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FEBRUARY 2006
Vol V, No. 2

THE EMERGENCE OF THE DIGITAL HOME

EDITOR'S NOTE: NOW WE ARE THE JETSONS
   
EDITORIAL: THE WIRELESS (STANDARDS) HOME OF THE FUTURE
Standards involving many new technologies are being developed to make the home of the future possible today. None are more important to that enterprise than a rapidly expanding family of wireless standards - and few have been more competitively (and sometimes contentiously) agreed upon. Print this article
   
FEATURE ARTICLE:

CASE STUDY: THE UNRULY EMERGENCE OF THE DIGITAL HOME

New standards are being developed in multiple areas to enable the emergence of the digital home, from environmental controls, to networking, to home entertainment, and more. The rapid evolution of the ecosystem of standard setting organizations (both old and new) that is creating these standards provides a current example of how standards infrastructures rapidly develop to address new commercial opportunities. Print this article
   
STANDARDS BLOG: MITT CALLS THE ODF COIN TOSS RIGHT
When Massachusetts CIO and OpenDocument Format (ODF) champion Peter Quinn announced his resignation last year on Christmas Eve, Massachusetts Governor (and presidential hopeful) Mitt Romney had two choices; stick with ODF, or abandon it. The former would antagonize some, while the latter could leave Romney vulnerable to charges of "flip flopping" and giving in to special interests. Luckily for the ODF camp, he called the coin toss right. Print this article
   
CONSIDER THIS: BODY TYPE STANDARDS, CRASH TEST DUMMIES, AND SLEEPING WITH BIG AGNES

What is the size and shape of the "Standard American?" It's a standard that matters more than you might think. And when Americans get larger, then its time to revise the standard. Print this article

 
CALL FOR PAPERS: IEC  CENTENARY  CHALLENGE
The IEC and partners, in association with The Economist, launches a competition in honor of the close of "the Electric Century."
 
NEWS SHORTS:  
Selections of news on standards for the Digital Home and on Wireless Standards Wars; Preparations Begin to Create the Post-WSIS Internet Governance Forum; New Consortia Spring up like Mushrooms; News Update on ODF; and, as always much more.

 


 

EDITOR'S NOTE:

NOW WE ARE THE JETSONS

Those who have attained the lofty age of 45 or so will remember one of the more successful Hannah Barbera cartoon series, called "The Jetsons."  In that series (and in many other books, movies and television shows over the past 75 years), a world was imagined where homes possessed the technology to serve every whim and desire of their owners.

Today, after many decades of anticipation, the digital home is beginning to become a reality, made possible not only by the maturation of various types of technology, but also by the development of a host of standards in areas ranging from telecommunications, to networking, to data formats to an ever-growing family of wireless standards.  And if we are not yet able to replicate the home imagined by Ray Bradbury in "The Veldt", we have certainly entered an era where our homes truly will be more comfortable, more safe, more energy efficient and more entertaining than ever before.

The theme of this issue of the CSB, therefore, is the SSOs and the standards that are making the digital home possible and in describing these organizations and their work product, to illustrate how such an infrastructure can rapidly emerge, utilizing existing organizations and forming new ones.  At the same time, I use this evolution to highlight how stakeholders behave when they have much to gain (or lose) as a result of the new standards that are created.

This month's Editorial begins the review by examining the most fundamentally important family of standards that are making the digital home possible – the rapidly expanding family of wireless standards that have been, and continue to be, developed.

The Feature Article uses the evolution of the digital home as a case study, in order to demonstrate how new standards ecosystems evolve.  It does so by taking a closer look at each of the major areas of innovation that is making the digital home a reality, and identifies many of the individual SSOs that have created the standards in each of these areas.  It also describes the often "unruly" dynamics that have accompanied – and sometimes impeded – progress in these sectors.

In this month's Standards Blog entry, I return to a topic that I have been following since September of last year: the ongoing saga in Massachusetts relating to the adoption of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) by the Commonwealth's Executive Agencies.  This particular blog entry (among many that I have posted on this and other topics since the last issue) offers my guess that presidential hopeful Governor Mitt Romney has decided that standing firm behind ODF makes better political sense than flip-flopping and giving in to special interests in the wake of the Abramoff scandal.

In my Consider This… essay for this month, I reflect on the fact that the "standard American" is now, shall we say, rather "larger" than not so long ago.

And finally, as usual, I close with The Rest of the News, presenting what I thought were some of the most noteworthy news stories and press releases out of the many that I chose and posted at the ConsortiumInfo.org News Portal since the last issue of the CSB.

As always, I hope you enjoy this issue. 
    Best Regards,
  signature
  Andrew Updegrove
  Editor and Publisher
   

2005 ANSI President’s
Award for Journalism


 

EDITORIAL

THE WIRELESS (STANDARDS) HOME OF THE FUTURE

Andrew Updegrove

The home has always been enabled by formal standards – both discrete (e.g., the dimensions of lumber, plumbing and electrical components), as well as comprehensive (as with the complex systems of standards that comprise modern building codes).  The places where we live are also rife with informal standards borne of convention, such as the standard height of stair risers, kitchen counters and chairs.  Even the shapes of our wine glasses and the bottles that we use to fill them conform to shape conventions that have evolved to indicate the liquids that they are intended to contain.  In each case, we are so familiar with these design elements that we take them for granted even as we enjoy their benefits, both trivial as well as profound.

Today, there is a new wave of technical standards under development that will revolutionize how we live at home.  These standards will change the way we control the increasing number of systems we rely upon to control our domestic environments and to entertain us.  They will also make our energy use more efficient, our lives more safe and effortless, and the technical quality (if not, sadly, the content) of our video entertainment more brilliant.

Many of these new products and services were imagined decades ago, such as the videophones that tantalized visitors to the AT&T pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1964, long before the technology existed to make them a commercial reality.  Today, that technology is becoming available, and once futuristic products and services are now, one by one, becoming commonplace.  Indeed, a modern cellphone is not much larger than Dick Tracy's "two-way wrist radio" – and contains a Web browser, PDA and other features never imagined when Tracy was a "must read" in the funnies of the '50s.

While a number of technical and economic developments of recent vintage have made this renaissance possible (e.g., cheaper, more powerful chips), no single development will play a greater part than the creation of multiple near, medium and long range wireless capabilities and services, each defined and made possible by standards.  These standards are being developed by a wide variety of standard setting organizations, both venerable and accredited (such as IEEE) as well as new consortia (like the Near Field Communication Forum (NFC) and EPC Global).

These services will operate at distances as short as a few centimeters (NFC standards enable tasks such as device-to-device identification), to short distances (as with the RFID devices that will tell us what enters and leaves our homes), to intermediate (such as the Wi-Fi standards that already enable our home networks to operate) to long distance (such as WiMax compliant equipment, which will allow large areas to be served with broadband transmissions from a single transmitter).

These standards will also deliver high definition television data to more vivid flat panel displays without connecting wires, as well as digital music provided by new Internet-based services via other wireless devices.  They will also enable the delivery of faster broadband services to and throughout our homes, will permit networks of inexpensive sensors to monitor and control our heat, light and safety, and will allow the dramatic upgrading of entertainment systems.  With other standards, we will be able to tell where our pets and (if we wish) our children are at any point in time, while not (we hope) allowing others to track us without our knowledge or permission – a result yet to be guaranteed. 

There is even hope that some day – perhaps soon – that most evanescent and desirable of all technical grails may be defined by standards: The Universal Remote. (And woe betide us if this vision proves to be an illusion.)

At the same time, industry is being energized by new product opportunities of many types, and vendors are competing to provide us with new as well as upgraded devices.  New "standards profile" consortia such as the Mobile Imaging and Printing Consortium (MIPC) are compiling suites of standards that enable new wireless linkages between devices that did not previously exist, allowing us (for example) to effortlessly print pictures directly from our mobile phones to our home printers.

All of these possibilities are maturing nearly simultaneously, and each relies increasingly on the work of several, and often many, different accredited and unaccredited standard setting organizations. 

Unfortunately, with opportunity often comes contention, and it is perhaps no surprise that as the stakes have risen, so has the energy with which individual proposals have been promoted.  In some cases, this has been healthy, leading to the overlapping development of multiple technologies (e.g., Wi-Fi, Wi-Lan and Wi-Max), no single one of which will be "right" for all situations.  But in other instances, as with USB (the standard that may make home video cabling a thing of the past), rival factions have refused to compromise, leaving the consumer to make confusing decisions where the differences between two competing standards will be of little interest.

Notwithstanding such situations, it is likely that in the space of only a few years the great majority of these new goods and services will become ubiquitous.  And, with pervasiveness, they will become just as taken for granted as are the home comforts that we already enjoy, so many of which were made possible by the now-forgotten standards development work of the past.

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FEATURE ARTICLE

CASE STUDY: THE UNRULY EMERGENCE OF THE DIGITAL HOME

Andrew Updegrove

Abstract:  Although basic electrical devices like thermostats, phones and radios entered our dwellings many decades ago, the long-awaited vision of the "digital home" is only now becoming a reality.  The emergence of the futuristic home, controlled by and for the fulfillment of the comfort, safety and enjoyment of its owners, has become possible only with the development of the hundreds of telecommunications, wireless, data format, networking and other standards that have been created by scores of accredited standards development organizations and unaccredited consortia, some venerable, and others new and created specifically for this purpose.  An examination of how this new standards development ecosystem has evolved demonstrates how complex standards infrastructures come into existence through the reordering of relationships among existing, and the formation of new, standard setting organizations.  Such a review also illustrates how participants behave when commercial opportunities are great, and the stakes for success (or failure) are high.

 

Introduction: Through the coincidental maturation of a variety of technologies, the New Year has brought a rash of news stories and product announcements relating to innovations in digital home technology. All at once, multi-year research, standards development and commercialization efforts in video delivery and storage technology, wireless services (both "last mile" and in-home), multiple types of display technology, and new PC capabilities are converging at roughly the same time, allowing long-anticipated innovations in home services and systems to become available to consumers.

In each case, these new digital goods and services rely on new standards created within a broad variety of standard setting organizations (SSOs) that are both accredited and non-accredited, broadly targeted and narrowly focused, venerable and brand new.  Taken together, the scores of SSOs involved, and the hundreds of standards that they have developed to this purpose, provide a vivid example of the degree to which our modern, technology-based society is dependent on the largely unseen operation of the global standards development infrastructure.

At the same time, the news has also been rife with stories describing the emergence of rival factions promoting their favorite standards solutions.  Sometimes these battles are being fought within existing SSOs, while in other cases new forums have been created to act as auxiliaries to ongoing efforts within an already existing SSO, and in still other instances totally new SSOs have been formed to develop and promote standards.  For better or worse, this behavior is typical of the highly competitive operation of the standards development infrastructure, as the exact parameters of a new standard can have profound economic impacts – both positive and negative – on the vendors that participate heavily in the SSO process.

Where such contests have been waged, the efforts of opposing camps have sometimes been reconciled, resulting in the ultimate release of one standard by a single organization.  But in others, the effort has failed, leading to the announcement of two standards, each supported by separate but otherwise often substantially equal product lines – thereby leaving the consumer with two options, and little to inform her choice as between the two.  This too is typical of the standards development process.  Still, given the high stakes and the fact that both SSO participation and the implementation of SSO standards is voluntary, it is a testament to the stability of the standards development process that such results are rare rather than common.

