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Blog Category: TechBeat

NIST Develops Instrument to Detect Poultry Spoilage

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Researchers at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) designed an instrument that quickly and precisely sniffs trace amounts of chemical compounds that indicate poultry spoilage without damaging the product itself. The process can detect minute amounts of spoilage compounds and can be used by suppliers during all stages of processing, transport and storage. Several proactive measures are used in the United States to keep poultry from going bad between the time it leaves the farm to when it reaches the grocery cart. (More)

NIST, Partners Develop Testing Infrastructure for Health IT Systems

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Fully incorporating modern information technology into the healthcare system promises many benefits, including better quality care, less paperwork and fewer medical errors while reducing unnecessary costs. In any such critical application, however, it’s important to ensure that the new technology behaves as expected. To meet this need in health information technology, a broad array of public and private stakeholders have been working with Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST has released the first of four installments of a new health IT test method and related software. (More)

NIST, NASA Launch Joint Effort to Develop New Climate Satellites

One of the three CLARREO satellites, which will make observations of the energy the Earth absorbs from the sun and radiates back into space. Click for larger imae.

Image: NASA

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have launched a joint effort to gather enhanced climate data from spaceborne climate observation instruments planned for a group of satellites now under development. The Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Mission includes a fleet of satellites tentatively scheduled for launch later this decade that will gather data for long-term climate projections. (More)

NIST Issues Expanded Draft of Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy

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The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued the second draft of its Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements, which now identifies more than 120 interfaces that will link diverse devices, systems and organizations engaged in two-way flows of electricity and information and classifies these connections according to the level of damage that could result from a security breach. (More)

NIST Issues First Release of Framework for Smart Grid Interoperability

Satellite image of North America at night showing electrical illumniation and outline of grid. Click for larger image.

Photo: NASA

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued an initial list of standards, a preliminary cyber security strategy, and other elements of a framework to support transforming the nation’s aging electric power system into an interoperable “Smart Grid,” a key component of the Obama administration’s energy plan and its strategy for American innovation. By integrating digital computing and communication technologies and services with the power-delivery infrastructure, the Smart Grid will enable bidirectional flows of energy and two-way communication and control capabilities. (More) (Release)

Demonstration Network Planned for Public Safety 700 MHz Broadband

NIST logo. Click to go to NIST Web site.

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have announced plans to create a demonstration broadband communications network for the nation’s emergency services agencies using a portion of the radiofrequency spectrum freed up by the recent transition of U.S. broadcast television from analog to digital technologies. This demonstration network is currently in the preliminary planning stages and is expected to go live in mid-2010. (More)

NIST Develops Experimental Validation Tool for Cell Phone Forensics

SIM chip image. © kenny1/Shuttercock. Click for larger image.

Image: kenny1/Shutterstock

Viewers of TV dramas don’t focus on the technology behind how a forensics crime team tracks a terrorist or drug ring using cell phone data, but scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) do. NIST researchers have developed a new technique aimed at improving the validation of a crime lab’s cell phone forensics tools. Early experiments show promise for easier, faster and more rigorous assessments than with existing methods. (More) (Report-PDF)

NIST: Small Nanoparticles Bring Big Improvement to Medical Imaging

Human red blood cells, in which membrane proteins are targeted and labeled with quantum dots, reveal the clustering behavior of the proteins. The number of purple features, which indicate the nuclei of malaria parasites, increases as malaria development progresses. The NIST logo at bottom was made by a photo lithography technique on a thin film of quantum dots, taking advantage of the property that clustered dots exhibit increased photoluminescence. (White bars: 1 μm; red: 10 μm.)

Credit: H. Kang / NIST and F. Tokumasu / NIAID

Click for larger image.

A joint research team, working at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has discovered a method of using nanoparticles to illuminate the cellular interior to reveal these slow processes. Nanoparticles, thousands of times smaller than a cell, have a variety of applications. One type of nanoparticle called a quantum dot glows when exposed to light. These semiconductor particles can be coated with organic materials, which are tailored to be attracted to specific proteins within the part of a cell a scientist wishes to examine. (More)

NIST Test Proves 'The Eyes Have It' for ID Verification

Image of human eye.

The eyes may be the mirror to the soul, but the iris reveals a person’s true identity—its intricate structure constitutes a powerful biometric. A new report by computer scientists at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) demonstrates that iris recognition algorithms can maintain their accuracy and interoperability with compact images, affirming their potential for large-scale identity management applications such as the federal Personal Identity Verification program, cyber security and counterterrorism. (More)

NIST Signs U.S.-China Cooperative Agreement on Earthquake and Volcano Sciences

NIST Deputy Director Patrick Gallagher and Yin Chaomin, the vice administrator of the Chinese Earthquake Administration, shaking hands while seated at signing table.

