What motivates the desire to develop consensus standards?
Because security standards are a fairly new area, the industry has not rushed headlong into formal standards development. Rather, it is taking a series of smaller steps, including the development of a consensus document that uses a less formal, more efficient process. This lets the participants explore the value of a collaborative effort while meeting the immediate need to achieve greater efficiencies across the industry. They are learning how to work together toward a shared goal.
The smart-grid standards work marshals the efforts of disparate industries. While the U.S. electrical power grid has grown increasingly intelligent over time, the next-generation, interstate smart grid promises a dramatic leap forward, thanks largely to the implementation of end-to-end communications and control. From the point of generation to consumption, every element of the infrastructure is to be interconnected in a flexible and adaptive system. These innovations are predicated on an unprecedented level of synergy among the traditionally separate power, communications and IT industries.
To facilitate cross-industry collaboration and visibility, the IEEE's P2030 project was formed last March. The working group is drafting a consensus design guide that will define the elements of the smart-grid infrastructure, complete with the two-way communications and control mechanisms necessary for smart-grid interoperability. In creating the design guide, the working group intends to spark the development of a comprehensive family of widely embraced standards that will accelerate the smart-grid rollout.
Bringing together three industries in a unified effort is not without its challenges. Each of these industries has a well-established standards ecosystem that is structured to be efficient in meeting the requirements of its participants. IT and communications are historically faster-paced industries than power. Communications and IT standards tend to define how an emerging technology will operate; power standards document best practices for using existing technologies.
The IEEE P2030 participants thus have to hammer out what will and will not work in a new, converged ecosystem for smart-grid standards development. Like their ICSG counterparts, they must learn how to work together toward a shared goal.
The security and smart-grid efforts make it clear that good standards work is not just about producing good standards. The contemporary standards development organization must step back from its formal processes and adopt a broader role that better accommodates the needs of the industries it serves and ensures the lasting value of the intellectual property entrusted to it.
Steve Mills chairs the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Corporate Advisory Group.