Lastly, the example of the emergence of the digital home illustrates the degree to which consortia have been influential in addressing the needs of the information and communications (ITC) technology industry.  Perhaps because so many technologies and product opportunities are brand new in the ITC space, consortia have been utilized to a vastly greater extent here than in traditional industries.  Similarly, some of the most active and respected accredited SSOs (such as the IEEE) that are nominally accredited in one country have become global, rather than national organizations – in part, because data knows no borders.

In this article, I survey several of the principal areas of innovation and the resulting new product types that are now reaching the market, and the related SSOs and promotional organizations whose usually complimentary, but sometimes conflicting, efforts are enabling the digital home of the future to (finally) emerge into the present.1

The Technologies:  Homes have made increasing use of sophisticated electronic technologies over the last fifty years, and in many cases the areas of greatest innovation today represent efforts to create ever more sophisticated upgrades to the basic products introduced when electronic technology first entered the home.  Chief among them are the following:

       Environmental controls:  The first simple thermostats liberated the homeowner not so long ago from the need to stoke the wood stove or shovel coal into the furnace throughout the day (and night).  These controllers, of course, depended on the development of additional technology: the electromechanical means to control and feed coal, oil and gas to furnaces.  In the first simple systems, hot air and hot water could literally rise to the occasion, with hot water heat providing manual room by room adjustment through taps placed on individual radiators.

Over time, each new development in new home environment technology gave cause to the design of more sophisticated controllers.  First, as better means of distributing heat were developed, localized controls became feasible as well as desirable.  When central air conditioning became affordable, more attention was paid to the means (fans) to distribute this new luxury equally where needed, and controllers were needed that could regulate both cooling as well as heating.  Humidifiers could also be added to the same system, offering the ability to further influence one's immediate environment – and the need for a device to control that variable as well. 

With the increasing price of fuels, programmable controllers became attractive, in order (for example) to automatically lower heat at night to conserve energy.  Similarly, as alternative energy sources (e.g., active and passive solar systems) were developed, these technologies needed to be accommodated as well.  But control was still exercised in most cases by thermostats that remained in many ways not so different than those in use decades ago.  The most significant advance was the addition, either locally or centrally, of a computer chip and related technology.

Today, even more elements of the home environment are becoming centrally controlled, resulting in the design of devices that can locally or remotely make adjustments not only of heat, humidity and cooling, but also control light, yard sprinklers, child monitors, security cameras, and the unlocking of doors.  A further area of innovation helps address the needs of the elderly and the disabled.

In the course of this evolution, traditional accredited SSOs have created new electromechanical standards to replace or supplement ones they previously created, while other accredited SSOs that previously had no need to commission information technology oriented working groups have realized the need to do so, creating (for example) standards for wireless solutions that are intended to replace wired or cabled services that conform to standards created by older SSOs.  At the same time, new organizations have been created that focus solely on the standards needed to enable the digital home.

One example of such a new organization is the Z-Wave Alliance, which has created both a standard as well as a certification and branding process for controllers that are intended to "deliver increased comfort, convenience, safety and security."  Over 100 companies implement Z-Wave compliant products that permit wireless, pre-programmed control not only in traditional areas such as lighting and temperature, but also in more modern applications, such as to control the operation of home theaters, and the heaters and circulators of pools, spas and hot tubs.  

Another relatively new consortium (it was formed in 1997) is the Energy Conservation and Home Network Consortium (EchoNet).  Its mission is to develop "software and hardware to support a home network that is committed to energy conservation, security, home health care, and other domestic needs" using existing power lines, as well as both radio frequency and infrared devices to enable data transmission without additional wiring.

       Entertainment systems:  The simple radios of the first half of the last century have given way to sophisticated stereos, while simple black and white televisions have evolved into ever-larger flat screen displays.  Similarly, VCRs have given rise to "surround sound" home theaters and Tivo players, while new on-demand video services are transcending the traditional limitations of structured programming.  And all of the above are converging with the home computer.

Here again, the standards that are enabling this evolution are being created by a mix of old and new SSOs, with (for example), accredited SSOs continuing to serve the safety compliance and certification needs of home electronics, while other SSOs, both accredited, unaccredited and brand new create the standards needed to meet the unique needs of new products and services.  Newer consortia in this domain include the Home Audio Visual Organization (HAVi), which brings together consumer electronics, software, semiconductor and computer manufacturers to promote a network architecture designed to enable home audio-video interoperability at the API and middleware levels to allow "plug and play" performance (i.e., new devices that are added to the network identify themselves and negotiate interoperability with existing devices).  HAVi standards are intended to be compatible, and work with those of other consortia with similar goals, such as Jini.org and Universal Plug and Play and Forum (UpnP).

A similar effort was launched by the Universal Home API Forum (UHAPI Forum), which also focuses on making home entertainment systems more attractive purchases for homebuyers. The ultimate goal of the UHAPI Forum is to standardize a complete set of open APIs for a variety of appliances such as analog and digital televisions, set-top boxes, DVD players and recorders, printers, personal video recorders, home servers and other consumer audio and video devices.

       Communication:  While the telephone has been present in households for over a hundred years, only in the last thirty has it become revolutionized, first by the development of switching and long distance transmission technologies that have nearly eliminated the need for human operators, and  (through deregulation and the breakdown of monopolies) decreased long distance costs. In the same time period, the humble rotary-dial phone finally gave way first to the push-button phone, then to mobile and wireless base station phones, and now to multi-purpose and multi-service wireless devices that incorporate computer, telephone, video, text messaging, Web access, and other functions, and which are already eliminating the need for land-line accounts for many customers.

The standards used to enable these upgrades range from those regulated through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) globally and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States, to those created by literally scores of accredited SSOs and unaccredited consortia, in the case of multi-function hand held devices.

       Data formats:  Traditional color television is giving way to High Definition television, even as existing DVD players are about to be replaced by two competing standards-based high definition technologies.  At the same time, digital radio transmission and reception is just entering the marketplace.  The efforts of regulators (in the case of broadcast frequencies) as well as accredited and unaccredited SSOs are involved in these developments (upon which more later).

Transmission modes:  But the greatest revolution of all unquestionably lies in the means by which these various new devices communicate with each other and are controlled by their owners, as well as the means by which services are delivered to, and by them.  The methods being employed to accomplish these goals are diverse, and in each case, are standards based.  The categories of progress in this category include the following:

       Connecting to the Network:  The so-called "last mile" constraint to delivering broadband data to the home from the high-capacity fiber optic cable infrastructure that has already been widely deployed has challenged the industry for years.  That constraint arises from the limited capacity of existing pole-to-home "twisted pair" copper wire to deliver data at robust speeds.  With the cabling of more and more households to allow the purchase of expanded cable television services, however, a new route became available to provide broadband data services: the cable infrastructure already largely in place.

The increasing availability of such services, in turn, provided the competitive challenge to the TelCos to finally accelerate the rollout of the infrastructure needed to deliver their own solution: DSL coverage.  However, just as the TelCos were slow in offering the original DSL service, their reception to the next-generation standard DSL standard ("Very-High-Bit-Rate Digital Subscriber Line 2", or  VDSL2), approved by the ITU last summer, has been lukewarm, despite the fact that VDSL2 might allow the delivery of such services as pay-per-view video.

Other alternatives include satellite, WiMax (a long distance microwave frequency analogue version of WiFi), and delivery of Internet over existing  Powerline  networks each of which can be useful to serve sparsely populated areas. WiMax and Powerline services may also come to be economically competitive in urban settings as well.  And while satellite has been available for some time, fixed-station WiMax is only just now being launched commercially, based on the development work of the IEEE  in creating the standard itself, and the certification and promotional work of the supporting WiMax Alliance, which has created the means to test and certify WiMax compliant equipment.

       Integrating data sources, networks and devices:  While it's good news that consumers may now gain access to the Internet via multiple means, this reality presents other challenges, as does the rapidly escalating number of types of devices that consumers would like to use, and the proliferation of Internet-based services they wish to enjoy.  These challenges have been met by another crop of new organizations, each of which is dedicated to resolving some subset of these issues.

One example is the Home Gateway Initiative (HGI), which was launched by telecommunications providers in December of 2004 to develop and promote standards to guide manufacturers of the "gateways" that homeowners may need to ensure interoperability among home network(s) and home-based devices, on the one hand, and the wide area network represented by the external Web – and thereby create a greater market for TelCo-provided services.

       Voice over IP:  Just as wireless telephony is challenging landline service, "VoIP" technology has become sufficiently sophisticated to provide a real alternative to traditional telephone service.  Although this type of service may soon become taken for granted by the user while speaking, its impact on pricing and service models may be profound, driven by freely downloaded (thus far, by more than 262 million people) software such as Skype.  Using VoIP, a user can add a handset to a broadband connection, and eliminate her normal phone service entirely, and take advantage of additional features (such as video) as well.  The development of the underlying standards for this new service again brings together the old and the new – in this case, the venerable International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the nouveau Internet Society (ISOC) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) among other organizations.

       Wireless:  For some time, the IEEE has been the crucible within which most of the wireless activity has occurred that is relevant to the home.  That work is identified by a series of numerically designated standards that all begin with "802," to which various numerical and alphabetic suffixes are added to distinguish each tailored application from the next. 

While these names may suffice for the engineers that create these standards, the marketing departments of IEEE corporate members have seen fit to attach more accessible names to the technology in order to sell products that rely on these standards.  The result has been the popularization of names such as "Wi-Fi" (based on 802.11a, b, and g, to date) and "WiMax" (which utilizes 802.16).

Wi-Fi standards have been extremely useful for enabling the small, localized networks used by homeowners, coffee shops and small businesses, and may in the future be used in broader applications involving "mesh" networks that link multitudes of home and business Wi-Fi routers, each allowing a signal to be handed off to the next.  A proposal for the standard to accomplish this result – to be developed by the IEEE as 802.11s – is supported by the Wi-Mesh Alliance

But there are also many additional standards that operate at shorter ranges – some being used at a range of only a few centimeters, and others at a few feet or yards.  The best known of these standards is Bluetooth, which was originally developed by Nokia, and is now supported by the Bluetooth SIG.  A newer specification is the Near Field Communications standard developed by the Near Field Communications Forum, which operates at a distance of only one or two centimeters, and can be used (for example) to set up the transfer of pictures from a camera to a printer.

       Making life easy:  Just as HAVI and the UHAPI Forum (discussed above) are each seeking to make it more attractive for homeowners to buy audio and video consumer products by enabling cross-vendor "plug and play" performance, other SSOs are making the purchasing of their members' products more tempting by resolving other barriers to realizing the digital home. 

One such focus is avoiding the need to install new wiring in order to enjoy the benefits of a home network.  While wireless-enabled products are one solution, there are others as well, such as that offered by the Home Phoneline Networking Alliance (or HomePNA, founded in 1998), the mission of which is to ensure adoption of a single standard for utilizing already existing home telephone wiring to permit sharing of a single external Internet connection by multiple computers in a home.  Like many other consortia that create standards intended to drive consumer buying behavior, HomePNA also provides a certification testing and branding program.

