Standards Reach - Fall 2017
IEEE Standards Association Global Partners Newsletter

Fall 2017


As a valued partner of the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA), we welcome you to the Fall edition of Standards Reach. We hope that you find this newsletter informative and relevant to your organization.

We invite you to share Standards Reach with members of your team and welcome your feedback for future editions. Please send your comments and suggestions to Mary Lynne Nielsen.

If you would like to suggest additional recipients from your organization to receive this newsletter, please send your request to Victoria Kuperman-Super.


Feature Article

Blockchain has the Power to Transform Pharmaceutical Operations

More than a year ago, the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) launched the Blockchain Special Interest Group (SIG) to bring a hybrid group of technologists, corporate executives, and academia together to examine the potential for blockchain to provide a decentralized, tamper-proof, data-sharing system for industrial applications (blockchain is the underlying distributed ledger system verifying, auditing, and securing the anonymous peer-to-peer digital currency system known as Bitcoin). In today’s global data-sharing economy, dependent on collaboration and harmonization amongst trusted partners, existing legacy platforms cannot effectively enable data sharing and privacy in a tamper-proof and verifiable format. Given its success in “managing” the Bitcoin system, blockchain has become an attractive option for IP-sensitive, high-risk consumer businesses, such as the pharmaceutical industry, to manage the tension between data sharing and data privacy in a secure, verifiable platform.

As of today, the IEEE Blockchain SIG has made significant headway in advancing education and community development around the idea of blockchain standards in enterprise applications. The SIG has attracted more than 300 participants who exchange information on developments for applications across industry verticals in its SLACK community. There are currently two industry connections programs: Supply Chain and Trials Standardized Technology and Implementation and Digital Inclusion Through Trust and Agency. Each explores a framework for blockchain standards to look at data interoperability among existing legacy systems and deliver the much-needed security protocols for these operations. And, most recently, IEEE P2418™, Standard for the Framework of Blockchain Use in the Internet of Things (IoT), was launched.

Almost every industry sees the benefit of implementing a blockchain solution in their operational framework. One, says IEEE’s Maria Palombini, is the pharmaceutical industry. This is not a market sector where the mission and the work of IEEE is well-known. But it’s an industry ripe for the kind of innovation that blockchain offers. “The pharmaceutical supply chain is a highly complex, siloed, and fragmented infrastructure that needs to collaborate with a multitude of external partners to distribute medicine to patients. Like any other industry, pharmaceutical companies try to ‘patch’ legacy systems with new technologies to keep operations going. However, these ‘patches’ cannot provide the security, interoperability, and verifiable platform needed to balance data sharing and privacy while meeting new regulatory guidelines on track and trace.”

The rapidly rising global epidemic of counterfeit medicine is a byproduct of both deficiency in interoperation and lack of data integrity in pharmaceutical supply-chain operations. “The lack of interoperability and data integrity in the current structure enables the opportunistic black market known as the ‘counterfeit drug trade’ that has significant human, social, and economic cost,” Palombini says. In the current system, it is very difficult to unequivocally verify the source of a drug, creating a high risk for patients who source “cheap medicine” from internet pharmacies and for patients in emerging regions who receive fake medicine thinking they just received a life-saving malaria drug.

The immutability of blockchain data transactions enables users to unequivocally verify the source of the data regardless how many trusted partners have permission to append to that data source. Everyone verifies one original data source, with only the ability to append, not change, the original data entry. “Blockchain gives a great deal of flexibility on how you establish permissions with trusted partners controlling the transparency of the data and who gets to append to it,” says Palombini. “The blockchain environment is tamper-proof and secure, with a time-stamp audit trail of every transaction that is replicated through every block.”

With the approval of IEEE-SA’s newest Industry Connections program for Supply Chain and Trials Standardized Technology and Implementation, there are now work streams exploring the use of blockchain to secure the medical device, pharmaceutical, and agriculture supply chains in order to reduce patient and consumer risk to adverse reactions from counterfeits, while also exploring the use of blockchain to increase patient efficacy and safety in clinical trials. In today’s world of data breaches and selling of personal data on black markets, there is hesitancy to trust new emerging technologies that claim to secure data for all. This is where IEEE-SA can play a critical role in education and awareness, but more importantly in developing standards to overcome barriers of credibility and cost to enabling technologies such as blockchain that can protect the interests of patients and consumers and the entities that serve them. “If the pharmaceutical supply chain utilizes a blockchain application standard, then perhaps the 100,000 patients who die annually from fake malaria drugs may have a better chance to verify that the medicine they are receiving is live-saving and not life-taking,” Palombini says.

Learn more.

