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STANDARDS PIPELINE

Vol.32 No.3 August 1998
ACM SIGGRAPH

Standards Work Intensifies with Creation of Business Teams



George S.Carson
GSC Associates, Inc.


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SC24 International Standards

Between December 1997 and April 1998, SC 24 completed and submitted to the Information Technology Task Force at ISO Central Secretariat in Geneva (ITTF) three new International Standards for publication:

  1.  ISO/IEC 14778, Presentation Environment for Multimedia Objects (PREMO). The four parts of this standard are: Part 1: Fundamentals; Part 2: Foundation Component; Part 3: Multimedia Systems Services Component; Part 4: Modeling, Rendering, and Interaction Component.
  2.  ISO/IEC 12087-5, Basic Image Interchange Format (a major new part of the International Standard for Image Processing and Interchange).
  3.  ISO/IEC 14772-1, Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML).

Each of these was published in partnership with a consortium or other organization and has been described in previous columns.

SC24 states its mission as: “to effectively apply its resources to assist all segments of the worldwide computer graphics and image processing communities in the development of International Standards.” To achieve this mission, SC24 employs these strategies:

  1.  Seek out those consortia and other organizations that follow open processes as SC24’s partners.
  2.  Manage SC24’s work effectively, applying measures of effectiveness that include timeliness and window of market opportunity as well as technical quality.
  3.  Maximize SC24’s contribution by seeking out those new and innovative projects where the subcommittee can add substantial value, not just “rubber stamp” efforts involving older or platform-dependent technologies.
  4.  Continue to seek ways to cooperate more effectively with SC 29.

SC24 has identified several significant opportunities where it expects to play a major role over the next few years. These include:

  1.  The standardization of Internet protocols and interfaces to provide effective 2D and 3D graphical interaction. Continuing work on VRML and new work on PNG are examples where SC24 is already working successfully. Many more are in the early stages of exploration at the management level with SC24’s partners, including W3C.
  2.  The development of effective multi-vendor, cross-platform cross-application data interchange formats that combine data objects and meta-data for interchange. This is a major focus of the Imaging and Graphics Business Team that is described in more detail later in this column.
  3.  Continue to support the VRML community by working in partnership with the VRML consortium to evolve the base VRML standard and to advance other elements of VRML technology to International Standards as they mature.

SC 24, in cooperation with other JTC 1 SCs — notably SC 29, has started a new activity called the Imaging and Graphics Business Team (IGBT) to plan the next generation of media standards. A Web site had been established for this effort.

The first public meeting of this business team will be held in Orlando, FL, at the Omni Rosen Hotel on Sunday, 26 July 1998 from 0900 to 1700. This is the Sunday immediately following SIGGRAPH. More information regarding this meeting can be found at the above WWW site.

The remainder of this column is devoted to explaining the Business Team concept (which is a new and innovative way to initiate work on International Standards) and the planned operations of the IGBT.

Imaging and Graphics Business Team

The fast paced evolution of information and communications technologies has created opportunities for standards-based solutions to meet the requirements of new and emerging markets. In recognition of this, Joint Technical Committee 1 of ISO, the International Organization for Standardization and IEC and the International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC JTC 1) have created the Imaging and Graphics Business Team (IGBT). The purpose of the Business Team is to identify opportunities for creating new International Standards by working with:

  • Business to identify market opportunities that require new standards.
  • Governments and public sector organizations to consider their unique requirements.
  • Graphics and imaging experts to agree on technologies suitable for standardization.
  • Developers of standards outside of ISO and IEC to optimize the application of scarce resources.

All areas of business and government worldwide are users of information and communications technology standards. Because of this global market, JTC 1 must take a cross-sector and interdisciplinary approach to transposing or developing standards for its client base.

Business Teams are a strategic planning activity of JTC 1, designed to reach outside the community of technologists within JTC 1 who develop International Standards and involve both leaders in business and government. These leaders are the users of standards and specifications as well as the trade associations, consortia and other organizations who develop specifications. The area of information and communications technology to be addressed by this IGBT includes all aspects of formats and interfaces used for or directly supporting interaction with and presentation of, information, including but not limited to:

  • Computer graphics.
  • Images and image processing.
  • Single media, including animation, audio and video.
  • Multiple media.