A similar goal, but a different conduit, is the focus of the HomePlug Powerline Alliance.  As this organization's name indicates, the standards, certification program and branding that it offers repurposes existing home electrical wiring to create a home network.

Not all such efforts have been successful, however, as the marketplace has favored some solutions but not others.  The HomeRF Working Group, for example, was founded in 1998 to create a home wireless standard optimized for handling voice, data and entertainment applications.  The early success of Wi-Fi, and the early focus on lower-density data, rather than voice or entertainment, however, led to its dissolution in 2003.  The solutions of other organizations (such as those that repurpose in-home telephone wiring) may prove to be transitional, as other technologies – and in particular wireless solutions that have fewer problems dealing with electromagnetic interference – leapfrog them.

Getting to yes (but not always):  As noted in the introduction to this article, not all efforts to achieve consensus have been successful, and the points of fracture can vary widely. 

For example, as described in the April 2005 issue of the CSB, China continues to push a number of its own home-grown standards, including several wireless specifications .  One is called WAPI (for Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure), while another (called TD-SCMA) has been developed as an alternative to two other 3G telephone standards, WDCDMA and CDMA2000.  China is also active in developing its own RFID standards.  In each case, a major motivation is to avoid the expensive patent royalties that Chinese manufacturers would need to pay in order to build to non-Chinese standards. 

Similarly, regional standards strategies (particularly in the EU, but also in other areas, such as Southeast Asia), may lead to competing standards initiatives.
 
The greatest divergences, of course, are among vendors, and the strategies that they adopt in a given instance or market vary.  At one extreme, there are individual patent owners that unabashedly work to promote a standard that will reap the greatest royalties, and seek to gather companies around them to support their cause.  At the other, there are companies that work within existing organizations to promote their cause, but sometimes breakaway when they are unsuccessful in achieving their goals.

An example of the first tactic that has had an impact on home products is the long and bitter series of struggles between the proponents of competing specifications for each generation of home DVD players.  The first, and most notorious conflict, was the VHS – Betamax format war of the 1970s and 1980s, which doomed content owners to support --and video rental stores to stock-- both formats, and ultimately left millions of Betamax owners marooned with players that were compatible only with a format that content owners and video stores eventually abandoned.  The sides engaged again with the first generation of home DVD players, until one side gave in to the other – but only for a share of the royalty income from the winning format.

Now, the same industry is at it once again, as it seeks to introduce next generation technology in order to reinvigorate sales to an already saturated market.  One group supports a specification called HD-DVD, while another champions a format it calls Blu-ray, each of which has distinct, but not overwhelmingly superior characteristics relative to the other.  The battle has been waging for years, and each camp has at one time or another seemed to hold the edge over the other.  Until recently, the Blu-Ray group seemed destined to prevail – until Microsoft announced that it would support the HD-DVD standard rather than the Blu-ray format, which led to Hewlett Packard and others switching their support.

Along the way, each of these camps formed its own support group to further develop and promote its specification, and, sadly, neither side has given in.  This spring, home video players will reach the stores from each camp, to the distress, once again, of content owners, video rental stores, and confused buyers.

An example of the second type is the struggle that has been ongoing for some time within the IEEE task force that has been seeking to create an Ultra Wide Band (UWB) wireless standard with high enough data transmission rates to permit (for example) the sale of wireless video displays.  The task force developing the new standard was successful in winnowing 23 technical submissions down to two, but then stalled.  This was in part because the proponents of the two final contenders had each formed their own independent supporting organization and sought to rally as many interested companies to its cause as possible.  As a result, neither group could achieve the support of the required majority within the IEEE task force to secure final adoption of its proposal. 

When a final effort to reconcile the two competing standards failed, the task force decided to abandon the effort, and let the marketplace decide which of the two alternatives it would finally support.  Once again, incompatible competing products will enter the marketplace.

In the middle is a third approach that some SSO members have taken: the creation of new working groups within multiple existing SSOs to address the same problem, and/or the founding of a new consortium (or multiple consortia) to advance favorite approaches.  This occurred broadly in the case of early wireless applications, giving rise to multiple specifications (e.g., Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and HomeRF), all of which were originally claimed by their respective proponents to be suitable for many of the same purposes.  Over time, two out of three of the three standards just noted (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) found their own niches, where the strengths of the particular specification were found to be the most suitable. The third entrant failed.

Notwithstanding the often over-promising claims of those that promote new specifications, the first standards to enter the field do not necessarily address all needs.  As a result, later standards (such as the Near Field Communications standard) are often developed to fill in the gaps where none of the earlier standards prove to be appropriate.  In the case of NFC-enabled devices, the full power (and cost) of implementations of earlier standards are not necessary to achieve the results needed.

Second generation standards often follow as well, sometimes promoted by new organizations.  For example, the Zigbee Alliance was launched to promote the use of yet another IEEE 802 family standard (802.15.4), just as the Wi-Fi Alliance was formed to promote, brand and certify 802.11a, b and later Wi-Fi standards.  But in this case, the new standard was not an upgrade of an earlier IEEE standard, but rather a specification intended to provide a superior, less expensive alternative to Bluetooth-enabled devices The Zigbee Alliance, in turn, promotes this standard for the particular uses for which it has been optimized, which principally focus on controlling many types of home devices.

Over time, not only does the full set of needed standards tend to evolve as the market matures and purchaser needs become more clearly defined, but the SSOs that were created in a new field often consolidate as well.  The Open Mobile Alliance, for example, is the coalescence of many of the early mobile wireless groups that sprang up like mushrooms in the early days of the nascent industry, but later merged into one.

Summary:  While the names of few standards ever become household words (Wi-Fi being one of the rare exceptions), the emergence of the digital home as a reality provides an excellent example of the little-noticed process whereby large numbers of standards are developed by many old and new SSOs to enable long-awaited visions to become productized.  The enormity of the home market for consumer goods and telecommunication-delivered services has also inspired activity that illustrates the types of competitive posturing, alliance-building and other behaviors that often emerge in rapidly evolving market niches where the stakes are high.  Finally, the rapid evolution of new technologies to make possible the digital home demonstrates how a mature ecosystem of SSOs – some old, some new – and successive waves of increasingly finely targeted standards (most obviously in this case, wireless standards of multiple types to serve various discrete needs) evolve to provide  the interoperability and other standards tools needed to exploit the new commercial opportunity

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Copyright 2006 Andrew Updegrove

1. The links in this article lead to SSO descriptions found in the Consortium and Standards List section of the ConsortiumInfo.org Website.  This is the largest and most complete list of accredited and unaccredited standards organizations in existence.  Each description includes the purpose and activities of the organization in question, as well as links to its site, and (if publicly available) to its specifications and intellectual property rights policy as well.

For a selection of recent stories on digital home standards and wireless standards wars, see this month's Rest of the News

Appendix:  Other Relevant SSOs.  The SSOs mentioned in this article are only a fraction of those that are active in the digitization of the home.   The following are some of the other organizations that focus most directly on home applications, but scores of additional SSOs set standards that enable electrical, electronic and digital home services, products and infrastructure as well:

Application Home Initiative, The (TAHI):  Develops solutions for issues surrounding connected homes

Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM):  Represents home appliance manufacturers

Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line Forum (DSL Forum):  Promotes DSL broadband adoption

Audio Engineering Society (AES):  Professional society devoted to audio technology

Broadband Content Delivery Forum (BCD Forum):  Promotes adoption of broadband networks

Cable Laboratories:  Research and development consortium pursuing new cable telecommunications technologies and facilitating interoperability

CDMA Development Group:  Promotes development, adoption and standardization of CDMA wireless systems

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA):  Promotes the consumer electronics industry          

Digital Display Working Group, The (DDWG):  Develops industry specifications based on Open IP

Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications Forum (DECT):  Promotes digitally enhanced cordless technology

Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA):  Promotes the development of a home wireless interoperable network

Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB):  Develops standards for the digital television and data services industry

DSL Forum (DSLF):  Promotes the development of broadband DSL

DVD Copy Control Association, The (DVD CCA):  Licenses the Content Scramble System (CSS) to manufacturers of DVD hardware, discs and related products

DVD Rewritable Alliance (DVD+RW):  Develops and promotes a universal rewritable DVD format

Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA):  Develops specifications based on ultrawideband-based technology

National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA):  Promotes the electrical industry

Printer Working Group, The (PWG):  Promotes printer interoperability

Telework Consortium:  Evaluates telecomunication technologies

TV Anytime Forum:  Develops audio-visual specifications

UPnP Implementers Corporation (UIC):  Promotes interconnectivity standards and testing

UWB Forum:  Promotes Common Signaling Mode (CSM) and Direct Sequence Ultra-Wideband (DS-UWB)

Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA):  Promotes and develops display and display interface standards

Voice over IP Security Association (VOIPSA):  Addresses VoIP and Information Security issues and concerns

WiMedia Alliance:  Promotes wireless connectivity and interoperability


 

STANDARDS BLOG:

MITT CALLS THE ODF COIN TOSS RIGHT

Andrew Updegrove

It's no secret that Mitt Romney wants to be president. That means he knows that everything he does and says will be under the microscope, and every decision he makes is an opportunity to further his ambitions - or a chance to call the toss wrong and lose the game. Surprisingly enough, a technical standard has presented one such decision to Romney, and the stakes for calling the toss right for his presidential ambitions may be high.

Massachusetts has been in the middle of a fracas for the past six months that has not only pitted factions of the state government against each other, but also set the largest IT companies in the world in opposition as well. The battle involves a technology standard called OpenDocument Format (ODF), which the State is to implement on January 1, 2007. When the champion of that policy, Massachusetts State CIO Peter Quinn, abruptly announced his resignation on Christmas Eve last year, the man that appointed him had two choices: duck and cover, or gamble that toughing it out would be a shrewd political decision.

That man, of course, is Mitt Romney, and the easiest path available to him was to say that he wished to consult with Quinn's successor about his or her recommendation, and then simply drag his feet in making that appointment as his term as governor rapidly expired.

The riskier path was to stick with his policy, and announce that he would not give in to local forces, including Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin (affectionately known locally as the "Dark Prince"), or to "special interests" - in this case Microsoft, which has directed its substantial lobbying forces to heading off ODF at the pass in Massachusetts, lest the virus of implementation spread to other states – because ODF is a format for office productivity suites, and directly threatens Microsoft's vastly lucrative monopoly in that market.

Romney seemed to waver at first, when a spokesman welcomed the news that Microsoft had submitted its rival XML Reference Schema to Ecma for approval as a standard. But then the statements by members of his administration suddenly firmed up, and announcement followed announcement indicating that he would hold firm in his support for ODF.

What happened? Here's what makes sense to me, as I explained it in an interview I gave to Lisa Vaas at Publish.com after Romney's office issued a press release announcing that Quinn's successor would be Louis Gutierrez:

"The whole press release is clearly being used as a vehicle to convey the strong support of Romney for ODF," [Updegrove] said.

The reason Romney is investing political capital in a technological debate likely has to do with Romney's intention to run for president in the next election, Updegrove suggested.

First, because Romney has continued to be asked about the ODF controversy, he had to decide how to come down on it, and he likely wouldn't want to be seen as flip-flopping going into a presidential race.