Regional Focus

IEEE-SA Engages with Local Tech Community in Dublin

During the May 2017 Board of Governors meeting series in Dublin, Ireland, IEEE-SA organized several workshops and events to engage with the local technology community as part of a broader UK outreach. One was a forum on the implications of technology ethics, where experts discussed how ethics are incorporated in development of technology as technological tools and services permeate further into people’s everyday lives. Facilitated by Paul Cunningham, President of the IEEE Society for Social Implications on Technology, the panelists discussed the connections between technology, policy, and ethics.

IEEE-SA also gave a lecture on why standards matter in data protection at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics of Dublin City University. This talk introduced IEEE and the concept and importance of standardization for technology and related fields, showcasing some of the IEEE key resources to educate students about this. One focus was on the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems (see related article); the speakers also highlighted current standards work in the area of data protection.

Local startups were invited to participate in a startup networking event hosted by IEEE-SA and the IEEE IoT Initiative. Besides the opportunity to network, it included a startup competition, which gave local startups the chance to pitch their projects to a panel including venture capitalists. One of a series of events run by IEEE-SA, the winner of a past startup in Silicon Valley, Welbean, received the opportunity to travel to this event and pitch to a different global audience. The winner of the UK event, Stratergia, earned the right to travel to the next IEEE startup networking event in Silicon Valley in the fall of 2017.


IEEE at Transform Africa Summit

With fast-growing urban populations, Africa represents an emerging market where technology can play a key role in resolving urban challenges, as well as bringing basic needs such as power and communications to rural areas. With over 6,000 members on the continent and a growing number of institutional relationships, IEEE aims to leverage its local and global experts and platforms to assist in capacity-building activities to advance technology and innovation to meet these local challenges.

In May, IEEE participated in Transform Africa, a high-level summit of African technology leaders held in Kigali, Rwanda in May and hosted by Rwandan president Paul Kagame. IEEE first attended the summit three years ago and was invited to participate on high-level panels for the first time this year in front of an audience of some 4,000 delegates, including heads of state and first ladies, ministers from 22 countries, and mayors from some 300 African cities.

The summit’s primary focus was on leveraging information and communication technology (ICT) to advance economic development. IEEE President Karen Bartleson represented IEEE at this important meeting and served as a panelist on a big data and Internet of Things session. A strong delegation represented IEEE throughout the summit, and IEEE also had a presence with an exhibit booth. As IEEE’s Kathy Weeks says, “IEEE is well known and respected in Africa. The participants at the summit recognize that IEEE is invested in Africa, and that IEEE serves a role as a non-partisan advisor on issues of engineering capacity and policy.”

Following the forum, IEEE signed a memorandum of understanding with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD), the South Africa-based technical body of the African Union. Under the multiyear agreement, the first of its type for IEEE within Africa, IEEE will be assisting in the delivery of the African development agenda of NEPAD and will work with NEPAD on programs focused on workforce development, including growing enrollment in engineering programs and increasing access to technical information, as well promote the adoption of IEEE Standards for NEPAD stakeholders.

Learn more.


IEEE President and CEO Bartleson Talks to the Future of Engineering in Africa—Women

The need for greater engineering capacity is widely recognized across Africa. A well-qualified engineering workforce, supported by the infrastructure and resources necessary to meet the needs of the population, will be at the heart of Africa’s digital transformation. IEEE is committed to being a part of this capacity building, with a strong focus on encouraging participation by young women and girls in STEM programs.

While 2017 IEEE President and CEO Karen Bartleson was in Rwanda for the Transform Africa summit (see related article), she took part in the Smart Africa Women’s Summit, an inaugural event at Transform Africa that highlighted the crucial role young women and girls play in the continent’s digital transformation. Joined by first ladies from across Africa as well as representatives from several UN organizations, Bartleson discussed IEEE’s efforts to build engineering capacity in Africa and the importance of empowering the next generation of female technologists and engineers.

“If you love math and science, you can do amazing things for the world, and that is appealing for both women and men,” Bartleson told the assembled delegates. “Technological innovation is the principal driver for improvements in quality of life and economic prosperity, and the engineering profession is central to this innovation. Developing a strong engineering workforce requires a robust educational system that begins with primary school and continues through the transition of recent university graduates into the workforce. We must ensure that the next generation of female scientists and engineers are a priority in that system and have access to the same resources and opportunities as their male counterparts.”

While in Kigali, Rwanda, Bartleson was invited to address female engineering students at the University of Rwanda in a public lecture, an invitation she accepted gladly. Bartleson shared her experiences from over 35 years in the engineering industry, including the challenges and opportunities she has faced and key lessons learned. Seen as a strong role model by many in the audience, Bartleson still receives emails, several months later, from those in attendance who saw her speak looking for guidance and mentorship. As IEEE’s Kathy Weeks described the audience reaction: “The students responded so well because she spoke from the heart about the need for engineers. And for young people, including young women, to follow their passion and be part of the engineering boom to transform Africa.”

View Karen Bartleson video at Transform Africa Smart Africa Women's Summit.

