OASIS Board Member Spotlight Series: Q&A with Daniel Riedel

The OASIS Board of Directors comprises industry leaders who are integral to the organization's success. In our Q&A, gain a better sense of who they are and why they serve the OASIS community.

Meet Daniel Riedel, an accomplished entrepreneur with extensive experience in technology, data protection, and cybersecurity. A longtime respected member of OASIS, Daniel has been a steadfast supporter of the organization’s standards and open source initiatives that make the world a safer place. Read more about Daniel’s intriguing journey from being an artist to working in cybersecurity.

Can you tell us about your background and what inspired you to join the OASIS Board?
I joined OASIS because I believe that standards are crucial for business and fostering collaboration, and I want to see how I can help OASIS thrive. Being seated next to my fellow board members makes me feel incredibly humble. Their pedigree, backgrounds, and technological achievements are simply astounding. I’m an entrepreneur and a futurist, and I’m also someone who’s very passionate about advances in cybersecurity. For those reasons, I wanted to offer my unique viewpoint to the board. When it comes to agility and figuring out how to accelerate the organization, those are my passions and those are the areas where I can contribute the most. 

What’s your role on the board? 
I’m treasurer of the OASIS Board, and in this role I keep an eye on the organization’s finances. In my experiences, I’ve served as the CEO of a company, I’ve reported to boards, and I’ve been in charge of a bottom line. My objective at OASIS is to use my experience as treasurer to assist our executive director and chief operating officer to assess our financial situation, come up with ideas to strengthen it, and then report that to the board. I’m here to be that conduit from a financial perspective. Audit, finance, compliance, and oversight are all part of being treasurer, but I’m also trying to see how we can improve the organization from a finance perspective. 

What types of skills and expertise do you bring to support the OASIS Board?
I’d describe myself as having an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to think creatively outside the box. I have a passion for standards and open source communities, which are so important to the world. 

I grew up around computers and began programming for the first time when I was eight years old on an Apple computer at the University of Oklahoma where my father taught. I went to school for illustration and fine art, because for me, computers were very logical and easy to navigate while fine art was a lifelong investigation into creativity and expression. I spent some time at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) as part of their multimedia program and I ended up starting my first company working with the National Science Foundation and the Monterey Bay Research Institute before I turned 21. I became very involved in my business, helping to solve a variety of issues in my community. 

How do you hope to make an impact as a board member during your term?
I hope to help bring everyone together and to help accelerate the organization. I love what OASIS Open’s Executive Director, Francis Beland, is doing by looking at new markets. The Board has never been more important; its members are industry veterans and sages in technology who understand what a standard should be. What Francis is doing, which I think is really important, is going to the industries that need standards the most. Because of how quickly everything is developing and how AI is affecting every industry, data is becoming even more crucial. Data normalization is the key point for some of these industries to move faster. If you look at where some of our standards are today, SAML, MQTT, or STIX and TAXII, these are good examples of standards that allow us to communicate rapidly between organizations. The ability for us to reduce friction and have data interoperability will accelerate solutions to all of these issues, whether you’re looking at supply chain problems or environmental challenges. Fundamentally, if you look at how humans can thrive better in this world, we need to be able to communicate more effectively. When it comes to computing, data normalization and standards are among the most fundamental components. OASIS can provide this and serve as a catalyst to these industries.

A great challenge facing human kind is climate. We have to figure out how we stabilize this planet, and one of the ways to do that is to understand supply chain and friction points in that supply chain. We have to remember that some parts of the world might not have caught up to wherever we are in this modern era of technology, but there are repercussions for the rest of the globe. If you look at how we do manifests for shipping, some of it’s the same as it was in the 1930s or 1940s; the business hasn’t changed as technology has evolved. If you look at supply chain issues, those become big sticking points. When you reduce the friction, you accelerate our ability to fix that problem. That’s why when you look at climate, what we’re doing is so important. Climate affects all different countries, but getting countries to agree to things is probably the most challenging thing in the world. What’s great about standards is that there’s not a lot of emotion in it, which means that, in some cases, it’s going to be a lot easier to get folks to agree. However, humans are humans, they’re like cats, they like to all do their different things and that’s why they’re so awesome.

How did you first get involved with OASIS?
I first got involved with OASIS because of the work that my company was doing with the state of California for a project called CES-21 working with Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison. Our role was to try and help create a language that allowed us to do machine to machine automated threat response to cyber threats. The first challenge was for all machines to be able to identify the threat, agree on the threat, and then agree on the response. We knew that we needed a standard to do that. At that time, Richard Struse and multiple people from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had just started building the standards called STIX and TAXII. We jumped in to be a part of that collaboration and that is what brought me to OASIS.

What are your thoughts about the OASIS community, and what sets OASIS apart from other organizations?
I think it’s our focus on the mission of our organization and the community that we build. I think that OASIS is really good with human beings; standards can’t be created without human beings. The OASIS community has a warmth to it, and it’s the tone that we set when we build our Technical Committees (TCs) and the tone that we set with our people when we have conferences. It’s the tone that OASIS adopts that distinguishes us from other organizations. 

What are some of the reasons companies, organizations, individuals bring their projects to OASIS? 
We have a phenomenal history of establishing cross border ties with the ITU, the European Union, and countries all over the world. If you look at our roster, we are a very diverse global organization, and that’s one of our major powers. If you are an organization and you want to develop a global standard that thrives and is brought into the international community, I don’t think there’s another organization that can do it better. It’s one of the things that OASIS does exceptionally well. 

Where do you see OASIS going in the future? 
I think OASIS is going to help stabilize the planet in terms of cybersecurity, commerce, supply chain, and the environment. OASIS is capable of accomplishing that.

