Posts Tagged ‘standards’

The Benefits of Specs and Standards Marketing

May 21, 2010

I grew up in a technical environment. My Dad, a mechanical engineer, VP of Manufacturing for ITT Europe, and disciple of William Edwards Deming, was always reminding me about the importance of science and technology. (That’s probably why I wound up working in high tech and then founding MarkeTech.) Many years ago he sent me the following.

“How Specs Live Forever (author unknown)

“The U.S. Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That’s an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and the U.S. railroads were built by English expatriates.

“Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that’s the gauge they used.

“Why did ‘they’ use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

“Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that’s the spacing of the old wheel ruts. 

“So who built these old rutted roads? The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts?


David v. Goliath: Specifications and Standards

March 30, 2010


The underdog applies a little friendly guerrilla marketing.

I just put the finishing touches on a press release announcing one of our firm’s clients throwing its hat into the ring as a supporter of the federal government’s Virtual USA program. Writing the release was fraught with memories of one of my other involvements in getting a client’s technology into a government-mandated specification and global standard.

Those memories include traipsing all over the world from one spec meeting to another. Being up most of the night not because of jet lag, but putting the final touches on a specification document, updating a PowerPoint presentation, or lobbying spec leaders in a hotel bar.

The specification subject matter focused on global standards for passenger use of laptops on commercial aircraft. Virtual USA has similar implications, as a program that will standardize agency emergency response databases at all levels, from the local police and fire departments up to the FEMA and Department of Homeland Security level. Both specifications address issues of safety…ways to prevent an exploding laptop battery at 30,000 feet being analogous to emergency first responders having access to national databases via GIS (Geographic Information Systems) mapping software.

Another analog is that both clients are comparatively small fish, and both have IP and products that are (more…)

Code Word “Interoperability:” Danger Will Rogers!

March 13, 2010

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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