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
“[H]as digital technology gone too far?”
-Mike Alexander asking, on the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Web, whether we're becoming too socially isolated
Brilliant, Fast Paced Page Turner (Five Stars) Amazonn Reader Reviews August 26, 2016 - The Lafayette Campaign is a masterfully crafted satirical page turner. In this cyber thriller, our hero “Frank,” a quirky and eccentric “cyber geek” will keep you smiling and at times laughing out loud when he tries to figure out who is manipulating the election polls, while attempting to write a novel about his previous adventures.
Andrew Updegrove does a brilliant job of creating likeable characters one can relate to, while weaving a gripping story with constant twists and turns you never see coming. The story moves at a very fast pace, but it’s easy to follow, enjoyable and impossible to put down.
This is one the best and most entertaining books I have read this year, and I would highly recommend it not only to “cyber geeks” and anyone interested in cyber security issues, but also to anyone with any interest in politics, elections, or anyone who is simply looking to read a fun yet technically accurate book with unforgettable characters you can’t stop thinking about long after you have finished the novel.
I loved how Andrew Updegrove was able to make such a technical subject so fun and entertaining, and can’t wait for “Frank’s” next adventure! ...Full Story
NISO Launches New Project to Create a Flexible API Framework for E-Content in Libraries Press Release NISO.org August 25, 2016 - Voting Members of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) have approved a new project to modernize library-vendor technical interoperability to improve the access of digital library content and electronic books. Building upon a set of API (Application Programming Interface) Requirements developed by Queens Library, a new NISO Working Group will create a foundational API set that the library community can build on. This set will fulfill an array of user and library needs, including quicker response times, flexible item discovery and delivery options, improved resource availability, and more seamless integration of electronic and physical resources.... ...Full Story
US.gov to open-source made-to-order software, allow contributions The Register August 18, 2016 - United States chief information officer Tony Scott and chief acquisition officer Anne E Rung have issued a joint memo decreeing that henceforth all government agencies need to consider open-sourcing any bespoke software they commission....The policy therefore implements a three-year pilot during which US government agencies will be required to open source a fifth of their bespoke code. Security agencies are exempt from the policy.
The policy also calls for any bespoke development effort to “acquire and enforce rights sufficient to enable Government-wide reuse of custom-developed code.” There's also a requirement to keep an up-to-date inventory of code and to lodge open source code at code.gov.
Elsewhere the policy suggests that when sharing code, agencies should engage with existing communities whenever possible, rather than trying to create their own. Which sounds like a shout-out to whoever provisions storage at GitHub, if nothing else. There's even a section 5.2.F in which agencies are encouraged to ready themselves for code contributions from third parties within and without government, creating the potential for citizen coders to help build government apps.
The memo also insists that whenever agencies need new software they must consider “whether to use an existing Federal software solution or to acquire or develop a new software solution.” Agencies must also consider whether it is possible to get what they need by mixing government and commercial code.... ...Full Story
From eCars to cybersecurity: standards seen as natural enemy of the tech industry Zulfikar Abbany DW.com August 17, 2016 - Not enough charging stations? That's not the problem. The problem is knowing which adapter fits your car.
Imagine you're driving your shiny new eCar to the beach and you come to charge it at one of ABB's electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Don't get me wrong, it looks like they have done their level best to cater for every possible standard, but it's a confusing array of options.
First, do you want AC or DC?...AC won't give you as much juice as DC, a fast-charging option. So you pick DC. But are you a CHAdeMO or a CCS? That depends on who made your car...."These standards are driven by the car manufacturers," says Robert Itschner, managing director of Business Unit Power Conversion at ABB Switzerland. "CHAdeMO is the standard used by Asian car makers and CCS is the European equivalent."... ...Full Story
Web at 25: Celebrating the 25th anniversary of World Wide Web Michael Alexander TheCourier.co.uk August 17, 2016 - Twenty-five years ago on August 6 1991, the first publicly available website was launched and the World Wide Web (WWW) was born.
It was created by the now internationally known Sir Tim Berners-Lee who, just eight months earlier, first posted the simple text page on an internal web server hosted by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research....Today there are over one billion sites on the World Wide Web – none of which would have been possible without the work of Berners-Lee,...Today’s Smart Phones, social media and advanced websites the world over would not have happened without that initial ground breaking work. It’s sometimes hard to imagine living in a world without them. Everything from banking to shopping to paying bills is increasingly done online.
But has digital technology gone too far?...
