When most people think of standards, they think of companies in an industry coming together to address common points of pain or to collaborate on technical specifications that would benefit the entire ecosystem. In other words, traditional standards efforts tend to support the “all boats rise” notion that when standards are developed and adopted, everyone wins.
While plenty of what I’ll call “for the common good” standards initiatives exist and are still being formed, there’s also a new type of standards activity that is worth noting because it is so different: the disruptive standards initiative. In the business world, disruption is generally defined as an effort to take a product or service that is typically expensive and thus restricted to small market segment and, through innovation, drastically reduce the cost of delivery of that same product or service so that it is readily available to a much larger marketplace. Traditionally, disruption has been the domain of individual companies focused on innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors. Now, as seen through the three high profile examples below, it’s also moving heavily into the world of standards.
Recently, the GreenTouch initiative, one of our client organizations, was nominated as a finalist for an Edison Award in the category of “Collaborative Disruption.” GreenTouch was formed as a defined, five-year collaborative effort between industry partners and research institutions worldwide to improve the energy efficiency of networks by a factor of 1,000. Through the group’s efforts, it proposed an entire portfolio of architectures, technologies, components and algorithms allowing network operators and other industry players to understand and evaluate the energy performance of an array of future technologies. The true result of GreenTouch, of course, is that it will fundamentally change the way that tomorrow’s networks are built and managed.
This week, another new standards initiative was launched, following a similar path. The Telecom Infra Project (TIP), an initiative driven by Facebook as well as industry partners Intel, Nokia, SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, was formed with the purpose to “reimagine the traditional approach to building and deploying telecom network infrastructure.” Instead of Facebook or any of the other TIP members working to disrupt the market all by themselves, they’ve opted to do so collaboratively within a standards initiative. While TIP is open to any organization interested in joining, the challenge to the wider industry is clear: join us in helping to develop the standards for tomorrow’s networks, or potentially stand-by and watch the industry shift without you. While standards efforts are generally replete with some politics, this seems a bold new frontier.
The launch of TIP came a few months behind the formation of another disruptive standards group: the Alliance for Open Media (AOM). Founded by a collection of industry-leading companies, the goal of AOM is to create next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies via an open and royalty free model. AOM, of course, is seeking to disrupt against the currently available media formats that are, in general, heavily encumbered by patents.
Through examples such as these, it seems the sleepy world of standards is being disrupted, too.