Standing on the shoulders of giants

14 March 2016 - Tim Felstead

AIMS-gradient-background_Member_250.pngHumble. That’s how I’m led to feel working at SAM and as part of our broader industry. When I write and think about some of the solutions and technology we’re putting together it’s all too easy to puff your chest out and claim foresight. The truth is that even Sir Isaac Newton considered the title phrase originally (we believe) coined by John of Salisbury in 1159.

"We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours." John of Salisbury circa 1159.

I’ve been in the industry since the mid 80’s, originally working in Software Engineering, then later moving to the ‘dark side’ of Sales and Marketing. But that move has offered me opportunity to consider the technological progress we’ve made in broadcasting and AV technology in general. That’s brought into sharp focus by the efforts of my own company and my competitors joining the AIMS organisation, Alliance for IP Media Solutions.

What started as an effort to foster a functioning market in IP production systems (for purely self-interested commercial reasons) has now taken on a significance much, much greater. In this case I believe we are establishing the bedrock of our industry for future generations and that task in itself has greater significance than the commercial imperative in one company alone. 

Standards have always enabled markets and allowed competition. They’ve not always been generated by standards bodies and it’s clear that in this industry if it wasn’t for the initiative taken by Sony Corporation we certainly would not have had SDI in standard definition as early as we did, nor the serializer and de-serializer chips available for competitors to produce products and spring a market into rude health. That initiative, surely, led to the sort of dominance that accountants dream of and CEOs make their careers from. In those days of ‘heavy metal’ VTR’s such an initiative (read Investment) was incredibly valuable for us all and, to be honest, helped me and many others to enjoy a long and happy career. 

That said and acknowledged, we do live in different times; more flexible, more software, more nimble, broader competition and a far greater rate of change. Consequently there are dangers in isolationist, land-grabbing, dominance seeking efforts not choosing to enable an environment of competition within collaborative standards. AIMS seeks to avoid that by using standards bodies that already exist, are already forums for competitors to collaborate, and with standards that are already, or very nearly, agreed in the public domain. Avoiding the nightmare scenario of ‘standards fiefdoms’ in a horrible decade long series of one-upmanship technological progressions is precisely the reason why rational customers should be joining AIMS. It grieves me greatly when some of my own customers don’t see this imperative. The organization is pluralistic and working in the best interests of the industry at large. It should be supported by everyone.

“But giants?” you ask. Translating our current copper linear based standards into a new IP domain is not easy, but it does illustrate to me the huge amount of work that many of my friends, colleagues and competitors have undertaken in the past. To get us to where we are now as a world industry has taken brains and courage, and I for one don’t want to see such collective genius squandered in a fight for competitive advantage.

Yes, Giants. Our responsibility is to stay on their shoulders and not squander our opportunities for keeping this industry healthy in the IP domain. Join AIMS, join me on their shoulders and be grateful for those that went before.

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