In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake that occurred in China this past year and its high number of casualties, the U.S. and China have signed a protocol for cooperation on earthquake and volcano sciences. The protocol was signed by the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S., and the Chinese Earthquake Administration and the National Natural Science Foundation of the People’s Republic of China. Shown are NIST Deputy Director Patrick Gallagher and Yin Chaomin, vice administrator of the Chinese Earthquake Administration. (More) (Protocol)

New Computer Security Guide Can Help Safeguard Small Businesses

Image of video player. Click to watch a new NIST video explaining the reasons why small businesses should be concerned about safeguarding the information on their computers.

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a guide to help small businesses and organizations understand how to provide basic security for their information, systems and networks. Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals,by Richard Kissel, teaches computer security to groups of small business owners ranging from tow truck operators to managers of hospitals, small manufacturers and nonprofit organizations. The 20-page guide uses simple, clear language to walk small business owners through the steps necessary to secure their computer systems and data. (More) (Video page) (Guide)

Therapeutic Nanoparticles Offer Potential as Cancer-Killers

NIST logo. Click for image: An iron-centered nanoparticle (left) has a coating of the sugar dextran, whose tendrils prevent groups of the particles from clumping. When tumor cells ingest them (right), the particles still congregate closely enough to share heat when stimulated by a magnetic field, killing the cells. White arrow indicates a red blood cell.

A research team at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) studying sugar-coated nanoparticles for use as a possible cancer therapy, has uncovered a delicate balancing act that makes the particles more effective than conventional thinking says they should be. In cooperation with The Johns Hopkins University, Dartmouth College, the University of Manitoba and two biopharmaceutical companies, the NIST team has demonstrated that the particles are potent cancer-killers because they interact with one another in ways that smaller nanoparticles do not. Click on NIST logo above for image and description or here. (More)

New NIST Trace Explosives Standard Slated for Homeland Security Duty

Bottle of SRM 2905 seen under blue crime scene light and spot of tagged SRM on test paper. Click for larger image.

To aid in searches for explosive materials and persons who have been in contact with them, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), with support from the Department of Homeland Security, has developed a new certified reference material, Standard Reference Material (SRM) 2905, Trace Particulate Explosives. Compatible with field and laboratory assay methods, the SRM will be helpful in calibrating, testing and developing standard best operating procedures for trace-explosives detectors. (More)

Who Are You? Mobile ID Devices Find Out Using NIST Guidelines

Image of person holding a PDA. Click for larger image.

A new publication that recommends best practices for the next generation of portable biometric acquisition devices—Mobile ID—has been published by Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Devices that gather, process and transmit an individual’s biometric data—fingerprints, facial and iris images—for identification are proliferating. Previous work on standards for these biometric devices has focused primarily on getting different stationary and desktop systems with hard-wired processing pathways to work together in an interoperable manner. But a new generation of small, portable and versatile biometric devices are raising new issues for interoperability. (More)

Novel Temperature Calibration Improves NIST Microhotplate Technology

Image of microhotplate. Click for larger image.

Researchers at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new calibration technique that will improve the reliability and stability of one of NIST’s most versatile technologies, the microhotplate. The novel NIST device is being developed as the foundation for miniature yet highly accurate gas sensors that can detect chemical and biological agents, industrial leaks and even signs of extraterrestrial life from aboard a planetary probe. (More)

NIST Releases Final Version of New Cybersecurity Recommendations for Government

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The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released its final version of a publication which represents a major step toward building a unified information security framework for the entire federal government. Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations was released in draft form for public review in June. “The aim is to provide greater protection for federal information systems against cyber attacks,” said Ron Ross, of NIST’s computer security division. (More)

NIST: 'Microfluidic Palette' May Paint Clearer Picture of Biological Processes

Image of microfluidic palette. Click for larger image.

Researchers at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have created an innovative device called the “microfluidic palette” to produce multiple, steady-state chemical gradients—gradual changes in concentration across an area—in a miniature chamber about the diameter of a pinhead. The tool can be used to study the complex biological mechanisms in cells responsible for cancer metastasis, wound healing, biofilm formation and other fluid-related processes. (More)

NIST's LIDAR May Offer Peerless Precision in Remote Measurements

Image of Earth, Mars, the Moon and  and the sun. Click for video.

By combining the best of two different distance measurement approaches with a super-accurate technology called an optical frequency comb, researchers at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built a laser ranging system that can pinpoint multiple objects with nanometer precision over distances up to 100 kilometers. The novel LIDAR (“light detection and ranging”) system could have applications from precision manufacturing lines on Earth to maintaining networks of satellites in perfect formation, creating a giant space-based platform to search for new planets. (More) (Video)

Physicists Find Way to Control Individual Bits in Quantum Computers

Optical lattices use lasers to separate rubidium atoms (red) for use as information “bits” in neutral-atom quantum processors -- prototype devices which designers are trying to develop into full-fledged quantum computers. NIST scientists have managed to isolate and control pairs of the rubidium atoms with polarized light, an advance that may bring quantum computing a step closer to reality. Click for larger image.

