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
“The least the EC could do, is to put its policy into practice”
-Director of European Policy at OpenForum Europe Mael Brunet on the failure of the EC to make public documents available in open formats
California Federal Court Holds that, in Order to Allege Market Power in a Deception Case, Plaintiffs Must Allege that the SSO Would Have Adopted an Alternative Standard ABA IPI Committee tidBITS December 19, 2014 - A California federal court dismissed, with leave to amend, Cisco’s and HP’s antitrust counterclaims against ChriMar, which were based on allegations that ChriMar knowingly failed to disclose essential patents to the IEEE standard-setting organization (SSO) with the intent to deceive, and then filed a patent infringement suit against Cisco and HP after the standard was adopted. Significantly, the court concluded that (1) Cisco and HP failed to sufficiently allege market power because they failed to clearly allege that IEEE would have adopted an alternative standard had it known about ChriMar’s patents, and (2) the heightened pleading requirements under Rule 9(b) for fraud applies to antitrust claims based on failure to disclose.... ...Full Story
OpenSocial Foundation Moving Standards Work to W3C Social Web Activity Press Release W3C.org December 19, 2014 - Building on the 31 July 2014 announcement of
the W3C Social Web Working Group, the OpenSocial Foundation and
W3C today announce the transfer of OpenSocial specifications and
assets to the W3C. As of 1 January 2015, OpenSocial Foundation
will close and future work will take place within the W3C Social
Web Activity, chartered to make it easier to build and integrate
social applications into the Open Web Platform.... ...Full Story
NIST Issues New Revision of Guide to Assessing Information Security Safeguards NIST Techbeat December 18, 2014 - NIST has released the final version of the 2014 update to its core guide to assessing the security and privacy safeguards for federal information systems and organizations. The revised guide is one of two basic NIST publications used by government IT security professionals to assess a wide range of software configurations, physical security measures and operating procedures meant to safeguard information systems from both chance failures and hostile attacks.... ...Full Story
Google Promises Better Compatibility with Open Source Documents Christopher Tozzi VAR Guy December 17, 2014 - Google (GOOG) may soon be taking open OpenDocumentFormat (ODF), the native file format in virtually all modern open source word processors, like LibreOffice and OpenOffice, more seriously. That's according to a statement from Google's open source chief speaking about the future of the company's cloud-based app suite.
Google already supports ODF to a certain, meager extent....Many governments are now requiring ODF as a way to avoid vendor lock-in and other concerns associated with Office Open XML, the file format created by Microsoft (MSFT) for use in current versions of Office and other applications.... ...Full Story
Cloud Foundry Foundation Launch Pushes PaaS Forward Jennifer LeClaire CIO Today December 15, 2014 - It’s official. The Cloud Foundry Foundation has launched as an independent, nonprofit foundation to manage the global open standards for platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology. The foundation will be managed as a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project and will be governed by a team of open source experts from founding Platinum Members EMC, HP, IBM, Intel Relevant Products/Services, Pivotal, SAP, and VMware Relevant Products/Services.
Cloud Foundry is currently the leading PaaS platform and has seen a 36 percent increase in community contributions over the past year, with more than 1,700 "pull requests" for contributions to the open development project. The Pivotal Cloud Foundry, IBM Bluemix, HP Helion, and Canopy Cloud Fabric are among the most notable deployments, thus far.... ...Full Story
A Ton of Tech Companies Just Came Out Against Net Neutrality Mario Aguilar Gizmodo December 15, 2014 - More than 60 huge tech companies including Intel, Qualcomm, Cisco, and IBM have written a letter to leaders in Congress and the FCC opposing net neutrality. The free and open internet isn't going to happen without a fight.
In an effort to implement net neutrality regulations that would stand up to legal scrutiny, President Obama has proposed that broadband internet be classified as a utility under Title II of the telecommunications act. It's a smart proposal that ultimately favors consumers, and it's supported by slews of companies like Google and Facebook. Obviously, the companies that own the infrastructure—Comcast, AT&T, et al—oppose the idea because they want to be able to charge money for internet fast lanes. These companies also wield a lot of influence.... ...Full Story
Target ruling raises stakes for cybersecurity vigilance Jaikumar Vijayan Christian Science Monitor December 12, 2014 - A Minnesota court may set a chilling new precedent for retailers with its ruling that Target could be sued for failing to adequately defend against last year's massive data breach.
By rejecting Target's motion last week to dismiss the lawsuit brought by several banks, and allowing the case to proceed, the court held that the retailer’s failure to heed warnings from a security alerting system, and its disabling of certain security features, could be viewed as negligent actions.
Consumers and banks have routinely brought negligence claims against businesses such as Target that have suffered a data breach. However, this is the first time in a data breach case of this magnitude that a court has said a company can be sued for failing to respond to warnings from security software. That decision could set in motion new legal standards for bringing negligence claims against organizations that suffer data breaches.... ...Full Story
ITU approves G.fast DSL high-speed broadband standard Leon Spencer ZDNet December 12, 2014 - Members of the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have reached a final approval of G.fast, the broadband standard that is designed to deliver access speeds of up to 1Gbps over existing copper telephone wires.
G.fast is a digital subscriber line (DSL) standard that is designed to allow speeds of between 150Mbps and 1Gbps -- depending on loop length -- for standard local subscriber lines shorter than 250 metres.
The ITU, which allocates radio spectrum and develops technical standards, said that the standard meets service providers' need for a complement to fibre-to-the-home (FttH) technologies in scenarios where G.fast proves the more cost-effective strategy.... ...Full Story
Is Google coming back to the open community on document formats? Simon Phipps ComputerWorldUK December 12, 2014 - At the ODF Plugfest in London, Google’s head of open source told the audience that work once once again in progress extending OpenDocument support in Google’s products.
At the opening of the event, Magnus Falk, deputy CTO for HM Government, told the audience that the decision to adopt ODF (alongside HTML and PDF) as the government’s required document format is now well in hand....As a result, Google faces significant pressure securing government business in the UK – including in the health and education sectors – now that ODF is a requirement.... ...Full Story
Cabinet Office Plugfest builds momentum for ODF OpenForum Europe/COIS December 11, 2014 - On Monday and Tuesday, 8th-9th December, a group of technologists, SMEs, corporations, individuals, and representatives of Governments gathered in Bloomsbury, London over two days to collectively improve the implementation of Open Document Format (ODF)....The Government's policy mandating ODF for editing and sharing documents, announced in July by the Minister, commits all departments to adopting the format to boost the strength and diversity of apps which read and write ODF documents. The Cabinet Office partnered with the OpenDoc Society to host this week's event. Magnus Falk voiced Government priorities when his speech on Monday demanded "serious choice" for Government IT buyers, and a level playing field for suppliers based on the use of Open Standards and ODF.... ...Full Story