Philip Wennblom, who recently began his second term as the chair of the only joint technical committee of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology, recently reflected on the committee's progress and what lies ahead in his work, in an interview for IEC.
ISO/IEC JTC 1 develops standards that support information and communications technology advancement across multiple industry sectors. The U.S. plays a leading role in JTC 1, with ANSI serving as Secretariat and 35 national bodies participating.
IEC and ISO broaden scope of international standards for innovative information technologies
Information technologies have become a part of everyday life, in the home, at the office, in hospitals, transport, energy production and manufacturing. Without them, many vital services would not be possible.
During the pandemic, millions of people were able to work and receive healthcare services remotely, thanks to the technologies, such as the Internet of Things and online applications that enabled life to go on virtually.
International standards, developed by experts around the world, help complex systems comprised of diverse hardware and software components to be interoperable, safe and reliable.
Artificial intelligence, biometrics, cybersecurity, data management and software and systems engineering are some of the 22 information and communication technology areas for which IEC and ISO develop such standards through their joint technical committee (JTC 1).
e-tech spoke with Philip Wennblom, who has begun his second term as Chair of JTC 1, to find out more about the work, achievements and what the focus will be moving forward.
What are some key achievements of your first three years as Chair?
As Chair, my job is to facilitate the work of the committee together with the officers, secretaries, delegates and experts, to enable progress on projects that are approved and supported by members. I don’t do this by myself, but I am proud of JTC 1 for a number of reasons.
Firstly, JTC 1 advisory group on Emerging Technology and Innovation (JETI) has done a great job of surveying the landscape and identifying new areas of work. Other advisory groups for specific topics take this further and the initiatives are championed by national committees. This process works well and is an accomplishment in itself.
Over the past couple of years, we have initiated new work in data usage under subcommittee 32, which covers data management and interchange, digital twin under subcommittee 41 which also looks at the Internet of Things, trustworthiness in JTC 1/WG 13, and quantum computing in JTC 1/WG 14.
There has also been a lot of work on augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI) - all of which have grown dramatically.
We’ve enhanced our structure in subcommittee 29, a very large group that covers coding of audio, picture, multimedia and hypermedia information, and completed a reorganization that will improve agility for developing future JPEG and MPEG standards.
Regarding process, we continue to streamline our directives, reducing the number of JTC 1- specific rules. Our officers, secretaries, delegates and experts have made important contributions to the common ISO/IEC Directives, obtaining support from IEC and ISO for improvements which benefit all of us.
Over the last 15 months we have been working entirely virtually and continued to make good progress, for which I appreciate everyone’s dedication. This can be challenging because we have much less meeting time to get things done. However, on the plus side, it is easier for new participants to join. We have seen more people participate in our plenaries and meetings, who otherwise may not have been able to attend.
What do you hope to achieve in your next term?
Information technology touches all economic sectors and people everywhere. This is an opportunity, but also a challenge of how to develop international standards that bring the benefits of IT to everyone.
Most of the JTC 1 standards apply across all sectors and application areas, such as cyber security or cloud computing. We also have an obligation to support smart applications and IT in specific domains. While JTC 1 has great expertise in IT, we’re not the experts in every application area, so we can’t do it all alone.
We need to increase our collaboration with IEC and ISO committees that use IT to create better IEC and ISO standards in areas such as healthcare, transport and smart manufacturing. We have made good progress in these areas, but I believe we must intensify our efforts to cooperate and collaborate with other IEC and ISO committees and external organizations. We now have an ad hoc committee that is working on principles to help guide our future collaboration.
JTC 1 develops standards for many technologies. What are some key focus areas this year?
This is an important year for growth and progress in new project areas, for instance in data usage, digital twin, trustworthiness and quantum computing. AI is a little more mature, but it continues to grow. Subcommittee 42 held its first meeting three years ago and has already published eight standards, has 22 under development and more than 250 experts participate in a broad programme of work. AI is quite important for the world. It is a significant IT area and is being deployed in many different applications.
The topic of drones is an example of where JTC 1 is seeking to cooperate and collaborate with a technical committee in a specific application area (ISO Technical Committee 20, Subcommittee 16), which is responsible for standards for unmanned aircraft systems. Our Subcommittee 17 which covers cards and security devices for personal identification has developed some standards for drone identification and has been working with ISO TC 20/SC 16 for some time. JETI has also studied this area and identified an opportunity to do more with IT to support this sector.
We will hold a workshop later this year with ISO TC 20/SC 16, to allow experts from our committees and other areas to investigate the status of IT support for UAS and see what more JTC 1 can contribute. The joint workshop is a different approach to what we have done in the past to identify gaps.
What are some of the challenges?
Another topic that came out of JETI is the evaluation of the brain-computer interface. At our next plenary in November 2021, the advisory group will present a report with recommendations for next steps. This is an area where activity outside of standardization is picking up, so it seems like an important time for us to pursue this topic in some way.
To this point, one challenge is that information technology moves very quickly, so it’s important for us to initiate new work at the right time and deliver standards when the market needs them. We have seen in the past that if we are there at the right time, we can be very successful, but if we are late, it is so much harder.
We are a committee of both IEC and ISO, and our work is easier when the rules and policies of the two parents are aligned. We encourage this whenever possible, so that our work isn’t adversely impacted.
Another important aspect is diversity. The more diverse the participation and perspectives, the better the quality of the standards we develop. We have seen more participation virtually over the past year and a half, particularly from P-members who do not normally attend physical meetings, which is a side benefit of the current situation. I hope this continues to grow in JTC 1 and its subcommittees.
Find out more about the work of JTC 1.