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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Free NIST Software Tool Boosts Detection of Software Bugs

Alternate TextResearchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have released an updated version of a computer system testing tool that can cut software development costs by more efficiently finding flaws.

Catching software “bugs” is traditionally difficult and time-consuming. About 50 percent of software development budgets go to testing, yet flaws in software still cost the U.S. economy $59.5 billion annually. In efforts to address this issue, NIST designed the Advanced Combinatorial Testing System (ACTS), a freely available software tool.

Fewer software flaws mean enhanced security for personal, government and corporate systems. Hackers often take advantage of software flaws to introduce malware including viruses and botnets to disrupt or take control of computer systems. Once inside a computer, attackers can access personal information or valuable company data.

The NIST Combinatorial Testing for Software is based on research by NIST and others and generates a plan for testing combinations of two to six variables that can interact and cause errors. While studying software crashes of medical device and Web browsers, researchers determined that between 70 and 95 percent of software failures are triggered by only two variables interacting, and practically 100 percent of software failures are triggered by no more than six. In one project, NIST could test all six-way combinations with only 522 tests instead of 17 billion, and find nearly 100 percent of the flaws.

Since the first version was released in 2008, it has been downloaded by 465 times by industry, academia, government and individuals.

For more information, visit http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/acts/index.html.  

NIST Hosts Second Cloud Computing Workshop, Urges Greater Government Use of Cloud Computing

NIST Director Pat Gallagher at Podium

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) kicked off the second Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop today at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md., providing a report on the agency’s efforts to collaboratively develop a Cloud Computing Roadmap among multiple federal and industrial stakeholders.  

NIST Director Patrick Gallagher and U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra opened the two-day workshop and told hundreds of industry and government attendees that they wanted the information technology community's help in developing a "roadmap for action" to increase government use of the cloud. Both stressed the need for open discussion and participation among all stakeholders in developing policies to address challenges like security requirements for cloud services. Cloud computing is not just a fad, Kundra said, but represents a fundamental shift in how chief information officers can provide cost-effective information technology services for their organizations.

NIST held the first Cloud Computing Workshop in May to initiate engagement with industry to accelerate the development of cloud standards for interoperability, portability and security; introduce NIST Cloud Computing efforts; and discuss the federal government's experience with cloud computing.

The Cloud Computing Forum & Workshop II continues through Friday. For more information, visit http://www.nist.gov/itl/cloud/cloudworkshopii.cfm.

NIST Study on Charleston Furniture Store Fire Calls for National Safety Improvements

NIST Official at Podium Discussing ReportA report released today by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on the June 18, 2007 fire at the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, S.C., calls for national safety improvements and provides 11 recommendations for enhancing building, occupant and firefighter safety. The Sofa Super Store fire trapped and killed nine firefighters, the highest number of firefighter fatalities in a single event since 9/11.

NIST experts traveled to Charleston to gather data within 36 hours of the Sofa Super Store fire. Along with building design documents, video and photographic images, and other records, the study team developed a computer model to simulate and analyze the characteristics of the fire. Based on their study, they were able to outline the major factors that contributed to the rapid spread of fire, which included large, open spaces with furniture providing high-fuel loads; the inward rush of air following the breaking of windows; and a lack of sprinklers.

Specific recommendations in the report call for national model building and fire codes to require sprinklers for all new commercial retail furniture stores regardless of size and for existing retail furniture stores with a display area larger than 2,000 square feet. Other recommendations include ensuring proper fire inspections and building plan examinations, and encouraging research for a better understanding of specific fire situations. Release

Secretary Locke Keynotes Annual GridWeek Conference

Secretary Locke at lecternSecretary of Commerce Gary Locke delivered the opening keynote address today at the 2010 GridWeek Conference at the Washington Convention Center. The annual conference brings together key leaders and stakeholders from the energy industry to explore the Smart Grid’s impact on the economy, utility infrastructure, consumers and the environment.

The 2010 Conference focused on international Smart Grid policies, programs, collaborations and standards-harmonization efforts. Locke discussed increased global cooperation among industry and government leaders on Smart Grid standards and highlighted U.S. industry leadership in advancing the harmonization and deployment of these standards. He also acknowledged the Commerce Department’s George Arnold, who won this year’s GridWeek International Award for his work in advancing international Smart Grid cooperation and standards. Arnold is the national coordinator for Smart Grid interoperability at Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

"If a Smart Grid is built here in the United States, it can help reduce power demand by more than 20 percent," Locke said in his remarks. "If Smart Grids are rolled out around the world, the reduction in global energy demand and the corresponding reduction in CO2 emissions will be transformative."

