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
“Open standards are simply better for developers”
-Professor William Webb, CEO of the Weightless SIG, announcing the SIG's first standard
Russia to replace proprietary software with open source Adrian Offerman EU Joinup July 3, 2015 - The Russian Ministry of Telecom and Mass Communications has announced a plan to replace proprietary software with open source and locally produced software. The plan is one of the measures aimed at promoting sustainable economic development and social stability announced earlier this year.
The plan consists of three parts, each containing key activities and stages for their implementation. The first section states a preference for Russian products when procuring software for government needs. Public agencies will specifically look for local solutions providing business applications, antivirus software, information security software and internet servers now deployed in business environments. The current draft decree will be submitted for consideration to the Government of the Russian Federation next month.
The second part of the plan calls for support for the joint development of software for which no Russian solution is available, i.e. client and mobile operating systems, server operating systems, database management systems, cloud and virtualisation software, and office productivity software. The Russian Linux distribution Alt Linux and the Windows-compatible operating system ReactOS have already been selected.
The Ministry, local IT companies and inter-branch organisations are working on a draft decree to set up an autonomous non-commercial agency that will be responsible for the joint development of software for which the Russian Federation is currently highly dependent on foreign countries....the Russian Federation aims to cooperate and share development costs with the other BRICS countries. According to the Ministry, Brazil, India, China and South-Africa have already expressed their support for this "demonopolisation" initiative.... ...Full Story
W3C MathML 3.0 Approved as ISO/IEC International Standard ANSI Weekly News July 2, 2015 - The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), together with Joint Technical Committee JTC 1, Information Technology of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), have announced approval of the MathML Version 3.0 2nd Edition as an ISO/IEC International Standard (ISO/IEC 40314:2015).
MathML is the mark-up language used in software and development tools for statistical, engineering, scientific, computational, and academic expressions of math on the Web. The Mathematical Markup Language provides ways to describe in XML both the visual presentation of formulas (with mathematical symbols, built-up formulas, and font styles) and their semantics (with reference to different domains of mathematics). Its first version, MathML 1, was released in 1999.... ...Full Story
IT Innovators: OCP Aims To Create Common Standards For Software Containers Cheryl J. Ajluni WindowsITPro July 1, 2015 - ...industry leaders like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, CoreOS, Docker, and others are joining forces to create an organization known as Open Container Project (OCP).
OCP’s charter is to establish common standards for software containers. To get the ball rolling, Docker—the original author and primary sponsor of the Docker open source project—will donate existing code for its software container image format and its runtime, along with all associated specifications. The technology donation will serve as the foundation on which the new open standards will be based. OCP hopes to publish a draft specification in the very near future....According to Docker, just in the past year alone, containers based on its image format have been downloaded more than 500 million times. There are also now more than 40,000 public projects based on the Docker format....According to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, the organization that will house OCP, “With the Open Container Project, Docker is ensuring that fragmentation won’t destroy the promise of containers. Users, vendors and technologists of all kinds will now be able to collaborate and innovate with the assurance that neutral open governance provides.”... ...Full Story
Can LibreOffice successfully compete with Microsoft Office? Paul Rubens CIO July 1, 2015 - It's hard to imagine an open source project more likely to fail than one that attempts to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft's Office productivity suite.
That's because, as the de-facto standard used by businesses, educational establishments and government departments around the world, Office is a product that's exceptionally hard to compete against....Yet LibreOffice, sponsored by a nonprofit organization called The Document Foundation, aims to attract users with a free, open source alternative to Office with many of the features of Microsoft's offering. The project has been around for more than four years, and is a fork of OpenOffice.org,...Michael Meeks, a leading LibreOffice developer, says the open source suite is currently being used by about 20 million Linux users. (LibreOffice is included in many Linux distributions.) He adds that update requests are also regularly received from 120 million different IP addresses – with one million new ones appearing every week -- and suggests that in total there may be 80 million LibreOffice users around the globe.... ...Full Story
Please Welcome the R Consortium I'm pleased to highlight the latest consortium I helped the Linux Foundation structure and roll out. R Consortium is one of an ongoing stream of important projects that have chosen LF to host and support their activities.
