Code Word “Interoperability:” Danger Will Rogers!

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It’s Saturday, and I’m preparing for Monday’s conference call with a GIS client. The topic is the government’s Virtual USA (vUSA) initiative, specifically a press release about the client’s mapping software as a viable end-user application in vUSA.

I’m conflicted as to how to counsel my client.

On the one hand, the vUSA information appears to be focused almost exclusively on data interoperability, with limited statements about the app layer (See my comment at Directions Magazine). The Technologies Working Group is working integrating data with different (read “legacy”) applications that agencies already he in place. The apps are going to be open-source, it seems. That’s may not necessarily be good for my client., because it infers the possibility of having to surrender the company’s strong IP.

On the other hand, my firm has considerable domain expertise in specs and standards. Hands on in key WINtel and the Mobile Advisory Council (MAC) specs and standards as players in Marketing SIGs. Our firm was a lead player in drafting government (FAA) specs/standards for mobile device software, hardware, and infrastructure for use on commercial aircraft. I hold 14 patents on those high-tech mobile devices.

In this situation with my client, I feel like the man who knows too much about how government agency specs/standards usually get created. Our firm marketed its mobile device client to success in accepting its interoperability requirements at the standard’s gray cover stage. Over a year and a half, our marketing/PR campaign hobbled the alleged incumbent, paralyzing that company’s already sizeable installed customer base.

Why couldn’t the AEEC (Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee), ARINC (Aeronautical Radio Incorporated), and other agencies accept both companies’ requirements? Because, even though government specs/standards are supposed to be open sourced, and are supposed to allow for “interoperability” performance from more than one vendor, the reality was that the spec process was only to give an 800-pound gorilla exclusive rights to monopolize the commercial aviation industry. We were also able to successfully resolve our client’s potential surrender of its IP rights…a common issue in some agency specs/standards.

By comparison, the firm’s experiences in the high-tech specs/standards bodies were not met with such interoperability issues. Any company, including our client, was able to bring its requirements into the standards. Our firm was able to leverage our client’s alliances that we created with Intel, Microsoft, and IBM to join the client in its government specs battle.

Our client believes in and wants to contribute to the success of the vUSA initiative but, if what that other client experienced happens here, I guess at least this client will have the benefit of how our firm engaged in the art of war with government specs/standards.

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One Response to “Code Word “Interoperability:” Danger Will Rogers!”

  1. Glenn Shoup Says:

    My perspective is that vUSA will, perhaps not during my lifetime, improve interoperability at some level. The goals of the program are admirable but, on the other hand, so were those of the IRS way back when.

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