Learn more about the IEEE Women in Engineering.

Technology News

Open Data Gets a Tryout in Cape Town

“Our mayor met with Michael Bloomberg,” says Cape Town resident Dr. David Hislop, a particle physicist by training but a software engineer by trade. “She developed a very high-level plan for building an open-data city. I decided, well, I can do something with that.”

Hislop saw his home town as a testing ground for the IEEE Industry Connections (IC) Open Data project, which he heads, both to show what could be done and what the pitfalls along the way would be. “The City of Cape Town created a portal, basically a file server,” he says. The data was in many incompatible formats, but “I looked through it and found some open data that worked, and made an app on historic pollution levels.”

The app can be found here. Its ideal use case is for a parent concerned about their child’s asthma to check predicted risks. An internal machine-learning algorithm makes a prediction based on current pollution data, heuristics, medical information, and tolerances.

Because one thing his app revealed was high levels of benzene in Cape Town’s air, he was soon contacted by data journalists, who were interested in sponsoring a sensor network that would feed real-time air-quality data to his app. “This kind of information is a political, medical, and industry hot potato, but I thought, I’ve found something interesting and important to do, and I’ll see what comes of that,” he says.

There are open-data projects in several African countries, including Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Nigeria, as well as interest from companies and health insurers that could make use of public data. Having the backing of the IEEE-SA IC Open Data project has helped him make inroads that will, it is hoped, ultimately lead to standards helping to spread technology built around open data. “South Africa has an innovation culture driven by accountants. Standards are seen as a bad thing that costs money,” he explains. Turning that around to focus on the benefits and growth potential of the standards process is key. “What we’re trying to do is create an innovative and entrepreneurial attitude, to make use of standards, to make growth easier.”

“Open data creates innovation opportunities, makes government more accountable, makes the cost for industry lower,” he says. “There’s so many good things about it.”

Learn more about the IEEE Industry Connections Open Data Activity.

Learn about IEEE-SA Industry Connections Programs.


Crafting an Ethics for a Future of AI

“People look at artificial intelligence with either terror or as utopia,” says John C. Havens, executive director for The IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems. “Our idea is to be more practical and to create principles and standards that offer directional guidance to engineers in the field and policy makers and technologists as a whole.”

The first tangible result of this initiative was a report, Ethically Aligned Design, the first version of which was issued in December 2016. That edition came with a request for input, which is being fed into the second version, due this December. Besides increasing the number of participants—from about 100 to 250—the request for input also increased the internationality of the report to include representation of thought from countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil.

“Ethics reflects culture, and we knew we were coming at it from a very Western perspective, as most of our members for Version 1 were from the US and the EU,” Havens says. He points to an example offered by Edson Prestes, a roboticist from Brazil, about how different cultures would approach shaping a humanoid robot’s behavior. “He pointed out that in the West, humans look each other in the eye when speaking. But in Asian countries, it’s a sign of respect to look down.”

Robotic behavior is not the only or even the main focus of ethical discussion, however. In an age of social media apps that know all about us and have sophisticated AI operations behind them, how our data is used, shared, and sold is a more immediate real-world concern. In the end, Havens says, “It comes down to determining what metrics we choose to measure the efficacy of the AI we try to create using applied ethical methodologies. These metrics help us determine if society’s ethically aligned design (and our document) can best help to provably inspire and prioritize the highest levels of human wellbeing in our work, not just on a financial but also on a societal and environmental level.”

The final version of the report, shaped by another round of input, will be issued in early 2018; several IEEE standards working groups are already beginning the work of developing standards (Havens chairs both IEEE P7000™ and IEEE P7010™). He calls the report “a pragmatic tool for any technologist—as in, if you’re in AI, you have to read this. It’s a point of innovation for standards ideas, and a resource for people working with these ideas, so they don't have to reinvent the wheel.”

The final version of the report, shaped by another round of input, will be issued in early 2018; several IEEE standards working groups are already beginning the work of developing standards (Havens chairs both IEEE P7000™ and IEEE P7010™). He calls the report “a pragmatic tool for any technologist—as in, if you’re in AI, you have to read this. It’s a point of innovation for standards ideas, and a resource for people working with these ideas, so they don't have to reinvent the wheel.”

Learn more about The IEEE Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

Learn about IEEE P7000™.

Learn about IEEE P7010™.


WSIS Hackathon Tackles the Health Problems of Global Urbanization

As part of the International Telecommunications Union’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Forum in Geneva in June, IEEE and International Telecommunications Union, in collaboration with Be He@lthy, Be Mobile (ITU-WHO), co-sponsored the first WSIS Hackathon, entitled Hack for Health. Forty-two students from sixteen countries across all five UN regions competed on teams to develop innovative technology solutions designed to reduce exposure to common risk factors for non-communicable diseases in middle- and lower-income countries.