Second, the Abrahamoff [sic] scandal is likely influencing Romney, as politicians become leery of succumbing to aggressive lobbying, Updegrove said.

"What with the Abrahamoff scandal, and with Microsoft pushing very hard for a reversal, would you rather look like you're giving in to a special interest or would you rather look like you're standing up to a special interest?" he said….

Lest I focus only on the presumed realpolitik of Romney's strategy, I should also give him credit for, well, standing up to the local politicos and powerful special interests, when ducking and covering would have been so easy to do. As I said to Vaas in the same interview:

And regardless of the political winds that brought Gutierrez to the position, Updegrove said, Romney merits praise for doing the right thing.

"You have a governor who's deciding what is the smartest thing for [him] to do here, and really, to his credit, he's doing the right thing," he said.

"He's standing up to special interests, he's standing behind the recommendations of the highly skilled professionals that he hired. He's keeping with a policy, he's going against the political maneuvering of [Massachusetts Secretary] William Francis Galvin and others on Beacon Hill, [the location of the Massachusetts State House]. He's sticking with it."

Decisive and principled - not a bad way to be viewed in a presidential campaign, if that's how others decide to view Romney's determination to stay the course as well. But would the story be reported by the press that way? And would it break out of the technical press and into the mainstream media?

It looks like Romney's bet is already paying off. Yesterday, Forbes Magazine (no less) posted a story on Romney and the ODF story at the "Faces in the News" section of its Website that begins:

Goliath software companies and executive resignations are no match for the state of Massachusetts.

The commonwealth said Monday it would stick to its guns and implement open document software standards in every state government agency.

Governor Mitt Romney stood by the policy as his Chief Information Officer Peter Quinn resigned over the issue last month, and has put its foot down by saying it wouldn't natively support the OpenDocument standard in Office 12, due out mid-year.

Granted, the Forbes reporter is a little unclear about what's actually going on at the technical level, but then again, most Massachusetts legislators are, too. The article concludes by commending Massachusetts' steadfastness in its resolve to stand up to Microsoft, saying:

When Massachusetts announced its decision to switch over to [ODF, Microsoft] called the move "inconsistent and discriminatory." The mere fact that Microsoft appears irked by the New England state's plan shows just how powerful a statement Massachusetts is making.

If one state shows it can run its IT operations just fine while shunning Microsoft's dominant software products, the door will be left open for other states, organizations and companies to do the same.

So Romney's decision to stand fast as David against the Goliath of Redmond has begun to succeed in raising his profile nationally. That's good for the Governor – and it's good for everyone that believes in open standards as well.

And it's also good in another, less obvious way: it has been repeatedly noted that Romney's successor will be entitled to replace the state CIO come November, and that the new governor could then abort the ODF transition.

Yes, that's true. But if Romney's stand continues to draw national publicity, what new governor will want to be seen as giving in to Goliath? Every day that this story grows, such a reversal will become more politically untenable.

And one thing more: it will make it easier for other state CIOs to implement ODF as well, off-setting the chilling impact of the Boston Globe instigated investigation into Peter Quinn's travel documentation that significantly contributed to his decision to resign as CIO.

Speaking of which: I'm still waiting for Globe Ombudsman Richard Chacon to fulfill his promise, made on December 12, to look into the matter. If you happen to be speaking to him or sending him an email, you might ask him when he expects to present the results of his investigation.

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Copyright 2006 Andrew Updegrove

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CONSIDER THIS:

[][][] February 27, 2006

#36 Body Type Standards, Crash Test Dummies, and Sleeping with Big Agnes

One of the most universally employed types of standards describes "standard" body sizes and shapes.  Most obviously, there is the type of variable standard that we call a "clothes size," which we use to make the selection of clothes more efficient.  But there are other types of body standards as well that focus not on variations within the population, but on establishing the maximum or the mean of human dimensional existence.  These standards have a multitude of applications, from determining the size and spacing of theatre seats, to the placement of seatbelts in cars to setting the height of doorways.

Sadly, clothes sizes are unregulated, and can therefore verge on the fraudulent (as in the "perfect size 6 dress" someone finds that just fits, after trying many that won't).  Body type standards used for other purposes, however, must be highly precise, especially where they are employed for safety purposes.  These standards are important not only for designing products (such as the necessary range of adjustment for headrests in cars), but also to test the actual safety of the products after they have been designed. 

Determining design reference standards is a relatively straightforward, if tedious, process, since it largely involves a measurement and arithmetic exercise after a test sample has been established.  But what about the physical manifestations of those standards that must be created in order to perform safety tests after the designs have been turned into products – like cars?

Initially, the effectiveness of automobile safety designs was evaluated using the rather gruesome, albeit self-explanatory, practice of "cadaver testing."  But available cadavers were at best only "standard" by coincidence, tending instead to be older Caucasians.  And, as dryly noted in the informative entry in the Wikipedia titled  "Crash Test Dummy"  "[C]hild cadavers were not only difficult to obtain, but both legal and public opinion made them effectively unusable." 

Up to a point, testing could also be accomplished using "Volunteer testing" (a sub-heading that you may also find in the Wikipedia under the generic Crash Test Dummy entry--  does this placement represent an editorial comment? The Wikipedia has this to say regarding human test subjects:

Lawrence Partrick, a now-retired Wayne State University professor, endured some 400 rides on a rocket sled in order to test the effects of rapid deceleration on the human body. He and his students allowed themselves to be smashed in the chest with heavy metal pendulums, impacted in the face by pneumatically-driven rotary hammers, and sprayed with shattered glass to simulate window implosion.

The Wikipedia does not tell us what course Professor Patrick was teaching, or what tuition his students were paying for the privilege of furthering science, but it does record that that the tests tended to leave the Professor "a little sore." Clearly, as enigmatically noted by the Wikipedia, "To gather information about the causes and prevention of injuries and fatalities would require a different kind of subject.  But what type of subject might that be?"

One possibility, of course, was to pick on our usual victims: defenseless animals, and recourse to this pool of test subjects was duly made.  Mary Roach, writing at Salon.com in an article called I was a Human Crash-test Dummy (she is not actually referring to herself, but to Professor Patrick), quotes from the proceedings of the second annualStapp Car Crash Conference, held in 1956, as follows:

We saw chimpanzees riding rocket sleds, a bear on an impact swing...We observed a pig, anesthetized and placed in a sitting position on the swing in the harness, crashed into a deep-dish steering wheel at about 10 mph.

Unfortunately, while pigs have many physiological similarities to humans, the ability to sit upright while conscious behind a real steering wheel and hurtling at a wall is not one of them.  The quest for the perfect crash test subject therefore continued.

That subject, in its first instantiation, was "Sierra Sam," created in 1949 to help test aircraft ejection seats.  Sierra Sam had many lineal descendants, including the Hybrid Family (unimaginatively named Mr. (the adult male), Ms. (yes, the adult female), and Hybrid III (not one, but two children of different genders and sizes – go figure). The next generation of ersatz passengers included SID, CRABI, Thor, and, most recently, Vince and Larry – two talking dummies created in the 1980's by the U.S. Department of Transportation to promote the use of seatbelts.

Dummies

But as engaging as Vince and Larry may be, it is not they that we will consider today in this installment of Consider This….  After all, you can read all about Sierra Sam and his friends at the Wikipedia entry, under sub-headings such as "Dummy Evolution," "The Future of the Dummy," and "Crash Test Dummies in Popular Culture."

Instead, we are going to consider…Big Agnes.

The significance of Big Agnes is this: while Sierra Sam may have been as American as Apple Pie in 1949, there's been a whole lotta pie (and Big Macs, and nachos, and…) going down the American piehole since then.  In consequence, the crash test dummy of the middle of the last century is no longer representative of the nutritionally challenged dummies of 21st century America.

The implications of this expansion of the American physique are significant, from a safety perspective.  For example, several aircraft crashes have been attributed to the realization that "standard" assumed weights for passengers are no longer representative of typical weights of real passengers.  The consequences of this can be particularly dire for smaller aircraft.  One such disaster involving a Canadian flight was attributed to the fact that its 10 passengers weighed, on average, 56.7 pounds more than the published standard weights specified in Canadian (and U.S. regulations).

Of course, outmoded standards can have less serene, if still unfortunate, consequences as well.  For example, at the same time that Americans (and, apparently, Canadians) have grown heftier, our image-conscious culture has grown more obsessed with attaining the ideal  body image of television cast members (if only in our own imaginations).  When these two trends combine with other cultural forces, such as our obsession with clothes and sports gear, something has to give.

And so, with that unusually long introduction, let's take a look at an extract from a blog entry that I wrote while hiking and camping in Arizona a few weeks ago, and finally Consider this…

In some ways, it's surprising that I still enjoy camping. When I first started sleeping out as a boy scout in the early 1960's, modern camping equipment was unknown. Gear came from a sporting goods store or perhaps Sears Roebuck, and was all the same wherever you bought it, anyway. My family's first tent was what was referred to as a "pup tent," (I have no idea why), and was made of heavy, stiff canvas. If you were really serious, you could order better gear from L.L.Bean, which in those days operated from a single location of modest size and was actually a real outfitter, rather than a clothing emporium that keeps a few expensive fishing rods around for atmosphere.

Wherever you got your gear (other than from L.L.Bean), a pack was a sack with canvas straps that sought to divide your shoulders from the rest of your body when it was full, and a sleeping bag was a also a sack, of the rectangular persuasion, that (a) cost about 20 bucks, (b) was probably lined with flannel, and (c) used cotton batting as insulation. Even camping gear so basic that someone today (your kid, for example) would assume came from Noah's Ark was unknown – no pack frames, or even what would pass as a usable camp mattress (you could, to be fair, buy a narrow rubber and canvas inflatable mattress that resembled a pool float, and then spend the rest of the night sliding off it).

Camping, therefore, provided neither an opportunity to make a fashion statement nor an occasion to indulge in a love of gadgetry. Nor, for that matter, did it even offer to most mortals a realistic hope of getting a good night's sleep – especially in winter.

In consequence, my own early camping experiences always went something like this:

Act I (In which the subject of our drama turns in with trepidation): Pitch tent, lay out sleeping bag, cook and eat burnt food, hack around for awhile, put on long underwear, shirt, pants, and two pairs of socks. Fall asleep.

Act II (In which the Gods of Camping begin to toy with our hero): Wake up one half hour later covered in sweat. Take off shirt, pants, socks and long johns. Fall back asleep.

Act III (In which the Gods of Camping call all their friends in to share the fun):
Wake up shivering; put clothing back on and huddle in sleeping bag. Fall asleep for one half hour. Wake up shivering and put on any other clothing one can find. Try unsuccessfully to get back to sleep.

Act IV (In which our hero realizes that he must face up to his heroic and tragic destiny):
Confirm that there is no more clothing to put on. Get up and chop wood until dawn in order to stay warm.

The Gods of Camping aside (whose existence may only be inferred rather than proven), the tragicomedy above is a sadly accurate rendition of most of my early camping experiences, other than those in the dead of summer.

