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 need to adopt ODF is a no-brainer”
-Nico Westpalm van Hoorn, chairman of the Netherlands government body responsible for selecting IT standards for government
EC accepts XBRL as standard for procurement Submitted Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup February 12, 2016 - The European Commission has made XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) version 2.1 eligible for referencing in public procurement. From 17 February, public administrations in the EU can refer to the XBRL specification in their requests for tender. XBRL is a standard for exchanging business information, facilitating automatic retrieval of financial information and improving analysis of financial reporting.
The freely-available standard, developed by the not-for-profit XBRL Consortium, was accepted by the Commission after consulting the European multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) on ICT standardisation and other experts.
The MSP experts evaluate and examine the compliance of technical specifications in the field of ICT that are not national, European or international standards.
XBRL is now the seventh technical specification following this process that can be referenced in public procurement. Others include Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), Extensible Markup Language version 1.0 (XML) and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).... ...Full Story
Influence the Future of Cybersecurity Education—Join the NICE Working Group NIST February 12, 2016 - Addressing the nation’s rapidly increasing need for cybersecurity employees, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) is seeking members from the public and private sectors and academia to join its new working group and encourages interested individuals to participate in a kickoff teleconference the afternoon of January 27, 2016.
NICE, which is led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is a public-private partnership that promotes a robust network of cybersecurity education, training and workforce development to meet the nation’s demand for skilled cybersecurity employees to protect information systems. The number of job openings in the field greatly exceeds the number of trained workers. The NICE Working Group will collaborate to develop concepts, design strategies and pursue actions to advance cybersecurity education, including sharing existing education initiatives and identifying new ones.... ...Full Story
Companies Form New Alliance to Target Health-Care Costs Louise Radnofsky WSJ/Yahoo Finance February 11, 2016 - Twenty major companies—including American Express Co., Macy’s Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. — are banding together to use their collective data and market power in a bid to hold down the cost of providing workers with health-care benefits.
The newly formed alliance of companies, which cover about four million people among them, plan to share information about members’ employee health spending and outcomes, with an eye toward using findings to change how they contract for care. Ultimately, some members say, they could even form a purchasing cooperative to negotiate for lower prices, or try to change their relationships with insurance administrators and drug-benefit managers.... ...Full Story
European Parliament repeats call for open source Submitted Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup February 10, 2016 - For the second time in just three months, the European Parliament has called on the European Commission to to increase the share of free and open source software. On 19 January, in a so-called own-initiative report, the EP also urged the EC to use this type of software to promote reuse in and between public administrations as a solution to increase interoperability.
The European Parliament says that free and open source software will ‘boost competitiveness through interoperability and standardisation’.
In October, the EP called “for the systematic replacement of proprietary software by auditable and verifiable open-source software in all the EU institutions, and for the introduction of a mandatory open-source-selection criterion in all future ICT procurement procedures.”...In addition, the Parliament says free and open source software is instrumental to reinforce ‘trust and security in digital networks, industries, services and infrastructures and in the handling of personal data’.... ...Full Story
NIST Requests Comments on Computer Security Publication on Randomness NIST February 10, 2016 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking public comment on its latest draft of a publication intended to help computer security experts use randomness to protect sensitive data....Random numbers are a crucial element in cryptography, which is often used to protect private messages by encrypting them into a form that cannot be understood without knowledge of a secret value generated using the random number.
Creating the randomness needed requires the use of an entropy source, which includes a natural source of entropy, often a physical phenomenon such as thermal noise — the random motions of particles due to their temperature. Entropy sources that comply with SP 800-90B are intended to provide assurance that cryptographic algorithms provide the security needed to protect information.
“This draft document proposes a lot of tests that you can use to validate your entropy source to tell you how good a job it is doing,” says NIST’s Elaine Barker, one of the publication’s authors. “When you’re assessing your process for generating randomness, you want to make sure nothing is broken and that it is performing consistently. We would like the public’s input on ways we can improve these tests.”... ...Full Story
U.S. Department of Transportation Releases Report to Congress on Dedicated Short-Range Communications ANSI.org Weekly News February 9, 2016 - The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently released a report to Congress assessing the status of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology and applications for short-range communications between vehicles and infrastructures. While the report found that DSRC is ready for deployment and emphasized that DSRC-based technologies offer a path to a “safer and more efficient” surface transportation system for America, it also revealed that the DOT is aiming to harmonize operational policies and voluntary industry standards to enhance capabilities even more to achieve global compatibility.
