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
“[D]o you want to [hand] a 500-page specification...to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability?”
-Linux Foundation Jim Zemlin on why open source software is replacing open standards
ITU Plenipotentiary Conference elects Houlin Zhao as next Secretary-General ITU.org October 24, 0214 - The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference roundly endorsed Houlin Zhao of China as its next Secretary-General. Zhao will take office on 1 January 2015 for a term of four years, with the possibility of re-election for one additional four-year term.
The election took place in Busan, Republic of Korea, during the Plenary session of the PP-14 conference this morning. Zhao won the position with 152 votes, with 156 countries present and voting. He contested the position unopposed. Full election results are available here.
Addressing the conference after the vote, Zhao told some 2,000 conference participants from around the world that he would do his best to “fulfil ITU's mission, and, through our close cooperation, ensure ITU delivers services to the global telecommunication and information society at the highest level of excellence."... ...Full Story
Who Open Source is Replacing Open Standards Glyn Moody ComputerWorld.uk October 23, 0214 - ...Here's [Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim] Zemlin's perspective on why the Foundation is becoming involved in so many collaborative industry projects:
"Companies are now as the norm using open source to shed comunity R&D, to do collective innovation, particularly at the infrastructure layer, for almost every aspect of technology, not just Linux - SDN, IOT, network functions virtualisation, cloud computing, etc. What you have seen as a result is this proliferation of organisations who facilitate that development, on a very large professional scale. That's a permanent fixture of how the tech sector operates. We launch a new one of these about every 3 months. Next year we'll have many many more of these type of projects....The largest form of collaboration in the tech industry for 20 years was at standards development organisations - IEEE, ISO, W3C, these things - where in order for companies to interoperate, which was a requirement in tech, they would create a specification, and everyone would implement that. The tech sector is moving on to a world where, in the Internet of things [for example], do you want to have a 500-page specification that you hand to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability? I think that's a permanent fixture. People have figured out for a particular non-differentiating infrastucture they want to work on that through open source, rather than creating a spec."... ...Full Story
Bitcoin Foundation’s Financial Standards Working Group Underway Eric Calouro Bitcoin News Service October 22, 0214 - In effort to help standardize bitcoin and the bitcoin protocol, the Bitcoin Foundation has announced that the Financial Standard Working Group is well underway, led by Chairperson Beth Moses of Virgin Galactic (and formerly with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
The group’s priorities for the fourth quarter of this year into the first quarter of next year will be to apply for ISO 4217. In other words, the group is working to establish and get approval for a bitcoin currency code. They are looking to adopt “XBT”, despite the fact that “BTC” is more commonly used in the community.... ...Full Story
Dutch Parliament urges increase of open source Submitted Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup October 22, 0214 - The Dutch government must increase its use of open source software, recommends the country's parliament. It wants to make open standards mandatory and use open source when equal to or better than proprietary solutions for all ICT projects over 5 million euro.
The government must enforce compliance with its existing policy on open source software and open standards, the parliament recommends in its final report on failures of government ICT projects. Enforcing the ‘comply or explain’ policy is to become a task for a new agency, overseeing all government ICT projects....The parliament wants the government to report the savings it realises by using open source. This is to become part of the annual business reports of the government.... ...Full Story
W3C Launches Web Payments Initiative W3C.org October 21, 0214 - W3C announced today a new Web Payments Initiative to integrate
payments seamlessly into the Open Web Platform. W3C calls upon
all industry stakeholders –banks, credit card companies,
governments, mobile network operators, payment solution
providers, technology companies, retailers, and content
creators– to join the new Payments Interest Group and leverage
the unique ability of the Web to bridge ecosystem diversity and
reach users everywhere, on any device. The result will be new
business opportunities, an improved user experience for online
transactions, reduced fraud, and increased interoperability
among traditional solutions and future payment innovations.... ...Full Story
China Celebrates "World Standards Day" USITO.org Weekly October 21, 0214 - Last week, the General Administration of Quality, Supervision, Inspection & Quarantine (AQSIQ) andStandards Administration of China (SAC) co-hosted a conference to mark World Standards Day, embracing the theme of "Standards Level the Playing Field, Standards Construct Unified Market Rules."
At the conference, SAC announced three immediate standardization reform measures:
- Promote information disclosure of mandatory standards
- Initiate pilots on enterprise standards self-declaration disclosure system
- Expedite systemic reform of code allocation to organizations
Mr. Tian Shihong, Director-General of the SAC, highlighted three key medium and long-term goals:
- Efficient management of mandatory standards
- Development of consortia standards
- Improving participation in international standardization work... ...Full Story
ANSI Seeks Input on the Possible Revision of ISO/IEC Guides on the Adoption of International Standards and Deliverables ANSI Weekly News October 17, 0214 - The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Management Board (TMB) is seeking respondents for a survey connected with the possible revision of two ISO/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Guides providing information on the adoption of International Standards and deliverables. As the U.S. member body to ISO, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) invites interested parties to respond to a brief ISO survey on this matter.
The two guides are ISO/IEC Guide 21-1, Regional or national adoption of International Standards and other International Deliverables – Part 1: Adoption of International Standards, and ISO/IEC Guide 21-2, Regional or national adoption of International Standards and other International Deliverables – Part 2: Adoption of International Deliverables other than International Standards. The results of the survey will be used, in conjunction with similar surveys taking place in thirteen other ISO TMB member nations, to inform the TMB’s decision-making process regarding the potential revision of the guides, which were last updated in 2005. Further consultation with the IEC regarding the revision is expected following the end of the survey period.
Stakeholders are asked to complete the survey form, available online, and submit it to Steven Cornish, ANSI senior director for international policy, at email@example.com by close of business on Friday, November 7, 2014. ...Full Story
HIMSS seeks specific guidance from NIST on cybersecurity framework Susan D. Hall FierceHealthIT October 16, 0214 - The healthcare industry needs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to get specific about how to implement its cybersecurity framework, HIMSS writes in a letter to NIST Acting Director Willie E. May....In the letter to May, HIMSS said healthcare entities have long been focused on HIPAA compliance, yet compliance does not equal security....It also asks for specific guidance on what an ideal "target state" would be for a healthcare organization and standard metrics or tools to measure progress toward that goal. In addition, both privacy risk management and information security risk management should be addressed.... ...Full Story
AQSIQ and SAC Push for Reform of Enterprise Standards Management USITO.org Weekly October 16, 0214 - On September 30th, officials from regional quality supervision bureaus and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) convened in Chongqing to discuss a new system of self-declaration of compliance for commercial product standards....Tian reiterated Premier Li Keqiang's objectives of "completing the national standards system, pushing forward the reform of mandatory standards, and improving the effectiveness, progressiveness and adaptability of standards, inspection and testing." Self-declaration of compliance for commercial product standards is seen as an important step in deepening the reform of the standardization regime, Tian said....Implementation of the new system will take place gradually, with an initial series of pilot initiatives. ...Full Story
Can We Talk: Creating a Common Language for Cybersecurity Brian Heaton Emergency Management October 15, 0214 - As hacking attempts become more complex, governments continue to improve their cybersecurity presence through sophisticated firewalls and expanded procedures. But while high-profile data breaches have focused more state and municipal attention on cyberintrusions, a decidedly old-school problem continues to plague efforts to beef up security — communication.
With a variety of security options available, public-sector agencies often are deploying tools and using strategies that utilize different terminology and principles. These differences can lead to frustration when trying to compare cybersecurity programs and address the latest digital threats across agencies or jurisdictions. Without a standardized language, it’s difficult to gauge how strong another organization’s cybersecurity is.... ...Full Story