Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Some outlook on European standardisation in 2013

We are already in the third week of the New Year – and I hope it will be a truly Happy New Year for everyone.

A new year is always a good opportunity to give some outlook on what will be hot and on the agenda for the next 12 months. So I cannot resist of contributing my two cents, as well. So here's my list of what I expect regarding standardisation in 2013.

The high potential for innovation that lies in technology integration will further drive systemic standardisation as well as innovation policy around systemic standardisation:

We have seen several activities of this in the last years, most notably in the area of smart grid and – started recently in Europe – in the area of Cloud. The European Commission wishes to drive innovation and drive the adoption of innovative technologies. Standards play a key role because they ensure interoperability and promote fair competition. Systemic standardisation means to get an understanding of the standards that are available for integration and combination in order to realise the respective technology infrastructures.

For Cloud the European Commission has asked ETSI to coordinate with stakeholders the development of a Cloud standards roadmap. This task shall be completed in 2013 with a first draft being available middle of this year. Just to be clear: this is not about developing standards, it is about identifying the standards that are needed for the technology. In the case of Cloud almost all standards are already available – some functional gaps are being addressed in a number of global standards bodies. For ETIS the challenge is to get the governance right for the coordination work so that all interested parties can participate and that full transparency is ensured throughout the project.

I expect that similar systemic standardisation work will come up on the agenda – some triggered by innovation policy activities of governments. E-Mobility is such an activity that's on the horizon. The e-energy sector may provide for others.

The discussion about standardisation and Intellectual Property Rights will continue:

That's an easy prediction – especially since the Commission already announced that they will organise a workshop on FRAND and Injunctive Relief sometime in 2013. Indeed, a number of topics are being discussed with respect to standardisation and IPRs.

Regarding last November's conference on FRAND and Open Source the Commission made clear that they are not planning follow-on actions on the legal level. Nonetheless, the workshop clearly illustrated the issues that exist when Open Source communities would need to implement standards that are available under FRAND terms. Regarding standards bodies, some suggestions were made that they look at implementing Royalty-free options in order to become better positioned for dealing with Open Source.

This year's Commission conference will focus on other topics addressing the intersection between standardisation and IPRs. The overriding question is whether and where it might be possible to increase certainty or find some common levels of agreement for how to handle given commitments on licensing standards essential patents (SEPs); on how to agree on what makes a FRAND offer really fair and reasonable; under what circumstances should it be ok to have injunctions; how can it be better ensured that commitments remain valid when patents are transferred to new owners; etc. None of this is for regulation or legislation. It is about strengthening the commitment of members of standards bodies, about better processes and fair play. And whatever will be decided will never be able to avoid dispute and sometimes bad behaviour altogether. But it is good to further strive for improvements on the level of standards bodies' directives, IPR policies, etc.

The implementation of the new EU Regulation on standardisation will open up new opportunities for making use of ICT standards in Europe:

The new EU Regulation on standardisation has come into force with the beginning of the new year. For ICT this means some significant changes: (1) The ICT Multi-Stakeholder Platform – set up in a Commission Decision in Nov 2011 – will now act against the new Regulation as THE advisory body to the Commission on all standardisation-related topics; (2) ICT standards from global standards bodies can be identified and officially used in public procurement – based on advice of the ICT Multi-Stakeholder Platform regarding conformance with the requirements and criteria of Annex II of the Regulation.

In essence, both of the above means that Europe does have a largely improved environment for discussing and getting first hand and highly informed advice regarding the policy priorities of the Commission. And by being able to make use of global ICT standards on almost equal footing with European standards in procurement and in policies the Commission can make sure that those standards that need to used are actually available.

Standardisation and innovation – a topic still not fully explored:

A lot has been said about standardisation and innovation. Yet, the topic will remain as exciting as on the first day, I am sure. Innovation is critical for economic success, for growth and prosperity. Therefore, standardisation is a key element in innovation policy. I mentioned some examples above – Cloud, smart grid, e-mobility, etc.

Effective use of standards in the context of innovation policy requires policy makers to take into account the mechanisms of standards and how they promote innovation. This means in particular, to look into software interoperability and promote royalty-free standards for software interoperability so that the high potential for innovation that lies in the integration of SW components can be promoted.

IT Security will continue to be key topic around standardisation:

IT security has had high relevance for many years and this will certainly continue in 2013. Whether we talk about smart grids, e-mobility, Cloud, the internet and the world wide web in general, etc. - security and privacy are key aspects. And standardisation is of key importance in this context. Internationally, SC 27 in ISO/IEC JTC 1 is driving the work on security standardisation.

Interoperability will be continue to be a major issue for ICT infrastructures and -ecosystems:

Interoperability is one of the key reasons for standardisation and for promoting standards. And interoperability prevents single vendor lock-in and promotes fair competition .With the new EU Regulation in place public procurers have much better opportunities to promote interoperability by referencing global open standards in public tenders.

In this context, the work on National Interoperability Frameworks will continue reviewing in how far all the benefits of global open standards are already reaped with government IT infrastructures and with the requirements listed today. The new EU Regulation allows governments to be much more forward looking in terms of requiring open standards and thus promoting interoperability and open IT ecosystems.

The UK have set a new precedent in this respect with their open standards policy published last year. The relevance of open standards will, in this context, remain very high. And other governments around Europe and beyond will evaluated to what extend they move on further into the direction of open standards based procurement and ICT policies. 

Now, I am sure I missed some topics - and that others may have different expectations and observations from the ones I listed above. I am happy to discuss - just add a comment or drop me a message.


Josef Assad said...

Thank you for the overview of topics. Very useful.

My concern is whether the commission is aware of the voiceless independent open source developer.

Seems to me like royalty-free conditions are the only ones which permit the individual developer to continue to innovate.

It would be quite amusing if the vision driving these dialogues is one of big comapnies being the only providers of open source software.

Jochen said...

Hi Josef,

Thanks for your good comment. My personal impression is that, indeed, the Commission is not always aware of the needs of open source communities and open source developers. We need to remind people - not only in the Commission but in many institutions - that they should explore new ways via the internet to make their information public and invite for comments. e-participation etc. have much more potential than what is currently reaped.

In OpenForum Europe we also cooperate with organisations like FSFE and FFII - you comment is a good reminder that we need to look at e-participation and opening ways for open source developers to participate in policy debates.

Regarding your point on RF: I entirely agree that for Open Source software the software interoperability standards should be available royalty-free.