Some key benefits of the business team approach to standards planning are:

  • Increase the business relevance of JTC 1’s standards.
  • Allow requirements to make their way into the JTC 1 process directly and quickly.
  • Bring a broad range of resources (including those outside of JTC 1) to bear on key opportunities.
  • Provide greater visibility for JTC 1.

Business Team Concept

A Business Team is composed of individuals who collectively understand both the technology and the business needs for one or more business or governmental segments. Business Teams interact with business, consumer, government, educational and other interests. A primary role of a Business Team is to facilitate communication and interactions between interested parties in a particular application area with the goal of determining the best role, if any, for JTC 1 standards within that segment. The activities of a Business Team can include:

  • Reviewing the identified needs of organizations for standards as identified by existing planning activities.
  • Working with experts to identify technologies that are ready for standardization.
  • Recognizing and identifying areas where organizations outside JTC 1 are doing an adequate job of developing standards.
  • Based upon needs and the maturity of technologies, selecting high payoff standards for new development or public specifications for transposition into standards.
  • Issuing an open call for participation.
  • Developing a Steering Committee/ Advisory Board for resolving procedural issues.
  • Representing a large community, not just traditional participants in JTC 1 activities.

A Business Team has neither the expertise nor the resources to conduct detailed analysis of markets or business processes or to make lists of specific requirements that a proposed standard might meet. Instead, the IGBT will rely on inputs from the strategic planning activities that are already conducted within all business and governmental organizations. Similarly, a Business Team has neither the expertise nor the resources to conduct detailed analysis of technologies but rather will rely on collective advice obtained from recognized industry experts through working with professional and technical societies sponsoring workshops or symposia.

Key Characteristics

Some key characteristics of the Imaging and Graphics Business Team include:

  • Precise goals, set and agreed by JTC 1, which do not include the development and authoring of standards.
  • Membership from as many business sectors (both producers and consumers) as possible, as well as public and governmental organizations.
  • Balanced expertise in both business aspects (such as standards that would create a new market or expand an existing market) and technology.
  • Quickly identify and target key technologies and markets with high potential payoff and appropriate synergistic opportunities for JTC 1 participation.
  • Quickly established and promptly disbanded after brief life span to match the rapid pace of technology and the need for economy.

Purposes

The purposes of the Imaging and Graphics Business Team include:

  • To discover opportunities for creating or enhancing standards.
  • To describe these opportunities to the standards community.
  • To identify related, overlapping or competing standards with the new opportunities.
  • To encourage JTC 1 committees, other ISO and IEC Technical Committees, or organizations outside the formal standard community (whichever is most appropriate) to create these standards.

Goals

The goals of the Imaging and Graphics Business Team include:

  • Identify opportunities for current and future standards, not necessarily restricted to just JTC 1 standards or even just formal standards.
  • Document the opportunities, including descriptive models as required.
  • Avoid wherever possible creation of new standards “from scratch” within ISO, seeking instead to harvest proven technologies that are at an appropriate stage for standardization from business and governmental entities.
  • Seek opportunities for collaboration with organizations outside JTC 1.
  • Help to educate both team members and the public in general about standards processes, both formal and informal.

Method of Operation

An essential requirement for a Business Team is efficient utilization of available time — and personnel. For this reason, as much of the work as possible is accomplished by electronic means with the principal collaboration tools including: email, email reflectors (for moderated discussion groups) and WWW sites (for recruiting and information dissemination). A Business Team must have clearly stated objectives, and its work must have a limited life span, typically six to eight months once the team is organized and begins operation. The Business Team is led by a team leader, who manages the work especially as it relates to the team’s objectives and deadlines and ensures that the team’s proposals for new work or changes are passed on to the relevant standards groups. These may be subcommittees of JTC 1 or ISO or IEC Technical Committees, but they may also be other groups and consortia with different working methods.

Face-to-face meetings will still be required, especially at the initiation of the work, so that contributors with different technical backgrounds and corporate cultures can have the rapid and personal mutual interaction necessary to begin the path to consensus. Meetings should be of limited and clearly defined scope and typically restricted to a single topic. Written contributions should be solicited and circulated in advance to aid in meeting preparation.

Benefits of This Approach

There are several expected benefits to a Business Team approach to strategic planning of standards activities:

  • Improved business relevance for JTC 1’s standards.
  • Provide a path for the introduction of users’ requirements into the standardization process.
  • More effective involvement of those outside the formal standards processes.