With time, of course, I became more savvy about such gear as was available, and did lots of backpacking and camping, winter and summer alike. But as the gear got better, I also became a lighter sleeper. Always, that ephemeral good night's sleep lay just beyond my grasp, even though various companies came to realize that there was a lot of money to be made offering high tech camping gear, much of which promised to make comfortable camping a snap.

So it was that about twenty years ago I bought my first down sleeping bag. It handily solved the temperature problem, even on pretty cold nights, and it was light enough for back packing to boot (assuming you could stuff it into a sack smaller than a Volkswagen Bug). But by then, mummy bags had become the norm, and while I may have been warm, I also felt as confined as King Tut. Sleeping in my usual elbow-out, arm under the pillow, knee out to the side position was impossible, even though I was (and still am) slim.  Moreover, rolling over in a mummy bag is an athletic experience, and difficult to pull off absent a fair degree of exertion and liberal muttering of whatever selection of words you find to be most useful and appropriate in situations of this type.

Which brings us to the present, and the planning for my latest camping trip out West.  This time, I was determined to find a sleeping bag that would be not only warm, practical in size, and sufficiently roomy to sleep comfortably in, but which would also permit shifting my position without breaking a sweat. Naturally, I turned to the Web to investigate my alternatives.

I soon found that rectangular sleeping bags still exist. Now, they are sold by K-Mart, Wal-Mart and on-line vendors that all probably buy their goods from the same overseas sweatshop. Each one (still) (a) costs about 20 bucks, (b) is probably lined with flannel, and (c) uses cotton batting as insulation. So much for the low end.

At the high end was an endless array of light, down-filled contoured tubes that looked more like the winter digs of Monarch butterflies than the comfortable "sleeping systems" they purported to be.

So the next question was whether I could find something in between – light and warm, but also reasonably roomy. I looked with increasing discouragement at site after site, each of which was dedicated to high-end straitjackets or low-end, rectangular ice chests.

Until suddenly I came to a new Website, and there she was – the sleeping bag of my dreams. And this product line had a memorable name to match: "Big Agnes".

I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to find her, given our Super Sized nation. With 300 million people now, there must be a need for camping gear for the, how to say, "fully figured" camper (both male and female). The matchmaking site where I met my own particular Big Agnes included helpful statistics for girth as well as height (mine, not hers), as well as her over-all proportions. Besides having great vital statistics and room to move, Big Agnes has many other becoming features as well: her bottom is a full length sleeve, into which you can slide, not a paltry 20" wide sleeping pad, but a full 25" mattress. Truly, this was a sleeping system to be desired – a sleeping system for the American body type of Today!

It was love at first sight.  My fingers fairly flew to place the cursor over the shopping cart icon, and lovingly give it a click.

So it was that this week, with the greatest of anticipation, and for the very first time, I lay myself down on the desert floor, stared up at the stars blazing overhead, and fell blissfully to sleep, cradled in the warm, welcoming, ample bosom of Big Agnes.   For me – and perhaps for you, too - the new standard of camping comfort.

Comments? Email:

Read more Consider This… entries at: http://www.consortiuminfo.org/blog/

Copyright 2006 Andrew Updegrove


 

CALL FOR PAPERS:

THE IEC CENTENARY CHALLENGE

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), in partnership with the IEE, IEEE, and VDE, and in association with The Economist, is holding a competition in honor of the close of the "Electric Century."  The challenge Website describes the competition as follows:

This initiative is intended to offer the world’s academic institutions a challenge of the highest order. Prizes will be awarded for the best papers and case studies (Submissions) on the subject:

"Consideration of the economic, business and social impact of the development and use of International Standards for end-users at any level of business activity."

Successful societies have flourished by their ability to trade effectively. Trade has always been supported by perceptions of value based on standards of function, quality and performance. These "standards" can either be:

  • Explicit or implicit;
  • Formal or Informal.

Whatever the "business context", whenever a transaction takes place there is always a question of "what are the standards of function, quality and performance being offered?"

During the past 100 years there have been more inventions than in all of the previous history of mankind. This unprecedented technological advancement coupled with worldwide trade liberalization demands close examination of the connection between standards and business development.

The impact of standards and standardization in the political, economic, sociological, technological and natural environments at national, regional and international levels will play a significant role on how business and markets develop.

Interested authors are required to register by March 3, 2006, but the deadline for final submission is not until September 1, 2006.


 

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The Digital Home

Perhaps we're there:  Futurists have been predicting "the digital home" (or at least the types of gadgetry that digital technology can provide) for more than half a century.  With recent advances in wireless technology – and the standards needed to utilize them – that vision of the future is about to become real.  The selections below highlight some of the many recent advances in products, standards and technology that are now truly on the horizon.  The first story set focuses on some of the enabling technology that will bring the house of the future into the present, while the second describes some of the ways that other new developments will upgrade familiar entertainment options.  The final story offers hope on the question of whether we will control the home of the future – or whether it will control us.

The future belongs to mesh:  While wireless will enable the digital home, that home may be more of a neural network then a client-server type network.  The following two articles discuss two "mesh" initiatives – each of which would enable many to many communication between wireless devices, avoiding the need for a central controller.

Teaching older homes new tricks
Lew Sichelman

United Feature Syndicate January 16, 2006 A new wave of products will be on the market in the next few months -- garage doors, light switches, thermostats, alarms, appliances and home-entertainment centers -- that can be managed and operated by remote control, from inside or outside the house. The products will operate under the Z-Wave open standard, a radio frequency-based technology that allows users to create a two-way wireless, mesh network within a single-family house or apartment without digging into the walls or scattering wires. The mesh network, which requires no central controller, allows for complete control over a large number of Z-Wave-compatible devices throughout the house from a single remote, wall panel or Internet interface. Full Story

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NewsFactor Magazine Online February 3, 2006 Mesh networks are a hot new trend in wireless. In fact, mesh technology is the next step in the evolution of wireless architecture, promising greater flexibility, reliability and performance over conventional Wi-Fi wireless LANs (WLANs). ... The IEEE 802.11 Working Group has created Task Group S (TGs) to develop a mesh network standard. At the IEEE 802.11 meeting in San Francisco in November 2005, 15 proposals were submitted for a WMN standard. TGs hopes to have a completed draft standard in 12 to 18 months, which means the 802.11 s standard could be ratified before 2008 if all goes smoothly. ...Full Story

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Which way will they go? While things were developing quickly in the standards area, product manufacturers were struggling to keep up as well as adapt to both challenges as well as opportunities. In the first article below, display vendors hope to enable real time video on computers whether the television and cable owners like it or not. The second article heads in the other direction, noting that some advantages of new technology may not be enabled, due to the ongoing battle between two rival standards (Blu-ray and HD DVD. And in the third, we see vendors anxiously waiting for differences to be ironed out in the standards process before they can offer the hottest new home theatre experience).

Next-gen display standard emerges for PC, HDTVs
Spencer Chin

EETimes UK January 27, 2006 Leading PC and consumer electronics companies have announced they are developing a specification for a PC digital display interface that is also compatible with high-definition TV signals. Penned the Unified Display Interface (UDI), the standard is expected to replace the aging VGA analog standard and provide guidelines to ensure compatibility with the DVI standard. UDI will be also be compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), the standard digital interface for High Definition TVs (HDTVs) and advanced CE displays....A Special Interest Group (SIG) of industry leaders has been formed to develop and continue revising the UDI specification. ...Full Story

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HIGH-DEF FORCED TO DOWN-CONVERT
Paul Sweeting

DVD Exclusive.com January 26, 2006 Some buyers of HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc players might not get everything they bargained for. In a deal reached this week after tense negotiations, the eight-company consortium behind the Advanced Access Content System, created for use by both high-def formats to prevent unauthorized copying, has agreed to require hardware makers to bar some high-def signals from being sent from players to displays over analog connections, sources said. Instead, the affected analog signal must be "down-converted" from the full 1920x1080 lines of resolution the players are capable of outputting to 960x540 lines--a resolution closer to standard DVDs than to high-def. Standard DVDs are typically encoded at 720 horizontal by 480 vertical lines of resolution. ...Full Story

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Home Networking Meets Home Theater
Narasu Rebbapragada

PC World/ABC News January 9, 2006 LAS VEGAS — With the next major wireless standard in a holding pattern, companies are broadening the features of their Wi-Fi networking products, particularly in the area of home entertainment.Most developers are waiting to see what 802.11n, the major next Wi-Fi standard, will look like before doing major upgrades of existing Pre-N, loosely called MIMO, wireless products. The IEEE standards body is expected to vote on an 802.11n proposal later this month. This proposal is submitted by the Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC), a coalition of 49 companies that includes Wi-Fi chip manufacturers Broadcom and Atheros. ...Full Story

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One remote to rule them all: How many remote controls do you have - just for the gear focused on your television set? How many in all (and do you now where they all are)? The Holy Grail of the consumer would be that most illusive of all electronic gadgets, the seemingly mythical Universal Remote Control. The following press release takes us one step closer, perhaps, to that much hoped for day when couch potatoes may not only control their electronic destiny without rising from the divan, but may also handle but a single piece of plastic in the process. Will that day ever come? Who knows - the Ivory Billed Woodpecker has been rediscovered...they think.

CEA to Revise Remote Control Standard
Press Release

TV Technology News Bytes February 11, 2006 The Consumer Electronics Association's Technology and Standards' Home Networking Committee has announced the formation of a new working group to revise CEA 931-B, a remote control command pass-through standard for home networking. CEA 931-B defines a standardized method for communication of select functions between devices in a home network.... "These additions will add further standard controls to the basic RCU, getting the industry even closer to a true universal remote," said Virginia Williams, director of engineering and standards at CEA. ...Full Story

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Wireless Standards Wars

A blizzard of wireless news:  The new year may have brought gentle weather for most of us, but it also ushered in an absolute tempest of news involving wireless standards – and the battles that are ongoing to control them.   As you can see from the news on the Home Digital front, the range of products that can be sold that will rely on wireless standards is wide – and that's just for domestic use.  But while the home offers options for sensors, consumer electronics and networking equipment, the wider world offers even more types of services and devices: phones, mobile Internet access, RFID tags and readers, contactless payment cards, plugless photo printing kiosks, and much, much more.  Needless to say, uncounted billions of dollars of profits are at stake, and those that make the right standards bets will disproportionately benefit.   And move they did – inside the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), in China, and in multiple IEEE wireless Task Forces with virtually indistinguishable name variants, all beginning with "802.11."  The following sets of articles follow several of these long-running sagas as they evolved swiftly over a matter of only a few weeks.

Let's start at the (still evolving) beginning:  Most people by now are familiar with the "WiFi (or Wi-Fi) standard," although they may not know that the router on their desk is likely to support not the first, or even the second generation of that standard, but a later version.  The articles below relate to more sophisticated controls for WiFi networks, and the next generation of the WiFi standard itself (which will now have an "n" at the end of the base "802.11," rather than the original "a" or the later "b" or "g" that have represented the state of the art since then).

