Series Highlighting the American National Standards Process ANSI Weekly News April 21, 2015 - This June, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is offering a number of webinars that will provide information and guidance on topics of interest to ANSI-accredited standards developers and those looking to learn about the American National Standards (ANS) process. The webinars are coordinated by ANSI’s Procedures & Standards Administration Department.
Participants may take part in these webinars at no charge, but are required to register online in advance in order to participate.... ...Full Story
SAIC Releases Rules on Anti-Monopoly IP Abuse Prohibitions USITO.org Weekly April 20, 2015 - On April 13, China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) added another piece of anti-monopoly regulation in the IPR field, with the official release of Rules on the Prohibition of Abuses of Intellectual Property Rights for the Purposes of Eliminating or Restricting Competition, which will take effect August 1, 2015.
This final version of the Rules shows little change from previous drafts, leaving in place a number of key concerns, most notably that the Rules could allow charges of IP abuse for legitimate exercise of intellectual property rights. Outstanding issues include:
- Provisions that would mandate compulsory licensing by dominant companies
- Disclosure and licensing obligations with regard to standard essential patents that go beyond the relevant standard-setting organization's patent policy and broadly recognized international norms
- Vagueness and uncertainty of the standards for determining IP abuse... ...Full Story
ANSI Launches Redesigned Standards Portal Website ANSI Weekly News April 20, 2015 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is pleased to announce the redesign of its Standards Portal, an online resource and educational tool for global trade which provides answers to critical standards, conformance, market access, and trade-related questions that companies require for U.S. and international operations. The updated site, at www.standardsportal.org, features a new interface with links to need-to-know information on international trade.
Standards Portal originally launched in 2006 as part of a collaborative effort between ANSI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in cooperation with the Standardization Administration of China (SAC). Designed for industry stakeholders and policy officials, the portal initially focused on U.S.-China trade, and has since expanded to include resources for export markets in India and Korea....Site visitors can also find links to access a database of national, regional, and international standards and guidelines that are considered integral to successful international trade. Dual-language (Mandarin and English) educational materials on the structure, history, and operation of the U.S. and Chinese standards systems are also available, in addition to helpful standards information for India and Korea in the portal’s export markets section. ...Full Story
UK Government Now Main Driver of ODF Advance: Kudos Glyn Moody ComputerWorld.uk April 17, 2015 - Back in July last year, I wrote about an incredible opportunity for the open source world. After years of disappointments, and despite the usual lobbying/threats by a certain large US software company against the move, the Cabinet Office announced that it was officially adopting the Open Document Format (ODF) for sharing or collaborating on government documents. At the time I exhorted everyone involved to do their utmost to make this work, since it was the biggest chance to show that open standards and open source were not just viable as a government solution, but actually better than the alternatives.
Since then, we've heard very little - either in terms of the move being a raging success or a dismal failure. That makes this update from Francis Maude, who has been one of the key people driving this move, particularly welcome, as it seems that real progress has been made:..."A number of departments are starting to publish in open formats, including the Department for Transport, Department for Communities and Local Government, Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions, and HM Revenue and Customs. Many more departments will follow by the end of the year."
Clearly, those are huge wins.... ...Full Story
Core Technology for WhiteSpace Alliance Wi-FAR™ Specification Approved to Become ISO Standard Press Release WhiteSpace Alliance April 17, 2015 - The WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) ®, a global industry organization enabling sharing of underutilized spectrum, today announced that the core technology underlying its Wi-FAR specification has been approved to become an ISO standard.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), an independent, non-governmental membership organization and the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards, announced this decision on 8 April. The approved standard will be referred to as ISO/IEC/IEEE Std. 8802-22:2015.
Wi-FAR, a derivative of the IEEE 802.22 Standard, provides industry-recognized, cost-effective broadband Internet access through dynamic allocation of underutilized TV band spectrum (“whitespace”). Wi-FAR is an inter-operability and certification point-to-multipoint wireless broadband specification optimized for operation in the VHF and UHF TV bands, in the frequency range between 54 MHz and 862 MHz. Incorporating learnings from the TV broadcast community, the Wi-FAR specification is the first and only specification that has seriously addressed the requirements of long distance, non-line of sight transmission for Internet traffic to provide cost-effective backhaul and middle mile solutions.... ...Full Story
HDMI Forum releases 2.0a specification that adds HDR support Jan Willem Aldershoff MYCE April 16, 2015 - The HDMI Forum has announced the HDMI 2.0a specification has been updated to enable transmission of High Dynamic Range (HDR) formats. Users can likely upgrade their devices to the updated specification through a firmware update.
HDR should provide enhanced picture quality by simultaneously enabling greater detail for both the dark and bright parts of an image. The HDR-related updates include references to CEA-861.3, CEA’s recently published update of HDR Static Metadata Extensions.
The HDMI Forum isn’t really clear on whether the new standard requires new hardware, however TP Vision previously stated that it should be possible to get support for the new standard through a firmware update. HDMI 2.0 was announced in 2013 and allows 4K video at 60FPS. Most Ultra HD TVs released in 2015 will support HDMI 2.0....Although the first TVs with HDR support were demonstrated at CES this year hardly no HDR content is available. ...Full Story
Linux Foundation to Host Open Encryption Project Press Release Linux Foundation April 16, 2015 - The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development, today announced it will host the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and its Let's Encrypt project, a free, automated and open security certificate authority for the public's benefit. Let's Encrypt allows website owners to obtain security certificates within minutes, enabling a safer web experience for all....A tremendous amount of data is passed over the Internet every minute of every day. This data includes usernames and passwords, credit card information, cookies and other types of sensitive or personal information. Encryption can help ensure this information doesn't land in the hands of hackers or identity thieves. However, the SSL certificates required for encryption on the Internet have historically been very difficult for website owners to obtain. Let's Encrypt will allow website owners to obtain SSL certificates through a free and simple process that will take no longer than a few minutes to complete.... ...Full Story