Status of the Imaging and Graphics Business Team

Status

Since its authorization by JTC 1, the Imaging and Graphics Business Team has been planning the initiation of its activities. Since the team desires to involve the academic and research communities as well as the business community in its work, the initiation of the team’s activities has been delayed by the long lead times necessary to establish collaborative sponsorship of the necessary activities by professional organizations. The planning activities have produced these products:

  1.  Fundamental decisions on the structure of the Business Team and its manner of operations. These are addressed in a subsequent sub-clause.
  2.  A proposal for a Workshop on Standards for Computer Graphics and Imaging that is currently in the approval cycle at two co-sponsoring organizations.
  3.  Plans for an initial meeting on 26 July 1998 in conjunction with the SIGGRAPH 98 annual meeting in Orlando, FL, U.S.A.
  4.  Establishment of a WWW site for the Business Team.
  5.  Preparation of initial publicity and market press concerning the team’s activities, including an announcement in the quarterly Computer Graphics publication of SIGGRAPH.
  6.  Presentations at meetings of various forums.

The Imaging and Graphics Business Team is now expected to initiate its public activities late in the month of August 1998 and conclude its activities with a report to the JTC 1 Plenary in January 1999 in Brazil. The following sub-clauses describe the plans of the business team in more detail using material drawn from its WWW site.

Leadership and Participation

JTC 1 has appointed Jerry Smith as the leader of the IGBT. He is advised by a Steering Committee composed of managers and technologists with a strong interest in graphics and imaging and an Advisory Board composed of representatives from the international business community. Team activities are divided into two focus areas: Business and Government; and Technology.

Publicity of the IGBT makes it clear that participation is open to anyone. Potential participants are told that they do not need to currently participate in any recognized standards activity to join. Since much of the business is conducted electronically, the first step in participating in IGBT activities is to join its main email reflector, which can be done at the IGBT WWW site. Announcements concerning all upcoming IGBT activities are circulated on this reflector.

Business and Government Focus

One focus of the business team is working with business and government experts to determine future opportunities for computer graphics and imaging technology. This is important because an effective International Standard requires the combination of market opportunity with appropriate technology.

The Business and Government focus will work with information and communications technology companies to create opportunities for standards-based solutions to meet the requirements of new and emerging markets.

This focus will:

  • Help business and industry identify and confirm market opportunities that can be created by new standards.
  • Allow governments and public sector organizations to provide their unique requirements.
  • Work with developers of standards outside of ISO and IEC to optimize the application of scarce resources.
  • Prioritize and select highest payoff and most synergistic areas for future exploration.
  • Recognize opportunities for JTC 1 (whose focus is “generic” information technology) to create broadly applicable standards from arcane and industry-specific solutions.
  • Recognize that multiple and even overlapping and/or conflicting solutions are required given the number and diversity of interested parties.

Some of the areas identified by IGBT management as likely areas for exploitation are:

  • Support for the WWW and its future evolution, including the underlying Internet protocols and services.
  • Formats supporting access to information, including electronic documents and libraries; archives and public access to government information.
  • Support for 3D graphical environments, including their simulation and modeling aspects to include both environmental data necessary to describe and define the simulated or modeled entities and how those entities interact and the real-time interactions amongst elements of distributed simulations.
  • Generic models and descriptions of entities used in information presentation and interaction, including coded and compressed representations suitable for adoption in a wide range of specific application areas.

Technology Focus

The other focus of the business team is working with recognized global experts to determine both the current state and future trends in computer graphics and imaging technology. This information is important because an effective International Standard requires the combination of appropriate technology with market opportunity. The first activity of the Technology Focus will be a Workshop on Standards for Computer Graphics and Imaging. It will be the mechanism whereby input is obtained from the research and academic communities regarding the state of applicable technologies and the feasibility of developing new standards.

This workshop will be patterned after the two successful workshops that launched the last round of formal International Standards activities in computer graphics: the 1974 workshop at NBS (now NIST) in the U.S. organized by Jim Foley and Ira Cotton on the Potential of Graphics Standards and the 1976 workshop sponsored by IFIP WG5.2 and convened by Richard Guedj in Seillac, France to consider the Methodology of Graphics Standards. The SIGGRAPH Graphics Standards Planning Committee (GSPC) was formed at the first of these workshops. Among those attending the second workshop were William Newman, Tom Sancha, Martin Newell, Andy van Dam, Jose Encarnação, Jim Foley, Bert Herzog, Alan Kay and Nick Negroponte. Taken together, these two workshops resulted in the formation of the first ISO committee to develop computer graphics standards and in the work that led first to the International Standard in Computer Graphics (GKS) and later to the PHIGS International Standard.

