Following the ITU hosted CTO meeting held in Dubai on November 18 2012, where I represented our CTO Padmasree Warrior, I had the pleasure to present at the ITU-T Global Standards Symposium [GSS] in Dubai on November 19 2012.
This panel was of particular interest to us because Cisco observed a number of industries brought together on the same stage. Energy, healthcare, and transportation are important to how we live and work, and Cisco engages in each of these sectors.
While this panel demonstrated the huge technological strides each sector is taking, I noted that these advances did not occur overnight. Each of these sectors has evolved its approach with a lot of effort, over a long period of time.
Healthcare providers have been pushing towards the use of eHealth technology, since the first electronic medical records systems showed up in the 1980s. The promise of eHealth is safer, more efficient, patient-focused care. For example, one partner is working to develop a system that would compound multiple medications for each patient, based on that patient’s list of prescriptions. Not only would this make it easier for the patient, it could also provide an additional opportunity for counter-indication checks.
Cisco Systems has engaged in eHealth for many years, as this is an area that is of particular interest to our CEO, John Chambers, whose parents were doctors.
In the transportation sector, a quiet revolution has occurred with the de facto standard of GPS that is now ubiquitous. I wonder if anyone has even measured the amount of time and energy saved through the use of more efficient routing. It should come as no surprise that the core routing protocol used on the Internet is based on the Bellman Ford algorithm, which itself was developed in 1958 to address transportation needs.
SmartGrid exists in a broader context of energy management, where initial standards were often based on proprietary protocol suites. Today, a number of meters respond to queries using XML, atop TCP-IP, which itself is operating using IEEE 802.15.
And so this brings me to four observations:
1. Each and every sector we are looking at today makes use of Internet technologies.
The proprietary standards have fallen by the wayside. Dr. Steve Deering in 2001 articulated the hourglass approach in his presentation entitled, Watching the Waste of the Protocol Hourglass. He said then that a stable layer three is critical for growth. Recent research by Georgia Institute of Technology confirms this fact, e.g http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~sakhshab/evoarch.pdf
As a result of a thriving ecosystem, today we see more of a martini glass, as the number of applications atop IP blossoms.
2. The common standards used by all of these sectors are open and voluntary, and were developed through broad industry consensus.
The ability of new players to access the work, and bring their requirements into the standards arena has been unimpeded.
I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of broad industry consensus.
3. The voluntary standards ecosystem that exists is itself healthy, and what has made possible adoption of Internet-based technology by over 2 billion people.
Cisco participates in many standards activities in many different bodies.
4. Common interoperable architectural building blocks, therefore, are good, and are met best with global approaches.
It means that different sectors need not re-invent work, but stand on the shoulders of others. For instance, eHealth providers can rely on the decades of experience and lots of libraries and implementations for communications privacy, where standards such as TLS and X.509 are mature. Interoperability in our example above would make it possible for different pharmaceuticals to collaborate to compound a single pill.
Doing this saves customers money in terms of reduced development time and support complexity. Cooperation between standards organizations is also good for this very same reason.
Cisco encourages more such meetings between standards bodies, not just to identify needs, but also to identify solutions, and for as much as we can manage, solutions that can be globally deployed.
Does this mean global standards are done in one place? From a Cisco perspective we do not think so. First and foremost we will go where we believe we can bring our expertise to bear, along with our industry peers – no matter their size – to develop the best result for our customers – you. Sometimes it takes a little while to figure out where that is. Sometimes it may be with a well-established organization such as ITU or ISO, and sometimes with a new upstart where ideas can be incubated. We feel most at home when we are among peers, when we know that we are confident that the results will serve our customers – YOU!
Based on these observations, we support the principles behind OpenStand.