An Inadvertent Barrier to Entry?

E-mail Wayne Manges

Technological Darwinism—the theory that the best products achieve the broadest adoption—is an urban myth. The disposition of R&D dollars and the content of standards determine, to a large extent, which technologies get a chance to prove themselves. Given this, what effect will the new SP100 wireless standard have?

Inclusion or Exclusion
I recently heard Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) director Jeffrey Wadsworth talk about the future of R&D at the Department of Energy (DOE) labs. He said that competition for R&D funds now requires that ORNL strive to establish itself as the host for large-scale investment facilities (such as our recently completed Spallation Neutron Source). He suggested that such billion-dollar-plus facilities create a "barrier to entry" for anyone hoping to compete for R&D funds in the area of science enabled by the facility (neutron research in this case).

This got me wondering whether standards in general, and SP100 in particular, could inadvertently create a barrier to entry that could reduce competition in the area. When I first started as co-chair of ISA's Wireless Industrial Automation Standard (SP100) Committee, some company representatives seemed to want the standard to be so severe that only companies with large, extensive capabilities could hope to step up.

My customer, the DOE, expects me to encourage ubiquitous deployment of wireless sensor networks—so I don't want to see SP100 create hurdles. My goal is to make sure that the wireless offerings are presented in ways that all stakeholders can determine what they should expect for a given alternative, in a given environment, and for a given application. That is quite different from creating a barrier to entry.

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