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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

NIST Workshop Aims to Advance Usability in Electronic Health Records

Matt Quinn of NIST with large projection screen

Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is hosting a workshop today on usability in electronic health records (EHR) at its campus in Gaithersburg, Md. "A Community-Building Workshop: Measuring, Evaluating and Improving the Usability of Electronic Health Records" brings together industry, government, academia and healthcare providers to identify models and methods for collaborating to improve the usability of EHR systems.

Usability refers to how easy EHR systems are to learn and operate, while maximizing efficiency. A health information technology (IT) industry task force identified usability as one of the major factors hindering widespread adoption of EHRs in clinical settings. The task force also noted that usability has a strong, often direct relationship with clinical productivity, user satisfaction, lower error rate and less user fatigue.

"Moving the science and practice of evaluating EHR usability forward has required an open and transparent community effort,” said NIST computer scientist Matt Quinn, one of the workshop's organizers. “We hope to build on our workshop from last year to encourage further collaboration among stakeholders, collect constructive feedback on methods for evaluating usability, and identify priority areas for future work."

The NIST health IT usability initiative focuses on providing guidance to the public and private sectors in the development of health IT usability standards and measures. NIST collaborates closely with industry, academia and other government agencies to share best practices on electronic health record usability and gather technical feedback on the development of EHR usability evaluation methods.

Workshop sessions include an overview of current programs for improving EHR usability, models for collaboration, efforts to support the needs of developers and care delivery organizations, and various breakout sessions, concluding with next steps on building a stronger community to improve health IT usability.   

For more information on today’s workshop, visit: http://www.nist.gov/healthcare/usability/usability-technical-workshop.cfm.

NIST: New Software Tool Helps Evaluate Natural Cooling Options for Buildings

Image of Climate Suitability Tool graphic

A new, free software tool from Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) could prove to be a breath of fresh air for architects and designers of ventilation systems for "green" commercial buildings.

With the Climate Suitability Tool, building design teams can evaluate whether the local climate is suitable for cooling a prospective building with natural ventilation or requires a hybrid system that supplies supplemental cooling capacity. The tool is based on a model of the heat-related characteristics of a building configured to take full advantage of ambient climate conditions and natural air movement. It incorporates an algorithm—or problem-solving procedure—that crunches hourly weather data (downloaded from annual datasets for U.S. localities) and uses standardized criteria for rating the comfort of building occupants.

"We think this tool will be useful during the early stages of design, when decisions on the form of a building and its components are being made," explains NIST mechanical engineer Steven Emmerich. "It provides estimates of ventilation rates for preliminary design calculations. You can approximate how many air changes per hour will be necessary to offset heat gains due to the occupants, equipment and lighting so that comfortable conditions are maintained."

The effects of direct natural ventilation and a nighttime cooling procedure are assessed using a method devised by James Axley, Yale University professor of architecture and engineering. When the outdoor temperature is below an accepted threshold, direct ventilation through open windows and by other means can deliver the cooling to maintain the comfort zone. When the outdoor temperature exceeds the threshold during the day but drops below it after sunset, the cooler nightime air can dilute heat gained during the day and build a reserve of cooling potential for the day to come.  Read NIST's Tech Beat story

NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership Delivers Results

Program Helps Create and Retain Jobs, Generating $32 in Sales for Every $1 Spent

Today’s release of the latest employment statistics from the Department of Labor—244,000 jobs added in April—makes you wonder, where did these jobs come from? While we know most jobs are created by the private sector, government agencies often do have a role in fostering this job creation.  The Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology has done just that. 

As a public-private partnership, MEP delivers a high return on its investments to American taxpayers. In 2009, MEP helped businesses create or retain 72,075 jobs, and for every one dollar of federal investment, generated $32 in new sales growth (PDF). This return on investment translates to $3.6 billion in new sales annually among MEP clients. And for every $1,570 in federal investment, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job. Such impressive results come from a survey of MEP clients by private marketing firm Turner Marketing, Inc.