Two sets of data released this week certainly suggest a growing paradox in everyday life with technology bringing us closer but also seen to be getting in the way.... ...Full Story
Patent Advisory Group for Web Payments Working Group Launched W3C.org August 16, 2016 - In accordance with the W3C Patent Policy, W3C has launched a Web Payments Working Group Patent Advisory Group (PAG) in response to disclosures related to two specifications of the Web Payments Working Group; see the PAG charter. W3C launches a PAG to resolve issues in the event a patent has been disclosed that may be essential, but is not available under the W3C Royalty-Free licensing requirements. Public comments regarding these disclosures may be sent to email@example.com (public archive). Learn more about Patent Advisory Groups. ...Full Story
Carnegie Mellon U aims to unlock industrial 3D printing potential with new consortium that includes GE, Alcoa and United States Steel Alec www.3drs.org August 15, 2016 - ...for the 3D printing revolution to really pick up steam, a major push or technological breakthrough is needed to make this a truly accessible and affordable large-scale manufacturing option. In an attempt to realize that breakthrough, Carnegie Mellon University has announced a new consortium that brings together major companies, nonprofit institutes and the US government. Together, they will be working to fully unlock the potential of industrial 3D printing.
This ambitious consortium is headquartered in Carnegie Mellon University's NextManufacturing Center, and was announced at a campus event in late July by engineering professor and center director Jack Beuth. “Additive manufacturing is here now, and it's here to stay,” he said at the event. “One of the most important steps in making real progress with this technology is to bring all the key players — academia, industry, government, nonprofits — together to share knowledge, ideas and challenges. It's an integral part of creating a thriving additive manufacturing ecosystem, and today, we get do that here at Carnegie Mellon.”... ...Full Story
You heard it here first I've not only been writing about this risk for years, but I even wrote a cybersecurity thriller showing exactly how it could be done. So far, the election is tracking the plot of the book in a very disturbing fashion. You can find it here: http://mybook.to/lafayettecampaign
The Election Won’t Be Rigged. But It Could Be Hacked Zeynep Tufekci The New York Times August 12, 2016 - ...It’s unclear what mechanism the Trump campaign envisions for this rigging. Voter fraud through impersonation or illegal voting is vanishingly rare in the United States, and rigging the election by [physically] tampering with voting machines would be nearly impossible....But it’s still a bleak landscape.
Over the years, the team at Princeton, cooperating with other researchers, has managed to disable and tamper with many direct recording electronic systems that use touch-screen computers without a verifiable paper trail.
I’m not the only one who is worried. This month, Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, said his department was concerned about infiltration of the nation’s electoral systems. Experts have warned about voting machine vulnerability for years, but nothing has changed. The mere existence of this discussion is cause for alarm. The United States needs to return, as soon as possible, to a paper-based, auditable voting system in all jurisdictions that still use electronic-only unverifiable voting machines.... ...Full Story
ANSI Announces 2016 Legal Issues Forum: Employment Law, Cybersecurity, and Social Media Press Release ANSI.org August 12, 2016 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will hold its annual Legal Issues Forum on Nuts and Bolts Business Issues from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 27, 2016, at the FHI 360 Conference Center, 1825 Connecticut Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. The event is part of World Standards Week (WSW), a series of meetings and celebrations hosted annually by ANSI, coordinator of the U.S. voluntary standardization system.
A broad range of legal experts will lead panel discussions on employment law, cybersecurity, and social media – all topics of importance to non-profit organizations in the standardization community. Each session will be structured as a 90-minute moderated discussion, with considerable opportunity for audience Q&A. ANSI members and all interested stakeholders including those from government, industry, business, consumer groups, and academia are encouraged to attend and share their perspectives on these critical issues.
For the first time, this annual event is being offered free of charge to ANSI members. Non-members have a registration fee of $249.... ...Full Story
CORD Project Will Help Service Providers Build Cloud-Like Networks Jeffrey Burt eWeek August 11, 2016 - Service providers and telecommunications companies have a new tool they can use in their efforts to transform their networks into highly scalable, agile and affordable infrastructures similar to those run by cloud providers.
The Linux Foundation and the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) recently spun out what had been a use case within the ON.Lab's ONOS open-source software-defined networking (SDN) operating system into its own project that proponents said will give service providers the platform they need to create and deploy services to customers and employees a cloud-like speed....Google, Samsung and Radisys joined the ONOS and CORD projects, both of which are operating under the auspices of the Linux Foundation....The goal of CORD is to take advantage of merchant silicon, white-box servers, bare-metal network switches and open-source software to create infrastructures that bring the flexibility, agility and affordability of cloud environments to the central offices of telcos, which traditionally have comprised closed and proprietary products....
Service providers are turning to open technologies to enable them to more quickly spin out services and applications to end users, which include enterprises, residential and mobile customers, according to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation. ...Full Story