The DOT defines “DSRC” as a Wi-Fi derivative technology developed to meet specialized needs for secure, low latency, wireless mobile data communications. The technology has the proven the ability to provide all of the critical attributes needed to support mobility and environmental applications, in addition to lifesaving safety-critical applications. DSRC supports connected vehicle safety applications, for example, and can be configured to enable real-time crash-avoidance alerts and warnings. The DOT reports that in this capacity, DSRC has the ability to transform transportation safety—with the potential to address 83 percent of light-vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers.... ...Full Story
Open Compute Project Extends Focus to TelecommunicationsChristopher Tozzi Christopher Tozzi The Var Guy February 9, 2016 - The Open Compute Project, with the backing of several telecommunications providers and other new partners, wants to make telco more open.
David Ramos/Getty Images
The Open Compute Project (OCP), the Facebook-born initiative to make datacenter computing more scalable, efficient and affordable through open software and hardware, has taken another step forward by securing the support of several telecommunications companies as it launches a new telco project.
OCP, which was founded in 2011 by Facebook, Intel, Rackspace, Goldman Sachs and Andy Bechtolsheim, originated from an effort by Facebook to keep its datacenter open in order to lower costs and avoid vendor lock-in.... ...Full Story
Industrial Internet Industry Alliance Created Under MIIT USITO.org February 8, 2016 - On February 1, the Industrial Internet Industry Alliance held its inaugural meeting in Beijing, with Minister of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) minister Miao Wei delivering a keynote address.
In his remarks, Miao Wei highlighted that the industrial Internet has already emerged as the critical driving force for smart manufacturing, and the playing field upon which countries are competing for manufacturing leadership. Minister Miao added that because China is in the midst an of economic transformation, the importance of industrial internet development is even more critical, and that the newly formed alliance should strive to serve as a catalyst for industrial internet promotion measures such as China Manufacturing 2025 and the Internet Plus Strategy.
The alliance will be under the guidance of the China Academy of Information Communications Technology (CAICT) but has a total of 13 vice chairman-level supporting companies, including Huawei, China Telecom and Haier. CAICT president Cao Shumin will serve as chairperson of the alliance, while Minister Miao will serve as director of the alliance's guidance committee. The alliance has 143 founding members. ...Full Story
Get Involved: U.S. TAG Participants Sought for ISO/IEC Subcommittee on Automatic Identification and Data Capture Techniques ANSI.org Weekly News February 4, 2016 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is seeking U.S. experts to participate in the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology Standards, Subcommittee (SC) 31, Automatic identification and data capture techniques. As the U.S. representative to ISO, ANSI encourages all U.S. stakeholder organizations in relevant information technology fields to get involved, and those involved in radio frequency identification and data encoding are especially sought....SC 31 works to provide standards for data formats, data syntax, data structures, data encoding, and technologies for the process of automatic identification and data capture and of associated devices utilized in inter-industry applications and international business interchanges and for mobile applications.... ...Full Story
ANSI to Host OMB A-119 Revision Webinar on February 16 ANSI.org Weekly News February 3, 2016 - The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will host a free webinar discussing the recently published revisions to White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119, "Federal Participation in the Development and Use of Voluntary Consensus Standards and in Conformity Assessment Activities.” The webinar will take place from 3:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern on Tuesday, February 16, 2016.
ANSI strongly encourages all interested parties – and especially ANSI member organizations – to take this opportunity to learn more about the revised document, which will continue to have a significant impact on future U.S. government use of privately developed voluntary consensus standards.
The circular, in conjunction with the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA) of 1995, instructs U.S. federal agencies to consider using voluntary consensus standards developed privately instead of government-unique standards whenever possible. It was last updated in 1998 and has been revised again to reflect notable changes that have occurred in the ensuing years in connection with voluntary consensus standards, conformity assessment activities, and the federal government's participation in and use of standards.
Guest speakers at the webinar will include:
- Jasmeet Seehra, Policy Analyst, OMB
- Jeff Weiss, Senior Advisor for Standards and Global Regulatory Policy, U.S. Department of Commerce
- Gordon Gillerman, Director, Standards Coordination Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
The webinar will be listen-only, but participants will be given the opportunity to submit questions via chat. Following the event, the slide deck and a recording of the webinar will be made available for future viewing.
All individuals interesting in taking part in the webinar must register in advance. ...Full Story