The Importance of Open Standards

What makes a standard open? I’ve blogged that question before:

Open standard in the form of binary code, 3D illustration

We just completed an update to our free PROFINET one-day training class material. In the course of that exercise we uncovered more detailed definitions.

Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Internet Society (ISOC), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Internet Architecture Board (IAB) have jointly affirmed principles of open standards. Here are those principles with my PROFINET- and PROFIBUS-related comments:

1. Cooperation

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

Comment: PI has long promoted cooperation among standards organizations (and members). For example, in 2007 we initiated a Wireless Cooperation Team that included Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation. The goal was to avoid creating a PI-specific or FF-specific wireless technology for process applications and instead provide a unified approach benefitting users. Also in 2007, PI, Fieldbus Foundation, FDT Group, and OPC Foundation formed a team to unify an approach combining EDDs and FDTs into a common technology. This morphed into a separate company, the FDI Cooperation in 2011, founded by the same organizations. In 2015 the FDI Cooperation dissolved with PI and FieldComm Group (the successor to FF and HART Communication Foundation) cooperating to provide IP and services.

2. Adherence to Principles

Adherence to the five fundamental principles of standards development:

Due process. Decisions are made with equity and fairness among participants. No one party dominates or guides standards development. Standards processes are transparent and opportunities exist to appeal decisions. Processes for periodic standards review and updating are well defined.

Broad consensus. Processes allow for all views to be considered and addressed, such that agreement can be found across a range of interests.

Transparency. Standards organizations provide advance public notice of proposed standards development activities, the scope of work to be undertaken, and conditions for participation. Easily accessible records of decisions and the materials used in reaching those decisions are provided. Public comment periods are provided before final standards approval and adoption.

Balance. Standards activities are not exclusively dominated by any particular person, company or interest group.

Openness. Standards processes are open to all interested and informed parties.

Comment: PI indeed adheres to these guidelines. Watch for “Call for Experts” or members of PI North America may subscribe to PROFI Times, our member-only newsletter, for announcements. Our Working Group guidelines are published.

3. Collective Empowerment

Commitment by affirming standards organizations and their participants to collective empowerment by striving for standards that:

  • are chosen and defined based on technical merit, as judged by the contributed expertise of each participant;
  • provide global interoperability, scalability, stability, and resiliency;
  • enable global competition;
  • serve as building blocks for further innovation; and
  • contribute to the creation of global communities, benefiting humanity.

Comment: PI is a global organization and membership anywhere entitles participation in the standardization process. All members may review specifications during the comment period prior to finalization. Local Regional PI Associations and related PI Competence Centers, PI Training Centers, and PI Test Labs create an ecosystem in which the technologies thrive.

4. Availability

Standards specifications are made accessible to all for implementation and deployment. Affirming standards organizations have defined procedures to develop specifications that can be implemented under fair terms. Given market diversity, fair terms may vary from royalty-free to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND).

Comment: PI publishes its standards and they are available to all for purchase from the IEC. Some technologies are covered by patents, but as these principles indicate they are available under “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND).” Note that even IEEE specifications may be covered by patents; for example, IEEE1588 uses patents from Intel.

5. Voluntary Adoption

Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market.

Comment: Indeed, the market determines success. PROFIBUS was far and away the most installed fieldbus. PROFINET and its main competitor are more equal in their installations although PROFINET is faster growing.

–Carl Henning