Update: Google, Microsoft, Oracle back new R Consortium at Linux Foundation Sharon Machlis ComputerWorld June 30, 2015 - As foreshadowed on Twitter yesterday, a new R Consortium of major vendors launched today aimed at "strengthen[ing] both the technical and user communities," according to a Linux Foundation announcement.
Founding members include Microsoft, Google, Hewlett-Packard and Oracle, along with well-known R players such as RStudio, Tibco Software and Mango Solutions (Revolution Analytics is a member under the Microsoft umbrella). Alteryx and Ketchum Trading are also founding members.
The consortium's home at the Linux Foundation may ease some R users' worries that major vendors could disrupt the open and collaborative spirit that now exists throughout much of the R community.
"The R Consortium will complement the work of the R Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Austria that maintains the language," according to this morning's announcement.... ...Full Story
CEA, LONMARK Announce New Home & Building Automation Standards Press Release CEA, LONMARK June 29, 2015 - The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and LONMARK International today announced two new standards available for home and building automation. These standards provide multiple parties – including users, developers, vendors, integrators and specifiers of open building control systems – a mechanism to develop and deliver a higher level of device-to-device interoperability using any open control networking communication platform.... ...Full Story
China Lifts Restrictions on E-Commerce Foreign Investment USITO.org Weekly June 26, 2015 - On June 19, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) announced that e-commerce online data processing and transaction processing businesses will be opened to 100 percent foreign ownership across China, effective immediately. According to the MIIT announcement, foreign-invested enterprises will now be able to apply for permission of to hold a 100 percent stake in e-commerce online data processing and transaction processing businesses in China, but are still subject to other requirements of approval conditions and procedures as regulated in the Management Rules of Foreign-Invested Telecommunications Companies (State Council Circular No. 534).... ...Full Story
ITU defines vision and roadmap for 5G mobile development Press Release ITU-T June 25, 2015 - ITU has established the overall roadmap for the development of 5G mobile and defined the term it will apply to it as “IMT-2020”.
With the finalization of its work on the “Vision” for 5G systems at a meeting of ITU-R Working Party 5D in San Diego, California, ITU has now defined the overall goals, process and timeline for the development of 5G mobile systems. This process is now well underway within ITU, in close collaboration with governments and the global mobile industry.
The meeting also agreed that the work should be conducted under the name of IMT-2020, as an extension of the ITU’s existing family of global standards for International Mobile Telecommunication systems (IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced) which serve as the basis for all of today’s 3G and 4G mobile systems.... ...Full Story
The need for industry standards in the fight against cyber-crime Clayton Locke SC Magazine June 24, 2015 - In order to address the threat facing the financial services industry, the Bank of England (BofE) recently created the CBEST testing framework. This framework uses intelligence gathered from commercial and government sources, and can be tailored to the business model and operations of individual firms...This is clearly a strong step forward. Yet even though CBEST has robust certification requirements for testing companies, it does not provide a certification standard for the financial services institution itself....Making these assessments voluntary highlights an inherent weakness in the financial services industry outside of payment cards. It would be stronger to make the assessments compulsory, as is the case for PCI DSS.
It is time for us to develop a similar standard across our industry – a Financial Services Industry Data Security Standard. This standard could build on the foundations set by PCI DSS to cover the full scope of financial services cyber-security. By cooperating around such a standard, the industry will be able to deliver a stronger collective response to the cyber-crime threat than any single company could do alone.... ...Full Story
Open Standard Weightless-N IoT Network Goes Live In London Steve McCaskill TechWeek Europe June 23, 2015 - An Internet of Things (IoT) network using the open ‘Weightless-N’ standard has gone live across London, with the government-backed Digital Catapult Centre in London lending its support to the project.
Weightless-N was published only last month and is pitched as a cheaper, more innovative alternative to proprietary standards, allowing for cheaper hardware as any manufacturer can create base stations or endpoints.
The Weightless Special Interest Group (SIG) claims a terminal device can be made for as little as $2 and a base station for less than $3,000 – less than other platforms that lock users into one ecosystem.This, the S IG claims, results in excellent signal reach of several kilometres, even in “challenging” urban areas like London, and allows for multiple networks in a single location....Weightless-N is one of two standards made available by the non-profit Weightless SIG, the other being Weightless-W, which uses white spaces – unused portions of TV broadcast spectrum.... ...Full Story