Setting standards for the future

Written by Mikael Jaatinen, LMF Ericsson

From the very first analog systems to 2G, 3G, 4G and, today, 5G and beyond, Ericsson’s global collaboration activities with telecom operators, industries and academia have played a crucial role in developing standards that meet the needs of consumers, different industries and society as a whole. By fulfilling their needs, the tools for a connected, safer and more environmentally friendly society are provided, enabling an enriched life for consumers and increased efficiency for all industries. As a world-leading company in innovations and their subsequent implementation as global standards, Ericsson has become a trusted partner and recognized leader in within 3GPP and other major standardization organizations.

Standardization is a framework of agreements for all relevant parties in an industry to ensure the creation of well-performing systems, products and services in accordance with set guidelines. The objective is to maximize compatibility, interoperability, safety, repeatability, and quality. Development of a new technical standard within a standardization organization is based on the consensus of different parties, including vendors, operators, end users, interest groups and governments.

When it comes to blockchains and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), standardization is happening in all relevant technology standardization groups. Questions that we initially did not find good answers to in the SOFIE project were: What is the right way for us to contribute to standardization in a situation where the focus and maturity in blockchain adoption varied a lot between different standardization groups? Should we aim for more widespread collaboration or target our efforts to specific standardization groups?

In retrospective, it feels as if the problem solved itself in the end as things fell nicely in place during early 2020 with ETSI Industry Special Group for Private Distributed Ledgers (ETSI ISG PDL), of which Ericsson is a founding member. SOFIE project had groundbreaking results available and several ETSI ISG PDL group Work Items were still in draft status. An active collaboration was initiated between the SOFIE project and ETSI ISG PDL. The work was led by Ericsson as group member and strongly supported by Aalto University and Athens University of Economics and Business. During the spring and summer 2020, several significant contributions were drafted by the SOFIE project team, and accepted by ETSI ISG PDL, to the Work Item PDL-004, Smart Contracts, and PDL-006, Interoperability. Active contribution by Ericsson’s SOFIE team has continued in ETSI ISG PDL in the bi-weekly ETSI ISG PDL meeting, bi-annual plenaries and special drafting sessions for different Work Items.

During the autumn 2020, another significant contribution from SOFIE into ETSI ISG PDL was initiated. The quest was to include the Secure Marketplace for Access to Ubiquitous Goods (SMAUG) reference implementation as a proof of concept in ETSI ISG PDL-005, Proof of Concept Frameworks. As discussed in a previous SOFIE blog post, SMAUG demonstrates how all SOFIE open source framework components and a viable Interledger approach can be used to develop a decentralized marketplace. The PoC proposal from Ericsson was accepted by ETSI ISG PDL and a demonstration of SMAUG was given as an ETSI BrightTalk (presentation link) in December 2020. Recently, the SMAUG reference implementation has also been released as open source.

The collaboration with the ETSI ISG PDL has been nicely complemented by contributions by other SOFIE partners also in other standardization groups, for example W3C and IETF/IRTF. So the end result was not either widespread collaboration or targeted effort, but a combination of both.

More than 3 years of great collaboration (including the project application phase) in SOFIE has now passed. During the time not only new contacts but also friends have been made across the SOFIE project consortium. I think we can be very proud of what has been jointly achieved. On a personal note, in particular the project results related to Interledger - research, implementation and demonstrations - have been a world-class act and it feels very satisfying to see that these results have been captured in relevant standardization. The SOFIE project may be coming to its end but we have set our mark on the standards for the future. The spirit carries on.

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