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Transforming the IEEE Standards Association to Serve Evolving Needs for Consensus Platforms

Technology and business dynamics change much more rapidly in today’s global marketplace than they did in the past. In order to stay relevant, companies must be able to think and act faster, and that makes collaboration—between and among industries, technology areas, and geographic regions—more crucial to success than ever.

It is known that diversity in thought leads to better and more rapid innovation. This diversity is amplified when different companies and communities share their best ideas so that technical experts can build upon one another’s accomplishments. However, at some point diverse views have to be reconciled with each other, so that innovations can reach the marketplace with a broad base of support. Reconciling the strongly held opinions of technologists requires a platform with known rules and processes, in which all parties with a stake in technological innovation can participate on an equitable, open basis.

Looking at this from a different perspective, collaboration provides a company with a valuable resource for risk mitigation. Companies risk wasting scarce R&D resources—either by developing technologies destined to be orphaned or by duplicating work already done by others—in the absence of an equitable, open platform for reaching consensus with peers.

That’s where IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) comes in.

Building Industry Consensus via an Open Platform

IEEE SA offers open platforms for creating consensus—that is, for industry to collaborate and agree on actual artifacts (such as written standards), processes (a conformance testing procedure, for example) or machine instructions (as via open source software). We focus on those consensus opportunities because the mission of IEEE—to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity—allows us to bring together companies and individuals to foster market growth through consensus on such artifacts, processes, and software.

IEEE SA is always transforming to better align with the evolving, diverse needs of industry. Where we once concentrated our energies on only technical standards development, IEEE SA today nurtures, develops and advances global technologies through a lifecycle approach that  spans technology exploration, development,  and market implementation. To achieve this, we offer a variety of services on a flexible platform that helps companies and individuals cooperate and achieve the consensus that today’s technology and business dynamics demand.

New Programs Empowering Technological Innovations

IEEE SA, in its recent history, has grown more proactive in looking at nascent technology areas and surrounding areas of concern. Our work in ethical development and usage of technologies such as autonomous and intelligent systems (A/IS), for example, is planned so that we get ahead of the curve of A/IS technology development. In this case, our thought is that when these powerful technical innovations reach the marketplace, they should already be shaped by consensus into forms that are safe and effective for human use and other forms of adoption.

One of our newest avenues for collaboration is IEEE SA Open, a comprehensive platform offering the global open source community cost-effective options for developing and validating their projects.

Open source is a natural addition to IEEE SA’s collaboration ecosystem. It has some recognizable similarities to how IEEE SA has historically gone about facilitating collaboration and creating consensus. However, some typical open source processes are a little different than the processes used in standardization, and, of course, IEEE SA Open differs in that it delivers actual pieces of software for end use, as opposed to resulting in a written specification that informs or guides the work of industry, governments, or regulators. Nevertheless, both cases involve groups of people donating their own time, efforts, and thoughts to reach consensus on a concrete deliverable. This allows them to address an underserved need in a way that any one of the contributors alone likely would not.

The necessity of accommodating rapid technical change is a constant challenge to companies and industry. The velocity of this change is, if anything, increasing. The need for collaboration across old boundaries and in new structures stands only to intensify in the years ahead.

IEEE is an uncommonly deep and broad technical organization with a global footprint. We have over 422,000 members in more than 160 countries who represent an unmatched range of technology spaces. Our bottom-up structure in which all voices are heard is strong, resilient, and sustainable. It is this unique mix of attributes that affords IEEE SA both the power and flexibility to deliver on industry’s evolving global needs for a platform that enables collaboration and consensus. And through that flexible and open platform, innovators will raise the world’s standards for technology.

Learn more about IEEE SA programs and how to get involved

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Robert Fish

President, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) - Dr. Fish is a Lecturer in Computer Science at Princeton University. He also serves as President of the IEEE SA and a member of the Board of Directors of the IEEE. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Communications Society. He co-edited a series in IEEE Communications Magazine on IEEE standards in communications and networking. He is Co-founder and formerly the Steering Committee Chair of IEEE ComSoc’s Consumer Communications and Networking Conference. For his leadership and contributions to the Multimedia Communications Technical Committee, Dr. Fish was the recipient of MMTC’s Distinguished Service Award. He was also awarded the Standards Medallion of the IEEE Standards Association. Dr. Fish was elected as a Fellow of the IEEE "for application of visual communications and networking.”

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