Standard setting relies on innovation in technology for new problems to solve. But sometimes the standards process itself has problems that demand innovation. As elsewhere, it is easier to follow than to lead, and the standard setting community owes a vote of thanks to two SDOs that are leading the way to ex ante disclosure.
Today, a building in the United States with public access must by law be accessible to those with disabilities – but a computer program does not, even if the inability to use it might be a bar to employment. As modern society becomes ever more dependent on information and communications technology, both the private sector as well as the public sector needs to become more mindful of accessibility needs and other issues that can be favorably addressed through standards.
Becoming an effective director of a standard setting organization requires abandoning traditional measures of success, and embracing new ways to achieve important goals.
Each year there are more consortia than there were the year before. That’s a good thing, because it indicates that new areas of technology are becoming commercially viable and need standards to help them succeed. But it may also be a bad thing, unless new ways are found to better coordinate and rationalize the burgeoning standard setting infrastructure.
Corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year participating in standard setting activities, and sometimes bet their companies on the success or failure of a single standard. Given the stakes, why isn’t the “standards professional” a recognized career track?
The founders of the United States believed that “all Men are created equal…endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights.” Today, legalistic interpretations appear to be undermining that vision.
More and more standards of all types (technical, professional, ethical and environmental) are supported by voluntary participation certification programs. These programs not only provide a nimble and cost-effective alternative to government regulation, but offer an increasingly important means to confront global challenges like global warming, environmental degradation, and achieving sustainable use of renewable resources as well.
The current hot topic at the IEEE, ETSI, and a number of other SSOs is whether to permit disclosure of specific licensing terms – including cost – before final adoption of a standard, with many opposed as well as in favor of such a change. In fact, the Chairman of the U.S.Federal Trade Commission has encouraged prudent adoption of just such "ex ante" disclosures. It’s time for SSOs to "just say yes" to ex ante, and to dedicate resources to perfecting this new and useful technique.
It’s easier to focus on what separates open source and open standards rather than on what they have in common. But it’s more useful to talk about how the two processes could work together better.
Economists and others that study standards like to speak of “stakeholders:” those that affect, or are affected by, the use of standards. For decades, accredited standards development organizations have struggled with the conundrum of how to involve some groups, such as consumers, in the process. Now there is a way.