Can you tell us about any role models or mentors, or someone who has inspired you in your career? 
I’ve had so many mentors in my life so far, I wish I could mention everyone’s name here because there’s not just one person. I would say that the most impactful people, besides my parents, are Gordon Freedman, Mercedes Deluca, Susan Manchester, Barak Berkowitz, Kaoru Hayashi, Jim Blom, Sarah Jane Terp, Rita Foster, and Pat Duggan. 

My friend Gordon Freedman, one of my mentors, produced the movie A Brief History of Time, the telling of Stephen Hawking’s book. I got to work with Hawking about a dozen times, and those were some of the most influential experiences I’ve ever had. He was brilliant and driven; he lived in a wheelchair, he could only write with his thumb, and he couldn’t feed himself. But he was full of life. Most people would end up in a pit of despair; he was one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Steven taught me to love life and he taught me that, at the end of the day, if he’s able to do that, then I should have no bad days for the rest of my life. 

Do you have an impact story they can tell me about with your work in open source or open standards?
There’s no quick way around a standard. During COVID, there was a project that tried to launch a standard around checking vaccination status in a secure way, however, it was supposed to be fully completed in three months. You can’t rush a standard. A standard is only, in part, the documentation that you create. What’s more important is the community that you build around that standard: the entrepreneurs, the technologists, the subject matter experts. It’s the people who come together and are compelled to have a conversation about how they’re going to represent their industry and how they’re going to share information in their industry. That’s the most valuable piece. When I consider the initiatives that Richard Struse and Trey Darley began at OASIS, I remember the magic of seeing the community come together, the products and the capabilities that were contributed, and the good that the standard accomplished by enabling a quicker response to cybersecurity threats. That was truly amazing and it was wonderful to be there and take part in it. Seeing the technology and innovation that was built around STIX and TAXII, OpenC2, and CACAO, and what those organizations were able to deliver was incredible. 

What trends or changes do you see in the industry that are most exciting or thought provoking? How can OASIS better position itself for what’s coming?
Everyone’s talking about ChatGPT and generative AI right now. Generative AI is moving very quickly and our ability to work with computers is only going to accelerate. The barrier between the human computing model is going to come crashing down as we’re able to have a natural conversation with a machine. The crux of that is going to be the data normalization that underpins this information flow. Generative AI environments are non-deterministic environments. In some cases there’s a lot of concern, and rightfully so, about the space. At the end of the day, machines need to know how to talk to other machines. The things that OASIS is doing – standards, open source technologies, and open source tools – will be fundamentally part of the accelerant going forward. As the world realizes that this is a crucial piece of how to work together, we’re going to see massive growth. Over the course of the next few years, whether it’s in mining, environmental systems, or another industry, everybody needs to be able to exchange data. You have to comprehend the nature of the data in order to do that. Generative AI can do a lot to simulate things, but at the end of the day, that data knowledge is going to be really important. 

What professional accomplishments are you proud of? 
I would have to say testifying in front of the Senate in 2017 at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It was a hearing on the efforts to protect the nation’s energy providers from cybersecurity threats and I talked about STIX and TAXII as a part of my testimony. I’d never been more terrified my entire life, but I walked in there, and I rehearsed and tried to make sure I didn’t make a lot of mistakes. What they don’t tell you is when C-SPAN records that testimony, the camera is coming from the podium just below the Senators, that’s where the camera is aiming at you. So I was trying to make eye contact with the Senators and I was trying to read my paper and then go back and forth between them. Let’s just say, if you ever testify before the Senate, just look at the camera! The Senators get looked at all the time. Just look at the camera. I would say testifying in front of the Senate was an amazing experience. 

At the end of the day, though, I would actually say that the professional accomplishment that I am the proudest of is my network and the people I get to be around every day. I wake up and I’m really happy about whom I get to work with every day.

Best piece of advice you received so far in your career?
Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy it. If you’re not enjoying your career, find a new one. If you wake up in the morning realizing this isn’t what you want to be doing, start trying to figure out how you can change that. 

What’s an interesting fact about you?
I was an art major. There is no difference between a painting, a business, or a project. It’s the visualization you have in your head and it’s what you’re thinking about at that moment in time. For me, when it comes to painting, I’m painting when I’m sleeping, I’m painting when I’m having breakfast, and I’m also painting when I’m at the canvas. And when I’m reviewing it the next day, it basically consumes my brain. But so do all the other projects that I’m working on, because I’m trying to visualize that project in the same sense. 

My first business was a graphic design company and we provided graphic design services to local Monterey Bay area businesses. The company grew and we began developing websites and software, working with the National Science Foundation, AT&T, and Disney. From the launch of the design business, I became more involved with computers at a time when the web was just starting to come together. I loved art and computers, but back then, not just any computer could create art; you had to spend a lot of money on a computer that powerful. As part of working with NSF and CSUMB, we were allocated many Silicon Graphics machines. SGI did very well because they built the computers that made 3-D design possible for companies like Pixar. They couldn’t just use a normal computer to do that kind of animation and graphics. For me to run Photoshop, I had to find the most powerful, expensive computer and that’s when I became involved with Silicon Graphics. With Silicon Graphics, I was basically dealing with supercomputers, and I had the privilege of working on their computers, which had so much power. I even had to call Pacific Gas & Electric to install more power to my house. With the graphics engines I was using, I needed to have the systems connected in order to render something. That’s when I started getting into computers, Unix, networking, and security. Back then I had a server in my garage that was hosted with a T1 and I learned the fundamentals like Secure Shell (SSH). It wasn’t as malicious as it is today, where people are defrauding companies and shutting down hospitals, which is why cybersecurity is so important from a geopolitical standpoint, but back then you still had to learn about it and you still had to understand it. And so that’s how I progressed from being an artist to working in cybersecurity.