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
“I know a smart business decision when I see one—choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed”
-Outgoing European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, endorsing a new campaign to ensure use of the OpenDocument format
Network Function Virtualization goes open source Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols ZDNet.com October 1, 0214 - In 2014, companies and open source programmers alike are working as hard as they can to virtualize hardware into software. The latest example of this is Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). The name of the NFV game is to take such appliances or server-based network operations as Network Address Translation (NAT), firewalls, intrusion detection, and Domain Name Service (DNS) and move them to virtual machines. Of course, there are all kinds of ways to do this on a single server, but NFV takes it far beyond that to a level where an entire carrier's network services can be deployed and managed virtually.... ...Full Story
Telcos Mobilizing to Drive NFV Adoption OpenStack Blog OpenStack.org October 1, 0214 - Today the Linux Foundation announced the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) Project, a group comprised primarily of telco operators working across open source projects and vendors to implement Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) within their organizations. This is an exciting development because the market is growing quickly, and many OpenStack community members are also participating in OPNFV, giving us an opportunity to collaborate closely with another like-minded open source Foundation. User input is critical at this stage of a technology shift as significant as NFV will be for telco and even enterprise networks, and any organization that is willing to contribute knowledge and code to those efforts is welcome in the OpenStack community.... ...Full Story
City of Turin to move to open source desktops Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup October 1, 0214 - The Italian city of Turin will switch to a complete open source desktop system, over the next 18 months. In August, the city administration decided to phase-out the current outdated proprietary system on its 8300 PCs and replace it by the Ubuntu open source alternative. Turin estimates the move will save some six million euro over the next five years....Last week, ZDNet reported a similar move to open source in another Italian city, Udine. A budget report from the IT department shows the town will train 400 civil servants to use Apache Open Office, a free software suite of office productivity tools. According to ZDNet, the city will gradually implement OpenOffice as its default office suite. The software is already installed on all of the city's 900 PCs.
Next year, the city will also being pilots with the use of complete open source desktops.... ...Full Story
Towns in Umbria region switch to LibreOffice Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup October 1, 0214 - The public administrations of the Italian cities Todi and Terni are switching to LibreOffice, announces LibreUmbria. The regional project is assisting the Umbria region's public administrations to use this free software suite of office productivity tools.
This month, the city of Todi will complete its switch to LibreOffice, and the one in Terni will start...LibreUmbria last year assisted the administration of the province of Perugia, using LibreOffice on all of its 1200 PCs and the Perugia Local Health Authority, which installed the office suite on 600 PCs....The project focusses on public administrations and schools, helping them to switch to and use LibreOffice. The centre also acts as a resource centre for SMEs and citizens....LibreUmbria is financed by the Umbria Region, supervised by the Open Source Competence Centre of the Umbria Region and the Consortium SIR Umbria- a regional government-owned ICT service centre.
LibreUmbria will now also start approaching the schools in the region, says Parisi, bolstered by a successful pilot. The organisation aims to train teachers, students and their parents, explaining them how to use LibreOffice, Ubuntu Linux and other free software solutions.... ...Full Story
Huge Channel Partnership Advances Open Source Software-Based Data Center Christopher Tozzi The Var Guy September 30, 2014 - The Linux Foundation has announced the Open Platform for NFV Project, an initiative with broad support from industry partners that will implement open source, software-defined solutions for networking, storage, cloud and other infrastructure....OPNFV complements what the Linux Foundation is already doing through the OpenDaylight project, which is building an open source software-defined networking (SDN) platform with broad support from industry partners. The NFV initiative will create solutions that virtualize other parts of network communications, making it possible to implement a network that is fully software-based and open source....OPNFV already has the backing of a remarkably long list of big names in the server, cloud computing, storage and communications world that have signed on as founding members....Readers may notice that not all of those companies traditionally have had a strong relationship with the open source community (though some certainly have). The fact that the Linux Foundation has been able to assemble such a broad and diverse base of support is a sign of how committed the channel is to transitioning from hardware- to software-based infrastructure while also keeping standards open. If there was ever a question about what open source software's role will be in the future, here's a big part of the answer. ...Full Story
Open NFV Group Uncloaks Its Platform Plan Carol Wilson Light Reading September 30, 2014 - The Linux Foundation today made its long-awaited formal announcement of the Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV), promising to deliver a carrier-grade, open source reference architecture as a means of speeding up NFV deployment. The group's initial focus will be on developing the NFV infrastructure and virtualized infrastructure management, two key pieces not already under development, and is promising its initial results in the first half of 2015.
OPNFV, which includes some but not all of the pioneering telecom operators behind the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) group which created NFV as a concept, was first discussed publicly last spring, but has been holding its cards close to the vest on details until today. In briefings in advance of the announcement, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said the new organization will build on existing open source projects, including OpenDaylight , Linux and OpenStack , but will be significantly different from those in its intent.... ...Full Story
An open source networking ecosystem shapes up Lee Doyle TechTarget September 30, 2014 - Open source networking is becoming a reality now that standards bodies, vendors and development communities are working together. Yet these players face a slew of challenges.
Open source software, increasingly influential in the IT industry, is poised to significantly impact enterprise and telecom networking. A number of open source networking groups, including the Open Networking Foundation, OpenDayLight, OpenStack, and most recently Open NFV, have the potential to accelerate innovation in the networking industry.
With open source networking, ISVs will be able to develop a wide range of new networking services and applications, and users can custom design their infrastructure based on individual need.... ...Full Story
France appoints Chief Data Officer Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup September 30, 2014 - France is the first country to appoint a Chief Data Officer (Administrateur Général des Données, AGD), to ensure open data reaches its full potential in improving government services. On 17 September, France appointed Henri Verdier, director of Etalab, which runs the Inter-ministerial open portal, data.gouv.fr. Verdier is to coordinate government actions aimed at inventorying, governing, producing, circulating and using government data. With the CDO, France aims to enhance evaluation of government policies, increase government openness and boost research and innovation.
"The use of data is at the heart of the digital revolution", Etalab writes in its announcement. "The wealth of data generated by the state needs data science to allow informed public policies." The team behind the data.gouv.fr portal expects the new position to create new opportunities for open data initiatives.... ...Full Story
Open document formats campaign backed by Europe's digital commissioner Loek Essers PC World September 29, 2014 - European government agencies should adopt open document formats in their dealings with citizens, outgoing European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has urged.
“I know a smart business decision when I see one—choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed,” Kroes said in a statement on the website of the FixMyDocuments campaign, of which she was among the first backers earlier this week.
“When open alternatives are available, no citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to use a particular company’s technology to access government information. No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one, through a government having made that choice first,” she wrote. ...Full Story
IEEE standards group wants to bring order to Internet of Things Stephen Lawson ComputerWorld September 29, 2014 - The IEEE is embarking on an ambitious effort to build a overarching architecture for the Internet of Things, spanning a multitude of industries and technologies. IEEE P2413, which the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers officially started work on in July, would form a framework for interoperability among connected devices and related applications in home automation, industrial systems, telematics and all other sectors that are expected to use IoT in the coming years....IDC analyst Michael Palma, who also spoke at the workshop, counted seven industry groups plus the IEEE that are working in this area....the P2413 Working Group...doesn't want to replace existing IoT groups. Rather it aims to create a standard architecture so IoT systems for all industries can work together.... ...Full Story