As we enter the Holiday Season, it’s a wonderful time for reflection. So in my first guest post for OpenStand, I’d like to take some time to reflect upon what would the world be like if a majority of the world’s Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) did not adhere to the principles of OpenStand.

To be clear, as I reflect upon the principles for this post, I am directly referring to the first principle about cooperation between SDOs.

1. Cooperation

Respectful cooperation between standards organizations, whereby each respects the autonomy, integrity, processes, and intellectual property rules of the others.

Now, when we talk about cooperation, it does not necessarily mean existing SDOs get together at an international summit and divide up the world by technology areas and claim territorial rights to the ones they like, believe to be critical to the future, where they have existing standards in place, or whatever other arbitrary criteria they choose. On the contrary, the Cooperation Principle encourages SDOs to seek opportunities for cooperation and collaboration to bridge the gaps between existing standards. This becomes increasingly necessary as proliferation increases and technologies converge.

Let’s take a quick walk down technology memory lane. The technology world is quite complex, and it continues to grow in its complexity as the speed of innovation accelerates. For example, a century (1913) ago we did not have electronic/digital computers. 50 years ago color TV had arrived on the scene, but personal computers were MIA. 25 years ago cellular phones arrived (you’ll remember them well as inordinately bulky “bricks” with luggable batteries), but MP3 players were far from imagination as the state-of-the-art “Walkmans” dominated the personal entertainment scene. 10 years ago, Smartphones were mostly a concept. Looking at the present, the popular craze for the latest tablet and the mainstream social media frenzy are phenomena that are only about five years old…

Following the same time line, let’s take a walk down the standards memory lane. Until recent decades, technology standards weren’t exactly helping innovation, or even accelerating it.

A century ago, there were some national electric power standards (60 Hz, 110V, power receptacle), but there were none (that I can recollect) at the international level. 50 years ago, NTSC, PAL and SECAM standards wreaked havoc among content creators to achieve any interoperability among TV and video recorders. We also might recall the VHS vs. BetaMax standards battles that occurred in subsequent years, which gave standards a bad name. Historically, connecting computers – personal or otherwise – from different manufacturers proved to be a struggle that required significant technical know how, forcing the the average PC user double his/her technology vocabulary overnight. Pushing forward to the present, we all deal with one of the most frequently faced technology problems of this decade : Not being able to use your friend’s incompatible phone charger when your phone battery dies, because you forgot your charger at home!

What’s important to note is this: The historical interoperability problems I’ve highlighted are ones that were introduced largely by product proliferation – not necessarily problems that were created by SDOs, themselves. In recent decades, standards have developed an increasingly important and relevant role, as product developers, engineers, inventors and technologists embrace the fact that in today’s markets, the success (or failure) of their inventions and products depend on how interoperable they are with the existing technology ecosystem and infrastructure. In the present paradigm, standards become critically important to the innovation equation.

To see this in action, consider the Internet, Irrespective of whom you credit, or blame, for the Internet’s invention, is a classic example of a complex infrastructure that continues to evolve, from the old 1980’s days of 300 baud dial-up modems to today’s Wi-Fi that downloads an entire HD movie in a matter of minutes. Besides many inventions that went into developing the supporting technology for internet, there are today hundreds of standards that make it possible to deliver a digital video from a server sitting in a data center in some cold, remote place to the warm comfort of home — onto the device of your choice: Smart HDTV, computer, your favorite tablet or smartphone. It’s a beautiful thing!

Looking behind the scenes of that seemingly transparent and user-friendly technology, you’ll find SDOs like IEEE, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Society, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and many other collaborating organizations that enable standards-based interoperable solutions that benefit humanity at large. Many of these organizations are OpenStand Affirming Partners and Supporters.

The truth is, without OpenStand principles and open collaboration, the world would become a terrible, inoperable place – and among other inconveniences, you’d be renting your movie from the corner Video Store on Friday night – if it’s in stock!

This is just a snapshot of the first principle of OpenStand in action. In my next article, I will visit the world of semiconductor and Design Automation standards where collaboration among SDOs has proven to be a game changer for the entire industry.

Until then, wishing all of the OpenStand readers peace, love and interoperability this Holiday Season.

Peace, Love and OpenStand was written by Yatin Trivedi, IEEE-ISTO Director, Director of Standards and Interoperability Programs at Synopsys.