IEEE SA Open Inspires and Accelerates Innovation

Open source – software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance & has changed the landscape of technology development, helping to accelerate innovation, and enabling radical advancements in the way we live, work and communicate. It has also impacted the standards world, providing opportunities for dynamic new collaborations that can further advance and improve technology. IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) supports the open source community by hosting and supporting the widely used platform, IEEE SA Open.

The concept of open source is similar to that of science; if everyone kept their methods to themselves, scientific discovery would move more slowly. We could see the results, but we could not build on the research nor validate others’ results. Open source is altruistic, allowing ideas that can be perpetuated and for methods and algorithms to be reused and refined for other purposes.

But open source is more than a platform; it’s a community, too. A developer can easily contact other developers living in all parts of the world. The platform enables you to ask questions, explore, and learn.


IEEE SA Open is open to anyone, providing multiple models based on user, community, and project needs as well as use cases for standards and non-standards projects. Unlike some open source communities, IEEE SA Open is highly supported, with dedicated Open Source Community Managers who provide guidance including a help desk. Perhaps more importantly, users can connect with IEEE SA’s extensive network of members, societies, standards committees, and working groups for collaboration.

IEEE SA Open at times provides support and guidance on approaches groups can take to doing software engineering and open source development. This guidance and support can be extremely valuable to the subject matter experts who may have great skill within their area of expertise but could use further support on general software engineering and open source development best practices. IEEE SA Open helps steer projects in the right direction so that when they launch, they are using practices that will improve adoption of their work and make it easier and more likely for others to be able to contribute to their open source project in the future.

IEEE SA’s self-hosted GitLab combined with Mattermost and Pages allow for a trusted toolchain that will adapt and grow to meet the needs of our open source communities. Initial core functionality includes:

  • Project planning and management features
  • Source code management
  • Testing, code quality, and continuous integration features
  • Docker container registry and Kubernetes integration
  • Application release and delivery features
  • Integrated Mattermost chat forum w/slash commands; (Mattermost Android and iPhone apps are fully supported)

Advantages for using open source in the enterprise

The IEEE SA Open community encourages global teamwork and collaboration. Users create and improve diverse applications of shared technology. IEEE SA Open thrives because everyone has a common goal to support and improve the code more quickly. Users are inspired to innovate and do so more effectively, allowing all users to reap the benefits. There are many benefits to be gained via open source, including the following:

Availability of Source Code – A programmer always has a purpose for the end user. With open source, a developer can see the source code of software entirely, download it, and use the basic structure. Open Source is highly configurable. A programmer may be able to make modifications to the code to achieve the desired purpose, or outcome. Furthermore, anyone can download and use open source software. There are no limitations regarding the user group or intended audience, purpose, frequency of use, and end use devices for the software. There are no license fees to pay.

Flexibility and Agility – Open source enables technology agility, usually offering multiple approaches to problem solving. Instead of waiting for a vendor to deliver a needed capability, open source helps you create the solution yourself. In the world of business, agility separates top performers from lagging competitors.

Speed – Complementing flexibility and agility is the ability to take a problem and solve it more quickly. Open source provides the ability to start with community versions, evaluate them for your issue, and quickly move towards an enterprise-grade implementation of a large scale, supported solution.

Cost-Effectiveness – Almost always, open source is less expensive than a proprietary solution. Additionally, open source allows the ability to start small and scale up, which is advantageous to smaller organizations with more limited resources and budgets.

Start Small and Beta Test – Open source allows the ability to quickly launch a project, starting small with community versions and testing alternative versions. Once you’ve found the solution and results you seek, it’s easy to migrate to large-scale solution when the organization is ready.

Information Security Support – The more users, the better for developing and innovating code as well as detecting and fixing bugs – and its more reliable. Security is also improved, as the code is thoroughly assessed and evaluated by the open source community of developers. It is common to have tester groups check new releases and, if any issues arise, they are addressed by the community.

Shared Maintenance – One of the fundamental advantages of open source is community involvement. Rather than developing an application and having to maintain it on your own, you can share the cost of maintaining and sustaining applications among multiple parties.

Thinking Ahead to the Future – Open source is the future. We are increasingly seeing more Web, mobile, and cloud solutions built upon open source infrastructure.

A Use Case Example: Supporting IEEE 1752.1 – Standard for Open Mobile Health Data — Representation of Metadata, Sleep, and Physical Activity Measures

IEEE 1752.1 is the IEEE Standard for Open Mobile Health Data–Representation of Metadata, Sleep, and Physical Activity Measures. The IEEE SA open source project contains documentation, sample data, and JSON schemas for minimum-metadata, physical activity and mobility, and sleep measures for the 1752.1™ – Standard for Mobile Health Data. The open source project is referenced as a requirement of the standard itself and it is referenced in an “undated” manner, meaning that updates to the IEEE SA Open Source project can be made by the working group without needing to develop and publish a new version of the standard itself.

Some of the specific ways IEEE SA Open helped IEEE 1752.1:

Provided guidance on structuring their open source project, including example README files and other project documentation files. our guidance follows the best practices in open source
Helped guide IEEE 1752.1 toward using Continuous Integration to automatically run tests to validate their schemas. Continuous Integration works by automatically running tests every time updates are submitted to the open source repository by a contributor (i.e., such tests are automatically run when a merge request is made).

Helped the project follow best practices in publishing schemas to the web by using perma-id’s via the W3C’s site.

Join IEEE SA Open

IEEE SA embraces open source and provides significant opportunities to support market-driven solutions and mission-based open source projects that are focused on fostering technological innovation and excellence, for the benefit of humanity.

Access to IEEE SA Open is available to anyone. Explore current groups to see what open source projects are available. To join or create a project, you will need an active IEEE account. There’s no cost to create an IEEE account.

The Featured Blog Posts series will highlight posts from partners and members of the All Things Open community leading up to the conference in the fall.