The students, with diverse backgrounds ranging from computer science, mathematics, and electrical engineering through to chemistry, epidemiology, and business, participated in the hackathon over the course of 24 hours. Innovation–including both concept and a working prototype–was encouraged in forms ranging from mobile and web applications, computer and mobile device games, and tools and libraries to visualizations that would address one of four challenges: clean water access, urban environmental quality, managing non-communicable diseases for healthy living, and promoting healthy behaviors.

The judges, including IEEE President Karen Bartleson, were impressed by the ingenuity of solutions proposed by the various teams. In the end, they chose the team from the University of Applied Science Oslo, who developed an idea for a digital storytelling platform to revolutionize how parents and children engage with health information. “They were the clear winner,” says IEEE’s Justin Caso, who helped organize the event for IEEE. The third-place team from Tunisia included members of the IEEE SIGHT Tawasol project, who devised a system to monitor and limit air pollution. Through a network of sensors, the system was devised to collect data and send feedback to the government and citizens with regular updates on the CO2 emission rate. “There were lots of great ideas,” says Caso. “We were really excited by the innovation the students created in just 24 hours.”

Learn more about WSIS Forum 2017.


Standards Updates

Global Engagement Critical to Standardization Worldwide

Standardization of technology helps make improvements in everything from health care devices to renewable energy, enabling innovators from countries around the world to share their inventions beyond their local markets and increases economic development. IEEE standards and other products can play a vital role in technology advancement and it is our mission to advance technology for humanity. This is why IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) seeks cooperation with organizations and stakeholders around the world to achieve global inclusiveness in supporting interoperability and promoting the advancement of technology for humanity. Here are some of the ways IEEE-SA global engagement works:

  • General Cooperation: IEEE-SA cooperates on joint activities with other organizations, ranging from joint workshops to other deliverables. For instance, IEEE-SA worked with the Chinese National Institute for Standardization (CNIS) to create a three-part video series on the basics of standards education, geared for the undergraduate engineering student. Each video is intended to serve as a "guest lecturer" in the classroom, filling in gaps that a professor might have in his or her standards background or providing an additional level of detail. Scripts were developed jointly with CNIS, and CNIS provided the translations as well. (
  • National adoption of IEEE standards: Instead of investing resources in developing new standards, national standards bodies (NSBs) can adopt IEEE standards that already exist, benefiting from the speed and interoperability that comes from adopting existing standards rather than developing new ones. IEEE-SA has agreements with many NSBs that allow countries to formally adopt IEEE standards as national standards. For example, IEEE-SA recently signed such agreements with the NSBs in Ecuador and Rwanda.

The IEEE-SA Global Engagement web pages keep an ongoing account of cooperative relationships:

How to Find a Project's Status at IEEE

At any moment, dozens of projects are working their way through the standards process at IEEE-SA, and hundreds more are completed and available as published standards. But how do you know the status of something in your field? Depending on what you want, there are many ways to answer that question at the IEEE-SA website with differing levels of information:

  • At the homepage, two of the first things you see are search boxes labeled "Find a standard" or "Find a project or group." A standards number ("802.1") or a keyword ("wireless") will take you to individual standards or working groups. This is the quickest way to find a published standard, which you can purchase from that standard's page, or to go to a working group's page to see everything they have worked on in their area of technology.
  • If you want to know about proposed or revised standards still in the standardization process, the Standards Board page gives you access to the agendas for NesCom (new standards) and RevCom (revised standards). Click on either, then click on Meeting Information and you'll see past and upcoming agendas; you can open an agenda and do a control-F search within it to find your item of interest.
  • Also on the Standards Board page, there's a link for Board Approvals. After each quarterly meeting a list is published of projects which have been started ("New PARS"), usually indicated by a P before the standard number, ones approved for publication ("New Standards"), and new and published revisions.


Spotlight Activities

Key IEEE working group meetings and events for October-December 2017

IEEE 802 Plenary Meeting: 5-10 November, Orlando, FL, USA

PES Committee Meetings:

Switchgear: 8-13 October, Portland, Maine, USA

Transformers: 29 October-2 November, Louisville, KY, USA

Insulated Conductors: 29 October-2 November, Hollywood, FL, USA

PES Working Group Meetings in China:

P2771: Parameter Configuration of Arcing Horns of DC Earth Electrode Lines, mid-November, Chengdu, China

P2426: Field Measurement of Fast-Front and Very Fast-Front Overvoltages in Electric Power Systems, mid-November, Chengdu, China

P2775: SmartHydro, 7-9 November, Nanjing, China

Thank you for reading the Fall issue of Standards Reach. Please send your comments and suggestions for future editions to Mary Lynne Nielsen. If you would like to suggest additional recipients from your organization to receive this newsletter, please send your request to Victoria Kuperman-Super.