WORKING FOR THE DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET: DG CONNECT AND ICT STANDARDS
Thomas Reibe is a Senior Expert at the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. DG Connect predominantly works for the Digital Single Market by developing new services and new products but they also work on projects for public services and society in general.
DG Connect also has a research program which invests around 1 billion euro annually on topics like 5G, telecommunications, cloud computing, internet of things and cybersecurity. Standardization plays an important role in many of its projects, and Reibe provides many examples.
“When I’m in my car, I see all the research projects we developed.”
DG CONNECT, Brussels Belgium
We can all find examples of DG Connect projects around us. “We are most proud of the projects that you see in your daily life,” says Reibe. “When I’m in my car, I see all the research projects the EC supported financially. The screen in front of you, for example, used to have an indicator for the speed and now you have a full LCD display. All the interfaces in the car have changed too. These products were all supported by our research projects and I'm quite proud that they all went to the market.”
Unsurprising then that DG Connect is heavily supporting standardization. Reibe explains: “We have four pillars for standardization. One bridges research and standardization. The second pillar introduces standardization in policy actions. The third references standardization in legal acts and the fourth is about international cooperation on standardization.”
Facilities and funding for researchers
As the driving force behind several key projects, DG Connect supports researchers. One such project is StandICT.eu, which supports financially European experts so that they can actually participate in international standardization meetings. “In the past, we noticed that when research projects finished, there was no money left for standardization. Researchers found it hard to convince their university to provide money for events, especially international events which involved travelling to Japan or China. Although StandICT provides just a small fund, it has supported 250 European experts to participate at standardization meetings.”
A second part of the StandICT project is the Standardization Observatory facility, where European specialists and researchers can see what kinds of standards have been developed in the different technological areas. The Observatory facility provides clear indications of the landscape and gap analyses.
Open-source platform for Smart(er) Cities
Fiware is another large scale project supported by DG Connect; it’s a curated framework of open source platform components that accelerate the development of smart solutions. More than 300 million euro was spent on different services and the development of the platform. The main element of Fiware is Smart Cities, a component that makes smarter connections between citizens, governments and businesses. By using Smart Cities, the European Commission aims to help cities, governments, and municipalities move forward in their digital transformation.
Rolling plan for ICT standardization
To bring together all the standards organizations, DG Connect and DG GROW established the European Multi-Stakeholder Platform (MSP) Expert Group for ICT standardization. This European Commission Expert Group encompasses all the European main international standards organizations active in ICT, national administrations from the different European member states and EFTA countries, and industry and societal stakeholders. Reibe: “If you look at the ecosystem for ICT standardization it is quite complex; with more than 250 organizations developing technical specifications globally.”
“The ecosystem for ICT standardization is quite complex, with more than 250 organizations globally."
DG CONNECT, Brussels Belgium
The purpose of the MSP is to prioritize standards, to promote cooperation between the different standards organizations and to develop the Rolling Plan for ICT Standardization. This Plan, which is updated annually, outlines the standardization actions in support of EU policies. These policies vary from intelligent transport systems to e-health or e-accessibility.
According to Reibe, researchers do their research in order to advance the state of the art, but standardization is applied relatively late in the cycle. “But involvement of standards needs to happen as early as possible, because you need to plan for it. A standardization cycle can take nine months, but it could also take two or three years to get a good interoperability standard.”
Reibe reiterates: “Our vision for standardization is that researchers don’t just focus on the publication of the research results or patenting their research results, but also consider standardization from the beginning of their process. My advice for the research community is to get involved and participate in standard by joining the standards committees and being part of drafting the standards from the beginning.”
Keeping up with innovation in ICT
Standards for interoperability are another focal point in ICT. “If you're developing a product that doesn't conform to certain interface requirements or security or safety standards, then your access to the market may be limited and your product might not be available to consumers. If you have a system and you want to implement new services involving new algorithms that you’ve developed, you need to make them interoperable with the systems.
“Standards help your business get your product to the market."
DG CONNECT, Brussels Belgium
This is when standards help your business get your product to the market. And it’s why we're helping projects to standardize. Time and money are investments but they guarantee a secure place in the market for products.”
Supporting Sustainable Development Goals
ICT standards can develop and promote Sustainable Development Goals. The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are mapped by ISO and ITU to their different standards. Some examples: energy efficiency standards are applied to energy efficiency labels which help the consumer choose the right product; in the e-health sector standards ensure the reduction of electromagnetic exposure to consumers; and the circular economy is supported through standardization, by marking and referencing different products in waste management.
“Our vision for standardization is that researchers will consider standardization more and more. Not just for publication or patenting their research results, but also to integrate standardization into their research process from the very beginning. Standardization is a quite complex field, but we really encourage young people to bring their new ideas into the standardization field, to take leading positions in standards committees and to be the drivers of the future standards.”