802.11n could become draft standard this month
By: Joanie Wexler

Techworld.com, January 5, 2006 -- A revised 802.11n specification this month could garner the 75 percent approval votes required from the IEEE's 802.11 Task Group N to render it a draft standard for faster wireless networking.. The Enhanced Wireless Consortium (EWC) plans to offer up the spec at the meeting of the task group during the week of January 16. The EWC announced its formation in October 2005. It was chartered with breaking a technology impasse surrounding competing proposals for the emerging 802.11n high-speed (100Mbps+) Wi-Fi networking standard in order to accelerate adoption of a standard and ensure interoperability among products. ...Full Story

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Compromise Reached On 802.11n Spec
Mark Hachman

PCMag.com January 13, 2006 The road to next-generation Wi-Fi now appears to lead toward an industry-standard IEEE 802.11n specification, as the competing groups resolved their differences Wednesday. Forty out of forty-two companies (with two abstentions) voted unanimously to accept the Enhanced Wireless Consortium specification, led by Intel, Atheros, and Broadcom. The proposal, as written, would boost Wi-Fi speeds up to 600 Mbits/sec. According to representatives from Atheros, the compromise proposal will be offered to the IEEE on Jan. 16. ...Full Story

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LWAPP Pushed Through
Unstrung.com January 19, 2006
 The contested decision of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to use the lightweight access point protocol (LWAPP) as the foundation of its specification for the control and provisioning of WiFi networks means that there will finally be a standard way of centrally controlling enterprise access points. But will users buy into it?...The acension of LWAPP seemed assured after the standards body initially recommended that it be used back in October. (See The LWAPP Comeback.) But there was plenty of debate behind the scenes as LWAPP was put to a vote. ...Full Story

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Wireless LANs get smarter and faster
Dave Bailey

IT Week.com January 23, 2006 The International Engineering Task Force (IETF) recently adopted AireSpace's Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP) as a basis for centralised "intelligent wireless switches" to control wireless access points (APs) in WLANs. Meanwhile, in a separate move, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is developing its 802.11n draft standard, defining new methods to increase the data transfer rates of the current 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11a hardware. ...Full Story

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Draft standard chosen for faster Wi-Fi
Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service January 22, 2006 The task group working on a new, faster standard for Wi-Fi, called IEEE 802.11n, has settled on a draft proposal that will now be refined into a final specification. This development ends a long struggle to choose between two main draft proposals for the standard. Both would have used multiple antennas to achieve the real-world throughput of at least 100Mbps (bits per second) that's required in 802.11n. A special group was formed in the middle of last year to come up with a joint proposal, and it submitted the plan that was approved Thursday. ...Full Story

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Damn – I hate it when that happens: While virtually every IEEE wireless task force has wrestled with multiple, and strongly supported, rival proposals, the norm has been that even where multiple sides were firmly dug in, a compromise was eventually released.  Not so, however, with the Ultra Wide Band standard, a short-range wireless signal intended to banish the cabling that clutters up our homes. In this case, while the IEEE had succeeded in winnowing the field from 23 original proposals to two, persuading proponents of the final two contenders proved to be impossible. The effort to close the gap has been an on-again, off-again battle for months, as you can see by reviewing past articles here and Standards Blog entries here, and eventually the IEEE Task Force that was trying to achieve consensus threw in the towel.  This leaves it up to the marketplace to decide which of the two variants will predominate – in other words, "a standards war."  The FCC has cleared both frequencies – but one may interfere with the other, which offers the prospect of innocent consumers that buy "wireless components" having a less than happy result when they try to assemble them into the same system, or use them in the same room with other purchases.  The following stories give a feel for the different perspectives and predictions on the ongoing saga.

IEEE steps away from monster wireless battle
Peter Judge

TechWorld January 22, 2006 The IEEE has backed away from a standard for short-range high-speed wireless technology UWB, leaving the market to decide between two competing approaches. Freescale, first to the market with UWB products, believes its headstart will give it a long-term victory, while WiMedia, with the backing of industry heavyweights including Intel and Microsoft, reckons its punch will eventually win through, even without a formal IEEE standard. ...Full Story

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Why Wireless USB expects to win the UWB fight
Peter Judge

TechWorld January 22, 2006 Whoever makes the wireless replacement for USB is onto a big thing: USB 2.0 is the most successful interface in history, included in 500 million PCs, and expected to be in five billion devices by 2007/2008. Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a radio technology that could replace all those USB cables. It offers up to 1 Gigabit/s (with current implementations normally at 480 Mbit/s) over distances of a few feet. ...Full Story

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UWB Sides Finally Agree, But Only on Separation
Brad Smith

NEWS@2 DIRECT/Wireless Week January 23, 2006 Technology wars sometimes can get nasty, as the long-lived fight over the future of ultrawideband (UWB) repeatedly has shown. There have been two sides to the lingering UWB story, and about the only thing they've been able to agree on is a divorce. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) task group discussing (or not discussing) a UWB standard voted at a meeting in Hawaii to disband. Ironically, the two opposing sides in the struggle voted on the same side. ...Full Story

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Format War Looms for Wireless Standard
Top Tech News January 27, 2006
 A technology that promises to replace the cables behind TV sets and entertainment centers with wireless connections appears to be headed for a format war, after two industry organizations formally broke off their collaboration....The Certified Wireless USB products and the Cable-Free USB products will not be able to communicate, and may interfere with one another, according to Aiello....In the United States, both approaches to utilizing the band have clearance from the Federal Communications Commission. ...Full Story

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The long and the short of it:  Not all the wireless action was at short range, however.  The long-awaited "WiMax" standard – that would enable a single transmitter to service a much larger area (e.g., sections of a city) moved closer to reality, at least in its fixed form (a mobile WiMax standard is still under development) – and "close" was good enough for some gun-jumping vendors, that didn't wan to wait until certification testing was available to ensure a happy result for their customers.

WiMax testing - will there be certificates this week?
Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service January 20, 2005 A set of clarifications to the standard for fixed WiMax that were released in November has pushed back the certification of the first official WiMax products, which was forecast to occur by year's end but has not yet taken place, the WiMax Forum said this week. On Thursday, the industry group will provide an update on product certification at the Wireless Communications Association International Symposium & Business Expo, in San Jose, California, said Jeff Orr, the WiMax Forum's director of marketing. ...Full Story

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Industry puts call out over wireless broadband future
Tricia Duryee

The Seattle Times January 23, 2006 SAN JOSE, Calif. — With more people downloading music and video to cellphones and devices, a top Sprint Nextel executive foresees the need for a new wireless broadband technology soon to handle the traffic. ...Many product vendors said, however, that certified commercial products might not be ready until 2008....A likely new technology is WiMax, being showcased at the Wireless Communications Association International conference, where [Nextel COO Len] Lauer addressed a crowd of industry leaders working to standardize the technology.... The two conflicting points of view demonstrate the parallel paths occurring in the industry — one group waiting for WiMax standards and another forging ahead with the proprietary equipment. ...Full Story

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Race Kicks Off for WiMax Wireless
NewsFactor Magazine On Line January 27, 2006
 The WiMax Forum has certified the initial group of products which adhere to the IEEE 802.16-2004 standard, allowing the first deployments of WiMax networks. Newly certified gear includes hardware from Aperto Networks, Redline Communications and Sequans Communications. An additional 26 devices will soon be entered into the certification process, the Forum said. ...Full Story

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Has WiMAX turned a corner?
Joanie Wexler

Network World February 1, 2006 Now that the broadband wireless industry can boast some bona fide WiMAX Forum-certified products - with several more on deck for certification testing - will WiMAX services suddenly proliferate as an enterprise-class, last-mile access alternative? Not overnight. There is still much carrier testing ahead using the certified products. ...Product certification is a positive development for carriers seeking interoperable equipment choices, such as those who might wish to offer different vendors' CPE to different classes of commercial customers. ...Full Story

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe:  Not all of the action was playing out in the IETF and the IEEE, however.  In China, the WiFi face-off  that had been temporarily defused in 2003 began to become interesting again.  As I described in detail in the [LINK AND ISSUE TITLE] issue of the CSB, the first time around, the Chinese government had stated that it regarded the then-existing version of the WiFi standard to be insecure, and announced that only their own, homegrown (and more secure) standard, called WAPI could be utilized in the PRC.  Under the Technical Barriers to Trade treaty under the World Trade Organization, nations may only impose local standards compliance requirements for valid reasons – and Western chip vendors (and patent owners) like Intel and Texas Instruments contended that WiFi was quite secure enough, thank you.  Intervention at the highest levels in the U.S. eventually brought the indefinite postponement of the Chinese standards requirement.  But, as the stories that follow show (and as Monty Python might observe), "it's not dead yet," as the Chinese government still intends to require or "encourage" the use of WAPI rather than WiFi for certain purchases.

Network products receive lift
Liu Baijia

ChinaDaily.com January 9, 2006 Products that comply with the Chinese security standard for wireless networks will get a boost from the central government in the form of a recommendation for procurement. According to a circular published on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission on Thursday, organizations using the State budgets to procure computers, telecommunication equipment, printers, copies and projectors should give preference to the recommended products from next month....The new policy again puts the Chinese wireless local area network (WLAN) security standard BWIPS (broadband wireless Internet protocol standard) into the spotlight. ...Full Story

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State Code Administration Will Publish WAPI Implementation Standards
ChinaTechNews.com January 11, 2006
 China's State Code Administration (SCA) says it will soon publish the encryption computing methods to be used in WAPI technology....It is assumed in China that the SAC will enact compulsive use of WAPI technology, which it hopes to become an international standard. ...Full Story

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WAPI Industrial Alliance will Debut before Spring Festival
mc21st.com January 25, 2006
 An industrial alliance for China's independently-developed wireless local area network standard, WAPI (Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure), is expected to be set up before China's Spring Festival, revealed an insider close to the alliance's organizing committee. Although China has been facing huge domestic pressure for compulsory implementation of WAPI in the country, as well as application to make it an international standard since last year, more indications show that the national standard is to meet revitalization soon. ...Full Story

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China's native wireless standard may be Atheros gain
Rhonda Ascierto

February 1, 2006 The Chinese government is expected to officially recommend on February 1 that local organizations that receive funding by its Ministry of Information should buy wireless equipment based on a domestic wireless network standard. The recommendation, which came to light in a circular published on a government website a couple of weeks ago, may choke sales for non-compliant vendors outside the country. And it may be a boon for vendors such as Santa Clara, California-based Atheros Communications Inc, which recently rejigged all its WLAN chips to comply. ...Full Story

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On a more somber note:  While most of the wireless news focused on the new types of technology vendors were trying to standardize and sell, the following article notes what could have been done with existing technology – and hasn't been.  Just as a pallet or box of toothpaste can be tracked as it moves through the supply chain, so also could a miner be tracked wherever he or she might be in a mine, as the miner passed reader after reader while passing through galleries and mine shafts.  And knowing where a miner might be at a given point of time can be a life or death matter when scant oxygen supplies are running out, as was tragically illustrated in West Virginia last month.

