Establishing an industry trade group to develop technical standards is not easy. These consortia, have, for example, developed wireless charging standards, improved interoperability among components in mobile devices, and set standards for open-source processors applied in data-center servers.
Certainly the technical work can be challenging, but the administrative burdens of setting up a group that can include hundreds of companies, and keeping it humming are often the hardest and most time-consuming. That’s why in 1999 IEEE established the Industry Standards and Technology Organization (IEEE-ISTO).
For the past 15 years, this not-for-profit federation has helped remove the roadblocks and smooth the path to standards development. With a staff of more than 25 full- and part-time workers and contractors in Piscataway, N.J., IEEE-ISTO, whose offerings are provided for a fee to its members, provides a legal infrastructure within which each group operates. This umbrella federation saves the individual programs time and money by taking on mundane but necessary organizational tasks. These include help with forming the group and defining its program, financial management, membership support, marketing, press relations, planning meetings, and developing a website. IEEE-ISTO has helped to establish 40 consortia. It also manages a number of interoperability and certification programs for the federation and helps to promote its programs’ activities.
“When we originally set up IEEE-ISTO, we were looking for a way to help the groups get their work done more quickly, learn from others by picking up best practices and new ideas, and have a connection to the IEEE Standards Association,” says Don Wright, chair of IEEE-ISTO. “The support we provide to our members is a fast way for them to get started. They can be up and running virtually overnight.”
Probably the most important task for groups just getting started is setting up their tax and legal structure. Beyond filing for incorporation, the group typically would need to file for tax-exempt status with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. While this seems like a fairly routine process, obtaining approval can take years. That’s where IEEE-ISTO comes in.
“Because our groups operate as programs of the IEEE-ISTO Federation, they don’t have to go through the process of getting incorporated, and they don’t have to gain approval from the IRS to be a not-for-profit,” says Jeffrey Pane, the solutions marketing specialist for the IEEE Standards Association who also handles the marketing for IEEE-ISTO. “All those things are taken care of, as the federation’s member programs leverage the existing incorporation and tax status held by IEEE-ISTO. It saves the groups time and money.”
MOBILE DEVICES AND DATA CENTERS
MIPI Alliance, the Wireless Power Consortium, and the OpenPower Foundation are among the 40 groups supported by IEEE-ISTO.
MIPI Alliance aims to reduce the number of interfaces found in mobile devices, which include batteries, cameras, and displays. MIPI is an acronym for mobile industry processer interface. The interface fragmentation that results not only leads to redundant engineering but also causes products to be incompatible, resulting in higher prices for the consumer. The alliance has leaders from the cellphone industry, including Intel, Nokia, Samsung, and Texas Instruments. They believe that developing specifications and improving interoperability among system components will benefit the entire mobile industry.
“MIPI Alliance has grown to provide the tools and support for delivering essential interface specifications to the mobile industry,” says Joel Huloux, chair of the alliance.
The group has released several specs. Its M-PHY physical layer provides high-speed data transfer with much lower power consumption compared with other physical layer options. MIPI’s CSI-3 (Camera Serial Interface) cameras are smaller, can handle much higher bandwidths, and consume less power than today’s cameras. A new battery interface, MIPI BIF, v1.1, makes it more convenient for manufacturers to use high-performance rechargeable batteries, and adds communications methods that improve battery safety and overall performance.
The Wireless Power Consortium also focuses on mobile devices. It wants to eliminate the need for separate chargers, adapters, and cables with Qi, a global standard for wirelessly charging electronic products. Qi, pronounced chee, takes its name from the traditional Chinese concept of an intangible flow of power; the word literally means “vital energy.” Established in 2008, the consortium has more than 200 members, which include industry leaders in mobile phones, consumer electronics, batteries, semiconductors, and automotive electronics.
The idea behind Qi is simple: All devices with the Qi logo work with Qi chargers. The aim is to have Qi charging stations virtually everywhere. Qi is the only wireless power technology integrated today into smartphones, tablets, chargers, consumer electronics, and automobiles. It can be found, for example, in the Samsung Galaxy S5, the LG Google Nexus 4, and the HTC Droid DNA. Each member’s Qi-enabled products are certified at a test lab, and members can use the Qi trademark for free.
With the advent of big data, companies are demanding more than what today’s servers, built on decades-old PC-era technology, can deliver. Accordingly, the OpenPower Foundation was founded in 2013 by Google, IBM, Mellanox Technologies, NVIDIA, and Tyan to make IBM’s Power processors and software available for open development. IBM’s Power8 processor, for example, runs at up to 5 gigahertz with up to 12 cores, a 96-megabyte L3 cache processor, and 96 threads. The foundation wants to enable data centers to use the technology for custom open-source servers and components in Linux-based cloud data centers, as well as for optimizing Linux software on Power.
“The projects feeding the innovation pipeline will greatly enhance the performance of the next generation of servers by eliminating system-level bottlenecks,” says Gordon MacKean, chair of the foundation.
Wright, the IEEE-ISTO chair, says he is most proud that his organization quickly became self-sufficient. “In the early days we had financial assistance from IEEE to help get us up and running, but a few years back, we began generating more income than we were spending,” he notes. “Having in excess of a dozen programs active at any one time became a key milestone in proving the ability of IEEE-ISTO to sustain itself.”