Physicists at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have overcome a hurdle in quantum computer development, having devised a viable way to manipulate a single “bit” in a quantum processor without disturbing the information stored in its neighbors. The approach, which makes novel use of polarized light to create “effective” magnetic fields, could bring the long-sought computers a step closer to reality. A great challenge in creating a working quantum computer is maintaining control over the carriers of information, the “switches” in a quantum processor while isolating them from the environment. (More)

Nanosoccer Robots Ready to Compete in Upcoming RoboCup Games

YouTube video clip of nanosoccer. Click to view 2008 video.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be serving up “soccer under glass”—the glass of a microscope lens—when nanosoccer makes its second appearance at the RoboCup games at the international competition in Graz, Austria, from June 29 to July 5, 2009. Nanosoccer is a Lilliputian event where computer-driven “nanobots” the size of dust mites challenge one another on fields no bigger than a grain of rice. Viewed under a microscope, the nanobots are operated by remote control and move in response to changing magnetic fields or electrical signals transmitted across the microsized arena. (More)

NIST Defining the Expanding World of Cloud Computing

Image of laptop computer.

Photo: Shutterstock

A working definition for cloud computing—a new computer technique with potential for achieving significant cost savings and information technology agility—has been released by a team of computer security experts at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Since the federal government is considering cloud computing as a component of its new technology infrastructure, it is NIST’s role to evaluate it and then promote its effective and secure use within government and industry by providing technical guidance and developing standards. (More)

New Study: Home Energy Savings Are Made in the Shade

Image of house and garage shaded by trees. Click for larger image.

Trees positioned to shade the west and south sides of a house may decrease summertime electric bills by 5 percent on average, according to a recent study of California homes by researchers from Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The first large-scale study of its kind, the research paper considers the effects of shade on 460 single-family homes in Sacramento during the summer of 2007 and provides hard statistics showing how well-placed shade trees can reduce energy costs and atmospheric carbon as well. (More)

Researchers Give High Marks to New Technology for Fingerprint Identification

Image of fingerprint. Click for larger image.

Overworked crime scene investigators can take heart at the results of recent tests at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) of new technologies that automate the manual portion of latent fingerprint identification. Prototype systems evaluated by NIST performed surprisingly well for a developing technology: half of the prototypes were accurate at least 80 percent of the time and one had a near perfect score. Automating the manual portion of the work frees up time for trained examiners to spend time on very difficult images that the software has little hope of processing. (More)

NIST Improves Microscope's Stability for Nanomanufacturing Biology

Ian an atomic force microscope (AFM), force is measured by a laser beam, yellow in this artist's rendition. AFM photo.

Photo: G. Kuebler/JILA/CU

A research team from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado has improved by 100 times the stability of a workhorse tool in nanotechnology, known as the atomic force microscope, potentially improving a wide range of areas from nanomanufacturing to biology, where sensitive, atom-scale measurements must be made at room temperature in liquids. (More)

Safer Net Surfing is Goal of NIST Domain Name Security Experts

Image of user log-on screen.

When you type—or the Web address of your bank or an e-commerce site—into your web browser, you want to be sure that no one is hijacking your request and sending you to a bogus look-alike page. You’re relying on the integrity of the Internet’s “phone book,” the Domain Name System (DNS). Computer scientists at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are playing a major role in making sure that what you type is what you get by providing standards, guidance and testing necessary to bolster the trustworthiness of the global DNS. A draft update of NIST’s guidelines for DNS security is now available for public comment. (More)

NIST: Updated Recommendations for Protecting Wireless, Remote Access Data

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Telecommuting has freed many to work far from the confines of the office via laptop, but the price of working while sipping a latte at that sunny café is the danger that a public network will not keep the data that passes through it safe. Now, to combat the risk inherent in remote access, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has updated its guide on maintaining data security while teleworking. The revised guide offers advice for protecting the wide variety of private and mobile devices from threats that have appeared since the first edition appeared in August 2002. (More)

NIST Studies Making Cooling Systems More Efficient and Economical

Graphic depicting conventional and magnetic refrigeration cycles. Click here for larger image.

A refrigerator’s humming, electricity-guzzling cooling system could soon be a lot smaller, quieter and more economical thanks to an exotic metal alloy discovered by an international collaboration working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)’s Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). The alloy may prove to be a long-sought material that will permit magnetic cooling instead of the gas-compression systems used for home refrigeration and air conditioning. (More)

NIST Issues New Guide to Protecting Personal Information

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Thefts of personally identifiable information (PII), such as social security and credit card account numbers, are increasing dramatically. Adding to the difficulty of fighting this problem, organizations often disagree on what PII is, and how to protect it. Now, in a first-of-its-kind publication, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a draft guide on protecting PII from unauthorized use and disclosure. “You can’t protect PII unless you can identify it,” says NIST’s Erika McCallister, a co-author of the new work. (More)