RFID and Employee Safety
Bert Moore

RFID Connections January 27, 2006 In the wake of two deadly U.S. mine tragedies in West Virginia in three weeks, the Sago Mine in which 12 miners died and the Alma No. 1 mine in which two miners lost their lives, West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III promised mine safety reform -- including electronic tracking of miners underground... In the 1970s, the British Coal Board (BCB), after investigating and rejecting a number of possible solutions, selected active RFID tags to ensure miner safety -- specifically to trigger a shut-down of automated lump crushers in the event an unconscious miner fell onto the conveyor belt....Although not specifically designed to locate miners, the system could easily have been used for that purpose since the same type of RFID tag was being used to identify, locate and track the underground rail cars. Miners' tags were read as they entered and left the mine. ...Full Story

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WSIS - ICANN Update

WSIS: The rollout: I dedicated the November 2005 issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin to the question of WSIS and the Governance of the Internet, and the heated dispute among many countries of the world over the continuing control of ICANN by the U.S. via its Commerce Department. While all of the hoopla over this face off has settled down, the quieter work of implementing the Action Plan adopted in Tunis continues, including creating the new Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that was approved as a sop to those that fought to loosen the grip of the U.S. on ICANN. The first article below reviews that history, while the second is an official ITU "eFlash" that describes the next steps that are being taken, and the infrastructure that will support them. And finally, there is an article that reminds those of us who have already grown used to always-on broadband Internet access that others in the world are not so fortunate – and better appreciate what we take for granted.

WSIS - U.N. to hold consultations on new 'Net governance body
Jon Blau

IDG News Service January 13, 2006 The United Nations will launch the first round of consultations next month on creating a new Internet governance body, as agreed by delegates attending the global 'Net summit in Tunis last year....Internet governance was, arguably, the most controversial issue at WSIS, threatening to undermine the entire summit. To defuse the heated war for political control of the Internet, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed a temporary ceasefire of sorts by offering to create IGF. Government delegates in Tunis agreed to the proposal. ...Full Story

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WSIS E-FLASH N°24
ITU/WSIS January 31, 2006
 … The Tunis Agenda (para 108-109) states that multi-stakeholder implementation at the international level should be organized taking into account the themes and action lines in the Geneva Plan of Action, and be moderated or facilitated by UN agencies when appropriate. The experience of, and the activities undertaken by, UN agencies in the WSIS process – notably ITU, UNESCO and UNDP - should continue to be used to their fullest extent. These three agencies are expected to play leading facilitating roles in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action and organize a meeting of Moderators/Facilitators of Action Lines. Accordingly, ITU, UNESCO and UNDP are convening the first multi-stakeholder consultation meeting on 24 February 2006 in the Palais des Nations, room XXI, in Geneva. \

More information (including the official notification of the meeting, the agenda and additional information on participation and logistics can be found on the IGF website. Please note that all participants to this meeting have to pre-register. Registration forms should be sent by fax to the IGF Secretariat preferably by 4 February, but not later than 11 February. ...Full Story

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Journalist stops drinking and eating to demand unrestricted Internet access
Reporters Without Borders February 3, 2006
 Reporters Without Borders voiced support today for Guillermo Fariñas, the editor of the Cubanacán Press independent news agency, who has consumed no water or food since midday on 31 January and has told President Fidel Castro in an open letter he will pursue his hunger strike “to the death” if he and his fellow journalists are not allowed the Internet access they need for their work....During the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in November, a Cuban government representative claimed that all Cubans would have unrestricted access to the Internet if the US embargo were lifted. Fariñas insists that this is a lie. ...Full Story

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Meanwhile, back at ICANN: The next article excerpt is taking from an interview below with Internet pioneer (and ICANN manager) Vinton Cerf, in Government Computer News.  The interview covers many interesting topics, one of which is the future dependence (or independence) of ICANN. Cerf's answer to a question on that topic is very provocative. The next article shows that life is still not easy at ICANN, which continues to struggle with charges of contract favoritism and government queasiness about having a "porn name extension." 

The search continues
Brad Grimes

GCN.com January 24, 2006 GCN: What is your assessment of how the modern Internet is managed, and do you think ICANN should continue in its current role when its agreement with the Commerce Department is next up for renewal?
Cerf: ...ICANN is functioning reasonably well, though there is always room for improvement. I believe that the current memorandum of understanding between the Department of Commerce and ICANN indicates that if ICANN has all of the MOU requirements, that [Commerce] would relinquish to ICANN full authority to operate under its charter without specific oversight by [Commerce]. So rather than renewal, I would hope that ICANN would satisfy all the terms of the MOU and receive authority to operate independent of the U.S. government. ...Full Story

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ICANN meeting passes on .com, .xxx decisions

By: Kevin Murphy

CBR Online, January 5, 2006 -- Major decisions on the .com and .xxx domains had been postponed until next year, as the domain name management body seeks to balance the interests of governments and commercial domain name organizations. During a public forum on Saturday, domain registrars voiced concerns over the proposed settlement between ICANN and VeriSign Inc, which would give VeriSign a five-year extension to its .com registry contract and the ability to raise prices 7% a year. And proponents of the .xxx domain said their proposals to launch a porn-only address has been turned into a political football by ICANN's governmental advisors, a charge not being strenuously denied by ICANN or governments. ...Full Story

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New Consortia

There is a tide in the affairs of tech: As someone who makes his living in part through helping to form and represent new consortia, I pay particular attention to the rate at which such organizations are formed. Over the years I have noticed distinct trends in this regard, with some periods being comparatively quiet, and others being more active - sometimes dramatically so.

The reasons vary. When things are quiet, it usually means that there are fewer new technologies emerging. As a result, new work tends to be incremental and evolutionary, and can therefore be undertaken in existing organizations. When the formation of new consortia heats up, it's generally for one of two reasons: either there are no existing organizations that seem to be appropriate to host the new work, or there is a very high degree of competition, leading rival groups to form competing organizations (or new organizations to compete with existing organizations) in order to try to win a race to new product opportunity profits.

All of those reasons seem to be in play right now, with the following stories providing examples. To track new groups as they form, keep an eye on the News Portal. To see a historical record extending back for several years, click here.

Industry alliance promotes open telecom specifications
LinuxDevices.com January 23, 2006y
 Six global network equipment providers (NEPs) have allied to promote open carrier grade base platforms. SCOPE, founded by Alcatel, Ericsson, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, and Siemens, will create subsets of existing standards, such as Carrier Grade Linux (CGL), with the aim of promoting open platforms among constituents' service provider customers, it says. The six NEPs that founded SCOPE say the group does not plan to create specifications of its own. Instead, it hopes to complement the work of existing standards bodies by creating "profiles" -- subsets of existing standards that define technical and interface requirements for specific service provider applications. ...Full Story

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Newly Formed Ethernet Alliance Supports the Advancement of IEEE 802 Ethernet Standards
ANSI.org January 25, 2006
 A new industry group dedicated to the support and expansion of Ethernet technology has been launched by eighteen technology companies and research organizations, including several members of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The Ethernet Alliance was created to promote industry awareness, acceptance and advancement of technology and products based on existing and emerging IEEE 802 Ethernet standards, developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), an ANSI accredited standards developer. The Ethernet Alliance does not yet have an official relationship with IEEE. ...Full Story

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Nokia, Motorola, Intel form mobile TV alliance
Reuters January 27, 2006
 Mobile phone giant Nokia has teamed up with other technology firms to promote the DVB-H technology standard for mobile TV, Nokia said on Monday. Other firms in the alliance include Intel, Motorola, Texas Instruments and Modeo, owned by Crown Castle International, Nokia said in a statement. The collaboration, called the Mobile DTV Alliance, aims to encourage open standards for TV broadcasts to mobiles, focusing on the North American market. ...Full Story

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Next-gen display standard emerges for PC, HDTVs
Spencer Chin

EETimes UK January 27, 2006 Leading PC and consumer electronics companies have announced they are developing a specification for a PC digital display interface that is also compatible with high-definition TV signals. Penned the Unified Display Interface (UDI), the standard is expected to replace the aging VGA analog standard and provide guidelines to ensure compatibility with the DVI standard. UDI will be also be compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface), the standard digital interface for High Definition TVs (HDTVs) and advanced CE displays....A Special Interest Group (SIG) of industry leaders has been formed to develop and continue revising the UDI specification. ...Full Story

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Google, Sun, others band to fight spyware, adware
Elinor Mills

CNET.News.com January 31, 2006 A coalition of tech companies, consumer groups and other organizations hopes to do to companies that spread spyware and adware what "America's Most Wanted" has done to fugitives--stop them in their tracks by publicizing their misdeeds. The newly formed Stop Badware Coalition will publish the names of companies that it deems are the worst offenders and show how they make money through unethical marketing practices and fraud. ...Full Story

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Standards and Society

It's 2006 - Do you know where your personal datasphere is? In February of 2004 I wrote an article called "A Look into the Future: Introducing the Personal Datasphere." The article opened with these questions:

Q: Where do standards come from?
A: From the top.


Q: Who must live with the results?
A: Those at the bottom

And went on to observe that all of your data today - music, documents, medical history, job records, pictures and so on - are archived in different products (most proprietary), with different (or no) rights management, often with no backup, and with no protection from lock-in or legacy. And while there are many standards used in these products, there has been no effort to make it easy for the individual to manage their own data as a whole - because there is no perceived need, as yet, by vendors to do so for their own product benefit.

But - what each of us actually needs is a better way to build, manage, protect and carry throughout our lives what amounts to our own individual, and increasingly important, "personal datasphere." The following article touches on some of the concerns about which I wrote two years ago.

Ethical questions for future technology
Tectonic.co.nz January 28, 2006
 An annual survey of 300 futurists, academics and business people from 28 countries by the Global Future Forum (GFF) has found that future technology needs answers to ethical questions. Speaking at a public lecture in Johannesburg on Tuesday, David Smith, CEO of the GFF, says: ..."This means that companies will have to be able to understand what customers want, capture their personal information, pass that information through a host of partners or outsourced entities, integrate it into CRM systems, make the necessary changes to the product quickly and deliver it back through the channel to the customer. The companies that can do that efficiently, providing a dynamically priced product without compromising the customers' personal information, will earn the trust of its customers," he says. The survey found an 89% likelihood that this way of selling would become the norm in the next five years. ...Full Story

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Standards and disaster recovery:  Those that are used to free, consortium-developed standards in the information and communications technology space are often surprised that the vast majority of traditional standards must be purchased (that's how accredited standard organizations pay most of their bills).  As the following article demonstrates, disaster relief can take many forms – in this case, with the donation of copies of building codes to hurricane-devastated regions of Louisiana that are desperate to rebuild, and required to rebuild in conformance with those codes when they do.

Louisiana parishes to receive donation of I-Codes from ICC Foundation
Press Release

International Code January 24, 2006 The International Code Council Foundation (ICCF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating the devastating effects of natural disasters and other building tragedies, is stepping up to help local Lousiana governments' efforts to implement requirements of the state's uniform construction code law....The ICCF donated copies of I-Codes to the 11 Louisiana parishes declared federal disaster areas, including Orleans, Calcasieu, Cameron, Iberia, Jefferson, Lafourche, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Terrebonne and Vermilion parishes. The donated codes will help many jurisdictions replace technical libraries that were damaged or destroyed during the hurricanes. Other communities will be using the codes—including the International Building, Residential, Existing Building, Fuel Gas and Mechanical codes—for the first time as part of the new law. ...Full Story

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Tools for Sustainability: I wrote in the Feature Article of the October 2005 issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin, titled Standards for a Small Planet that there would be an increasing need to develop tools to measure our successes and failures in addressing the environmental challenges of an expanding global population. The following article reports on an effort to create and use just such tools to rank nations on their performance in maintaining 16 key environmental quality standards (e.g., clean water and energy sustainability). The methodologies employed in such studies will often necessarily be subjective (what do you measure, and how do you measure it?) and therefore controversial, especially in the eyes of those that rank most poorly. But as noted in the October CSB, the task must be undertaken, because without regular evaluation there will be no way to tell if we are winning or losing the increasingly difficult battle to maintain an environment we -- and our grandchildren -- can all live in.

