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According to the Statutes, the work described so far has been the result of a collective effort of members in a not-for-profit organisation

… incorporated under the laws of Switzerland with the mission to promote the efficient use of Data by (A) developing Technical Specifications of (1) Coding and decoding for any type of Data, especially using new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, and (2) technologies that facilitate integration of Data Coding and Decoding components in Information and Communication Technology systems, and by (B) bridging the gap between Technical Specifications and their practical use through the development of Intellectual Property Rights Guidelines (“IPR Guidelines”), such as Framework Licences and other instruments.

This text basically says that the purposes of the MPAI organisation are: (1) to explore coding techniques for any type of data, especially using AI; (2) to develop technologies to be able to integrate data coding into larger systems; and (3) to help mitigate the risk of being unable to use a standard after having invested in its development.

There are two classes of membership. Principal Members have the right to decide matters concerning MPAI. For this, they pay full membership fees. On the other hand, Associate Members pay very low membership fees – 20% of the full fees – but do not have a say in major matters such as the MPAI organisation, approval of standards and IPR matters. They have, however, the same right to participate in the development of standards.

MPAI is obviously keen on having wide participation in its work. However, it places as a condition that members 1) be legal entities or represent a university department and 2) can demonstrably contribute to the development of MPAI standards.

The MPAI organisational structure is depicted in Figure 24.

Figure 24 – The MPAI organisational structure

A summary description of the MPAI structure is as follows:

  1. The General Assembly (GA) is the MPAI supreme body, attended by the Principal Members and Associate Members as observers. The MPAI technical work is under the supervision of the GA, currently in two branches:

    1. Requirements to discuss standard projects and

    2. Development Committees (DC) to develop standards. Currently there are 4 DCs who have all developed at least one Technical Specification:

      1. AI Framework.

      2. Context-based Audio Enhancement.

      3. Multimodal Conversation.

      4. Compression and Understanding of Industrial Data.

  2. The Board of Directors is currently composed of 5 members. The Statutes prescribe a balanced geographical representation of the main interests in data compression. Typically convened twice a month, it currently has 5 Advisory Committees:

    1. Membership and Nominating: Reviewing membership applications and nominating Officers.

    2. Finance and Audit: Advising the Board on finances.

    3. IPR Support: developing Framework Licences.

    4. Communication: Managing MPAI communication.

    5. Industry and Standards. Advising on matters related to relations with external entities.

  3. The Secretariat performs basic functions such as IT management, meeting support, communication with members etc.

It was important to describe the MPAI organisation, but more important the process through which an MPAI standard progresses from an idea to a set of documents and software that industry can use. Being the vehicle that can change industry shape and consumer life, standards are serious business. Just think of MP3.

Therefore, MPAI has adopted a rigorous standards development process, whose steps are depicted in Figure 25.

Figure 25 – The MPAI standards development process

Let’s start from the top-left, from what is called 0th stage called Interest Collection. Members as well as non-members may submit proposals that are collected and harmonised. Some proposals get merged with other similar proposals and some get split because the harmonisation process demands this. The goal is to identify standards proposals reflecting proponents’ intentions while assessing its value and breadth of use across different environments. Non-members can fully participate in this process on par with other members. The result of this process is the definition of one or more than one homogeneous area of work called “Use Case”. Each Use Case is described in an Application Note. Application Notes can be found on the MPAI web site.

The 1st stage of the process, called Use Cases, entails the full use case characterisation and the description of the work program that will produce the Functional Requirements. The 2nd stage, called Functional Requirements, is the actual development of the Functional Requirements of the area of work represented by the Use Cases.

The “openness” of the MPAI process in these 3 initial stages is represented by the fact that anybody may participate in Interest Collection, Use Case and Functional Requirements. With an exception, though: when an MPAI member makes a proposal that s/he wishes to be exposed to members only.

The 3rd stage is Commercial Requirements. In a sense, a standard is no different than a supply contract where the characteristics of the object to be delivered (Functional Requirements) and the terms of the delivery (Commercial Requirements) are stated.

It should be noted that, from this 3rd stage on, non-members are not allowed to participate (but they can become members at any time), because their role of proposing and describing what a standard should do is over. Antitrust laws do not permit that seller (technology providers) and buyers (users of the standard) sit together and agree on values such as numbers, percentage, or dates, but it permits sellers to indicate the terms, but without values. Therefore, the embodiment of the Commercial Requirements, i.e., the Framework Licence, will refrain from adding such details.

Once both Functional and Commercial Requirements are available, MPAI is able to draft the Call for Technologies (4th stage). Anybody is allowed to respond and, if a proposed technology is accepted, the proponent is requested to join MPAI or else having its technology removed from consideration.

The proposals are reviewed and Standard Development begins (5th stage).

When the draft standard has reached sufficient maturity, MPAI may decide to make it public with a request for Community Comments (6th stage).

After accommodating comments, Principal Members may vote to approve the draft as MPAI Standard (7th stage), hence triggering its publication (an Associate Member may become a Principal Member at any time).

This explanation of the way MPAI is organised is important to make clear that MPAI achieves its goals through a proper organisation and following a rigorous process.

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