The Workshop on Standards for Computer Graphics and Imaging is expected to be held in Reston, VA, U.S.A. during the late summer or early fall of 1998. It will involve 20 to 30 invited participants and will last for three days. The Program Committee has already been established and consists of:

  • Dr. George S. Carson, GSC Associates, U.S.A., Chairman.
  • Professor Jose Encarnação, Fraunhofer Institute.
  • Professor F. R. A. Hopgood, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
  • Mr. Jerry Smith, Defense Information System Agency, U.S.A.
  • Professor Andries van Dam, Brown University, U.S.A.

The announced purpose of the workshop is to make recommendations to the International Standards community for future activities in the area of presentation of and interaction with information, including computer graphics and imaging. These recommendations are expected to include:

  • Areas where new International Standards should be adopted.
  • Areas that are not yet suitable for standardization.
  • Supporting areas (such as models and compression techniques) where new International Standards should be adopted.

The outputs of the workshop will be:

  • Published proceedings including the position papers of all attendees and a full transcription of the discussions. The publisher is yet to be selected. The proceedings will also be available over the WWW and as a formal document within the ISO and IEC International Standards committees.
  • Recommendations to the Imaging and Graphics Business Team.

There will be an open call for papers. In addition, the Program Committee will actively solicit contributions from key individuals. Potential invitees will be asked to submit a short (two to five page) position paper. The Program Committee will review the submissions and invite participants based upon criteria that include the quality of the position papers and the need to balance opposing points of view.

Participants will be expected to pay their own travel expenses but no participation fee will be charged. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) of the U.S. Department of Defense is the financial sponsor of the workshop. DISA will also support preparation of the proceedings.

George S.(Steve) Carson is President of GSC Associates of Las Cruces, NM, a systems engineering consulting firm specializing in real-time signal and information processing systems. He is the Chairman of ISO/IEC JTC I/SC 24 (Computer Graphics and Image Processing) and has been involved in ANSI and ISO standards development for 20 years.

George S.Carson
GSC Associates, Inc.
5272 Redman Road
Las Cruces, NM 88011

Tel: +1-505-521-7399


The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.

Short Term Plan

Three planning meetings have been held thus far in the Washington D.C. area where leaders of the standards community have met to conceptualize and plan the initiation of the IGBT’s activities. The IGBT is currently gathering the appropriate international resources to populate the Team’s two focus areas. Active participation is being sought from key players of all regions, from users, from technology providers and from national body representatives.

A public announcement of the IGBT’s activities is planned for late May or early June 1998. At that point, specific email discussion groups within the Business and Government Focus will be formed to reach consensus positions for recommendation to the entire Business Team. The recommendations of the workshop should be available by early fall and these will be circulated to the entire Business Team where a reconciliation and resolution process will be started to identify the final set of topics where there is both a need identified by the Business and Government Focus and appropriate technology identified by the Technology Focus.

Final decisions will be made by the team leader in consultation with the Steering Committee. The team expects to hold several public meetings in appropriate regions (e.g., Europe, Americas and Pacific Rim) to report to the community on the Team’s results and seek validation of its conclusions. The team leader will report to JTC 1 on all recommendations emanating from the Team.

Criteria for Measuring Success

Since the IGBT will make recommendations to JTC 1 and other organizations regarding new standards activities, its success cannot be measured except in the long run after it has been disbanded. This success can be measured by the following criteria:

  • Identification of opportunities for new standards.
  • Identification of areas where standards are not appropriate.
  • Approved New Work Item Proposals prepared by ISO and/or IEC SCs or TCs.
  • Successfully initiated new work within consortia.
  • Introduction of fast-track and/or PAS applications and submissions to JTC 1.
  • Evidence of expanded participation and contributions to JTC 1 from outside the traditional JTC 1 community.
  • Generation of positive press coverage, published in both professional and popular media.
  • The self assessment report of the Business Team, including working methods, perceived value to the participants and the ability to meet the above stated work products.