United States Ranks 28th on Environment, a New Study Says
Felicity Barringer

New York Times January 23, 2006 WASHINGTON - A pilot nation-by-nation study of environmental performance shows that just six nations - led by New Zealand, followed by five from Northern Europe - have achieved 85 percent or better success in meeting a set of critical environmental goals ranging from clean drinking water and low ozone levels to sustainable fisheries and low greenhouse gas emissions. The study, jointly produced by Yale and Columbia Universities, ranked the United States 28th over all, behind most of Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Chile, but ahead of Russia and South Korea. ...Full Story

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OpenDocument Update

The format duel continues:  The dawn of the New Year has also brought a continuing flood of news on the OpenDocument front, as the following selection of articles demonstrates. 

IBM Lotus Opens Up WorkPlace Client

By: Ed Scannell

Information Week, January 5, 2006 -- Hoping to broaden the appeal of its WorkPlace software into new markets, IBM has promised support for the Open Document Format (ODF) in the next release of its WorkPlace Managed Client, due the first half of this year. The upcoming 2.6 version of the product will support the 1.0 version of the XML-based ODF standard, recently endorsed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). It allows office-productivity applications to work seamlessly together across different operating environments. ...Full Story

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Temporary CIO Steps into Mass. OpenDoc War
Lisa Vaas

Publish.com January 7, 2006 Massachusetts has appointed an acting CIO to fill in for Peter Quinn, who is walking away from the job after bringing OpenDocument and a concomitant fire of controversy to the Commonwealth. The acting CIO, Bethann Pepoli, was formerly the chief operating officer of the state's IT division.... the spokesperson for Romney's office, [said that] the state is still on track for its January 2007 implementation of its published ODF rules. ...Full Story

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Novell has promised to support the XML-based OpenDocument file format in its current and future products.
Robert Jaques

VNUNet.com January 19, 2006 Novell has promised to support the XML-based OpenDocument file format in its current and future products. The Linux firm first delivered OpenDocument support in its SuSE Linux distribution in March 2005, but its most recent announcement promises to integrate complete support for the format in the next edition of its enterprise desktop scheduled for this year. ...Full Story

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Peter Quinn to Keynote OpenDocument Format in Government Workshop at SCALE 4x
LinuxPR January 22, 2006
 The Open Document Fellowship and the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) announced today that Peter Quinn, former CIO of Massachusetts, will keynote at the 2006 Southern California Linux Expo. Quinn's keynote will be the opening presentation at SCALE's Workshop on the OpenDocument Format (ODF) in Government Organizations....This keynote presentation will focus on the state of Massachusetts' transition to the OpenDocument Format (ODF). Quinn will discuss the reasoning behind the decision to set ODF as a statewide standard. He will provide an overview of his experience during this transition, including the technical and political pitfalls he encountered....SCALE's workshop on OpenDocument format will take place on February 10, 2006. ...Full Story

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Open for anything: Loss of advocate doesn’t stall standards push
Ethan Butterfield
Washington Technology January 30, 2006 -  Massachusetts CIO Peter Quinn resigned his post in December, citing political turmoil that threatened to derail the state’s adoption of an open-standards format for software, the behind-the-scenes battle between open-standards advocates and proprietary vendors went public. On one side sits Microsoft Corp. On the other side are open-standards advocates and vendors. They’re fighting for fair competition that doesn’t give Microsoft undue advantage because of what critics charge are the company’s long-standing relationships with most state governments. ...Full Story

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Massachusetts Appoints ODF-Friendly CIO
Lisa Vaas

Publish.com February 1, 2006 Massachusetts has appointed a new CIO and made it clear that his job will be to forge ahead with implementing the controversial OpenDocument format, set to go into effect in January 2007....The acting CIO, Bethann Pepoli, will become deputy CIO....The Romney administration's posture toward the situation has clearly shifted over the past months. In a surprising about-face, Trimarco in November signaled that Microsoft's move to make Office XML a ratified ECMA standard could well make the format acceptable to the government....The administration of Gov. Mitt Romney has since rededicated itself to ODF. ...Full Story

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Top 10 IT New Stories of the Week
Staff

CIO.com February 4, 2006 3. "Mass. Hands OpenDocument Reins To New CIO," CNET News.com, 1/31. Sticking with Massachusetts, the state has named a permanent replacement for former chief information officer Peter Quinn who recently resigned citing political pressure. After proposing plans to migrate off Microsoft’s software in favor of the OpenDocument file format, Quinn found himself under intense local and international scrutiny. The new CIO, Louis Gutierrez, is set to continue Quinn’s plans of beginning the move over to OpenDocument in Jan. 2007. However, the state’s current governor is stepping down at the end of this year and the next incumbent would have the option to name a new CIO in 2007. ...Full Story

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IBM Workplace is more than just an alternative to Microsoft Office
Nick Langely

ConputerWeekly.com February 8, 2006 Lotus Workplace is a set of customisable online work collaboration products from IBM's Lotus division. The products consist of Workplace Messaging, Workplace Team Collaboration, Workplace Collaborative Learning, and Workplace Web Content Management. When rumours of Workplace first surfaced about three years ago, it was described as an "MS Office-killer". It has subsequently become clear that there is a lot more to it than that. Microsoft Office users can, if they wish, continue with Office, while making use of the kind of collaboration features IBM has long had with Lotus Domino and Websphere, and which Microsoft is only now beginning to pack into Office. On the other hand, there is a migration path to Openoffice. ...Full Story

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Standards and Trade

National standards competitiveness? Much has been written about whether or not the United States can stay competitive against rising powerhouses such as China and India with millions of talented - and less expensive - workers. Far less attention has been paid to whether the United States is competitive when it comes to standards development, and more importantly, influencing international adoption of standards deemed to be advantageous to U.S. vendors. But, as I have frequently examined in the Consortium Standards Bulletin in issues examining topics such as aerospace standards and the enormous investment by China in developing and integrating standards into its commercial strategy, the U.S. is being heavily outspent by Europe and China in the standards arena, with ominous results. The following article announces a summit being organized by ANSI and NIST to examine just this subject.

“Options for Action Summit” to Address U.S. Competitiveness in Global Standardization Activities
ANSI.org February 2, 2006
 The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will host an “Options for Action Summit” on July 18-19, 2006, on the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, MD. The event will focus on the identification of key standards-related issues that affect U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace and the definition of steps to ensure effective representation of U.S. technology interests in international standardization. High-level representatives from government, a wide range of industry sectors, and the standards development community are invited to attend. The Summit will include an assessment of how the United States and its standards-setting activities are perceived overseas. Participants also will discuss assertions that the U.S. is being outspent by other developed nations in efforts that influence developing countries’ decisions on what standards to adopt. ...Full Story

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Open Source

New talent for FSG:  For the most part, standards consortia set standards and open source projects create open source software that often relies on open standards to interoperate with other software.  The Free Standards Group is an interesting hybrid: a standards consortium for open source software.  Its particular purpose is to create standards that will prevent (for example) Linux from becoming fragmented, as occurred to its predecessor, Unix.  Recently, a Linux pioneer joined the FSG as CTO – Debian founder Ian Murdock, as announced in the first press release below.  As the indicates, several new board members (including me) were elected to its board.

Debian Founder Ian Murdock Appointed Chief Technology Officer of the Free Standards Group and Linux Standard Base Workgroup Chair
Press Release

Free Standards Group February 2, 2006 SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The Free Standards Group (FSG), a not-for-profit organization that develops and promotes open source software standards, today announced Debian founder Ian Murdock has been appointed its chief technology officer and elected chair of the Linux Standard Base workgroup. As founder of Debian -- one of the most successful open source projects in history -- and commercial custom Linux platform provider Progeny, Murdock brings unmatched experience building open source communities, driving technical consensus and solving Linux distribution challenges. His experience will immediately enhance the open standards initiatives of the Free Standards Group and the Linux Standard Base. ...Full Story

The Free Standards Group Board Attracts Industry Leaders From Fujitsu, Gesmer Updegrove, HP, LPI, and Novell
Press Release

Free Standards Group February 1, 2006 SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- The Free Standards Group, a not-for-profit organization that develops and promotes open source software standards, today announced the results of its annual board of directors election. The five veterans elected to the board represent industry experts in such fields as open source software, computer hardware, open standards and industry consortia. The following individuals will begin serving their two-year terms immediately.... ...Full Story

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The Open Source Storage Holy Grail
Tim Stammers

Computer Business Review Online February 1, 2006 IBM hopes that its Aperi open source initiative will open up the storage market and banish proprietary technologies from the sector. Tim Stammers investigates....The storage sector has recently been moving towards openness, but it is still probably the most proprietary area of the IT industry. Aperi is aiming to address one of the most obvious obstacles to progress, which is the scarcity of standards defining the way that storage devices such as disk arrays or SAN switches talk to the software tools with which they are managed and configured. The lack of such standards has meant that beyond some basic tasks, most storage hardware can only be managed by software sold by the same vendor that supplied the hardware. ...Full Story

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Semantic Web

XML (and the Semantic Web)march on: In my Standards Year in Review issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin, I identified XML as the Standard of the Year for 2005, due to its universal utility and uptake for virtually any use. The following press release brings together that story, and another that I've been following: the Semantic Web (see the June 2005 issue on the Future of the Web, and the long interview with Tim Berners-Lee on that topic). While taking advantage of the Semantic Web opportunity requires discipline, individual domains - such as bioinformatics and, in this case, news - that place a high value on finding relevant data are finding it worthwhile to incorporate Semantic Web standards into their own standards tools.

IPTC Starts Testing the News Revolution
Press Release

PRNewsWire.com January 11, 2006 WINDSOR, England, January 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Sharing and accurately describing news will take a giant leap forward this month when testing begins on NewsML 2 Architecture, a proposed standard from the International Press Telecommunications Council for a next generation of news exchange formats. Developed by a consortium of more than 40 of the world's major news agencies and news system vendors, NewsML 2 Architecture is based on the wildly popular XML markup language. The basic goal of the NewsML 2 Architecture is to provide a single generic model for exchanging all kinds of newsworthy information. Not only will this give news agencies and software developers a unified method for handling news, but it will also provide an XML framework for a future family of IPTC news exchange standards covering such diverse specialties as sports, entertainment and financial news. Under the IPTC model, text, photo, graphics, video -- in fact, any combination of media types -- can be bundled into packages that neatly wrap the news content, information about the content and a management layer. Senders can make the XML wrapper as simple or complex as desired, tailoring the final package to the exact needs of their customers. As with all IPTC standards, when work is completed NewsML 2 standards will be released for use without payment or royalties. In addition, it is compatible with the World Wide Web Consortium's "Semantic Web" framework, building a robust universal data exchange using XML and other standard tools. ...Full Story


 

 

 
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