How did MEP achieve such a large return on its investments?  First, a little history.  Congress established MEP in 1988 to help small- and mid-sized manufacturers increase growth, cut costs, and create innovative new products and services.  NIST, the federal partner in MEP, works with local and regional manufacturing experts across the United States to build a nationwide network of resources for America’s manufacturers.  Several dozen NIST staff leverage over 1,400 technical experts across the nation in every state, focused on solving manufacturers’ biggest challenges and identifying opportunities for growth.

Administration Launches National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

Panelists (Photo: Peter Cutts Photography)

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was joined today at by Chair of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling and White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard A. Schmidt to release the administration’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) – a White House initiative to improve online security, increase privacy and foster economic growth and innovation online. Hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the event included a panel discussion with industry leaders and privacy advocates, as well as demonstrations of innovative smart technologies being developed to improve online authentication. 

NSTIC is a key building block in the national effort to secure cyberspace. According to industry surveys, as many as eight million Americans are victims of online fraud and identity theft each year and lose an average of $631 out-of-pocket per incident. Through a private sector-led effort facilitated by the government, NSTIC aims to make online transactions more trustworthy and enhance consumers’ privacy, thereby giving businesses and consumers more confidence to conduct business online.  The webcast will be available on-demand at a later date.  |  White House press release and fact sheet

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

This blog post is about an older plan. The United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations at the end of FY 2013 is available here.

The current FY 2011 Continuing Resolution may expire without new budget authority. While it is not anticipated that there will be a lapse in appropriations, the Department must be prepared for a potential lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations.

Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations in the absence of appropriations (a "shutdown plan"). This plan will likely be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, as the situation develops, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant.

This plan complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce.

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NIST Cloud Computing Conference Covers Cloud’s Global View, Working Group Results

Kundra and Marcus, seated

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is holding the Cloud Computing Forum and Workshop III on April 7-8 at its Gaithersburg, Md., campus.  At this morning's keynote, the theme was “A Global View of Cloud Computing” and it featured a discussion between U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Alan Marcus, the Senior Director, Head of IT and Telecommunications Industries, World Economic Forum USA.

Kundra has called upon NIST to help accelerate the federal government’s adoption of secure cloud computing practices by leading efforts to develop standards and guidelines in collaboration with standards bodies, the private sector, other government agencies and other stakeholders.

Working groups that were formed during the NIST Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop II in November 2010 will provide progress reports on a range of cloud computing issues throughout the meeting.

NIST scientists are demonstrating Koala, a simulator of a cloud service model. They are using modeling and analysis methods developed to study complex systems to understand the behavior of a cloud during both normal and highly stressed operations. A panel on Friday, April 8, “Cloud Innovation: Math and Science,” will explore innovative uses of the cloud and how it can be leveraged in the scientific process.

Learn more about NIST’s cloud computing initiative.

NIST Breaks Ground on New Green Technology and Fire Safety Facilities

Government and industry officials break ground at NIST headquarters

New facilities showcase best in green technology and fire-safety funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has begun construction on three new facilities at its Gaithersburg, Md., campus that will help to advance green technology and fire safety building practices with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The National Fire Research Laboratory, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility, and structures supporting more than 2,500 new solar energy panels that will supply electricity to the NIST campus were unveiled at a ceremony with U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8), Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley, and other industry and government officials.

The National Fire Research Laboratory will be expanded to include a National Structural Fire Resistance Laboratory, a 21,400-square-foot space that will provide a unique capability for testing full-scale structural elements, subassemblies and systems under realistic fire conditions.

Resembling a typical suburban Maryland single-family home, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility will serve as a test bed for new home-scale energy technologies, showing that a residence can produce as much energy from renewable resources as it consumes over the course of a year.

NIST will also launch a new solar energy system as part of its commitment to implementing renewable energy sources. The Grid-Connected Photovoltaic System will feed directly into the existing electrical grid, generating more than 700 MWh of electricity annually – enough to power 67 homes – and offsetting a portion of NIST’s electrical power needs.

For more information on these state-of-the-art initiatives at the NIST campus, visit http://www.nist.gov/el/facilities-033011.cfm

Commerce Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank Visits Department Campuses in Boulder

Acting Deputy Blank shown on tour with mechanical equipment

Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Boulder, Colorado this week to visit some of the department’s state-of-the-art facilities run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Her four-hour tour included stops at the nation’s time standard, NIST's F-1 Cesium Fountain Clock; the quantum devices group where NIST scientists study and make volt standards, photon detectors and quantum computing chips; the temperature, humidity and vibration controlled Precision Measurement Lab, under construction at NIST and due to be completed in the spring of 2012; and NTIA's radio, video and audio labs at the Public Safety Communications research facility.

At NOAA, Blank saw demonstrations of a unique visualization tool, Science on a Sphere; toured the Space Weather Prediction Center and the National Weather Service’s Forecast Research Center; viewed a demonstration of the wind profiler model; and visited the Global Monitoring Division and the Environmental Data Archive.

The cutting-edge work that takes place at the department impacts the daily lives of the American people – from the accurate timekeeping ability of the Atomic Clock to high-tech weather forecasting capabilities to the continuous improvement of communications devices used by first responders. The scientists and researchers at NIST, NTIA and NOAA are leaders in research and development and help to keep the United States at the forefront of innovation and global leadership.

Working with the Private-Sector to Enhance Cybersecurity

Howard Schmidt, Philip Reitinger, Dr. Patrick Gallagher

NIST Director Patrick Gallagher joined White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt, Philip Reitinger of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Michael Kaiser of the National Cyber Security Alliance at the RSA Conference in San Francisco this week to discuss the need for increased public-private collaboration in cybersecurity

Engaging an audience of several hundred people, the panel highlighted the value of cybersecurity education and discussed ways to increase government-industry collaboration in the face of increasingly sophisticated threats in cyberspace.

Collaboration "is critical to winning the future," Schmidt said. "From everyday users to specialists who tackle our most challenging questions, the goal is to get everyone pulling in the same direction."

The panel also addressed a new Obama administration initiative to make the online environment more secure and convenient – the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. To be led by the private sector with coordination by the Commerce Department, the effort aims to develop voluntary identity credentials that limit the amount of personal information consumers must share online. Consumers could use the credential – a smart card, digital software certificate in their cell phone or other technology – to prove their identity for sensitive online transactions like banking or checking health care records. For surfing the Web, blogging, or other activities, they could remain anonymous.

"At NIST, just about every activity is done in conjunction with the private sector," Gallagher said. "It is the way we do business."

 

 

NIST Helps to Accelerate Federal Government Adoption of Cloud Computing

Department of Energy diagram of cloud computing

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued two new draft documents on cloud computing for public comment, including the first set of guidelines for managing security and privacy issues in cloud computing. The agency also has set up a new NIST Cloud Computing Collaboration website to enable two-way communication among the cloud community and the NIST cloud research working groups.

Cloud computing is a way for nearly anyone or any organization with access to the Internet to rent computer power for applications and data storage from cloud providers who run large computers. Working on a cloud feels the same to users, but the cloud provider performs the many management activities required to keep computers operating and secure.

U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra asked NIST to accelerate the federal government’s secure adoption of cloud computing by leading efforts to develop standards and guidelines in collaboration with standards organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders. The release of these new publications and the new website are part of NIST’s work to fulfill that mission.

The publications include The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, which documents years of NIST research on cloud computing, and Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud Computing, which provides an overview of the security and privacy challenges for public cloud computing and presents recommendations that organizations should consider when outsourcing data, applications and infrastructure to a public cloud environment.

The new Cloud Computing Collaboration website, developed to foster the cloud community’s collaboration on the federal government’s secure adoption of cloud computing, provides information about NIST’s cloud computing program and invites public participation on working groups that address a wide range of cloud computing topics.

To comment on these reports, contribute to the Wiki, or get additional information, visit http://www.nist.gov/itl/csd/cloud-020111.cfm