The Obama administration has allocated $11 billion in investments through the Recovery Act for Smart Grid technologies, transmission system expansion and upgrades, and other investments to modernize and enhance the electric transmission infrastructure.  Remarks

Commerce Department Awards $9.1 Million to Enhance the Global Competitiveness of U.S. Manufacturers

Image of MEP logoCommerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced $9.1 million in cooperative agreements through its Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) for 22 projects designed to enhance the productivity, technological performance and global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.  

Granted through competitive processes to nonprofit organizations, the funding will help encourage the creation and adoption of improved technologies and provide resources to develop new products that respond to changing market needs.

"A vibrant manufacturing sector drives American innovation and is central to our economic growth and global competitiveness," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. "With the right investments, we can continue to create highly valued manufacturing jobs building great products and sell them around the world."

The proposals selected represent a variety of compelling ideas for helping small and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers tackle a complex set of needs with cost-effective and innovative solutions.

For more details on the award recipients and the MEP program, visit http://www.nist.gov/mep/mep_100510.cfm.  Read more

Commerce Seeks Comment on Protecting Copyrighted Works on the Internet

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Internet Policy Task Force today issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comment from all interested stakeholders on the protection of copyrighted works online and the relationship between copyright law and innovation in the Internet economy. 

Considering the vital importance of the Internet in today’s society, the Department of Commerce has made it a top priority to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation.  The initiative on Copyright Policy, Creativity and Innovation in the Internet economy seeks to identify policies that will: 

  1. Generate benefits for rights holders of creative works accessible online and make recommendations with respect to those who infringe on those rights;
  2. Enable the robust and free flow of information to facilitate innovation and growth of the Internet economy; and
  3. Ensure transparency and due process in cooperative efforts to build confidence in the Internet as a means of distributing copyrighted works.

The comments gathered through this NOI will be used by the Internet Policy Task Force in preparing a report that will contribute to the administration’s domestic policy and international engagement in the area of online copyright protection.

NIST Awards $50 Million in Grants for Construction of Science Facilities

Artist rendering of new science facilityThe U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded a total of $50 million in grants to five institutions to support the construction of new scientific research facilities that will explore everything from nanometer-scale electronics and “green” buildings to microbe ecosystems in the oceans. The five projects receiving funding under the NIST Construction Grant Program (NCGP) will contribute to almost $133 million in new laboratory construction projects, according to grantees.

“Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “These construction grants will help the U.S. produce world-leading research in science and technology that will advance our economic growth and international competitiveness.”  Release  |  Read more on the Construction Program

NIST 'Vision Facility' Aims for Lighting Revolution

Women in fron of video screenLight-emitting diodes, or LEDs, have become popular with backpackers and cyclists who mount them on headbands for a reliable, hands-free source of illumination. Now, a new lab at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is helping to bring these tiny but brilliant devices into your home, to help save both energy costs and the environment.

“LEDs can be very energy efficient, and they are a lot smaller and last a lot longer than light bulbs,” says NIST vision scientist Wendy Davis. “They’re what we’ll likely use in the future to light our houses and public places.”

It’s a vision of illumination’s future. And to realize it, Davis, along with Yoshi Ohno and a team of physicists, created the NIST Spectrally Tunable Lighting Facility (STLF). Their main goal is to improve the quality of the light that LEDs produce, so that when you turn them on, home feels homey.  Read more  |  YouTube video

NIST Data: Enabling the Technical Basis for Evacuation Planning of High-Rise Buildings

Fireman in stairwellResearchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are stepping up the pace for designing safer building evacuations by releasing large, numerical data sets that track the movement of people on stairs during high-rise building evacuation drills. The data sets will ensure that architects, engineers, emergency planners and others involved in building design have a strong technical basis for safer, more cost-effective building evacuations.

“While stairs have been used in buildings for ages, there is little scientific understanding of how people use them,” explained NIST researcher Erica Kuligowski. “For example, we know little of how the width of the stair affects the flow rate, whether people grow fatigued as they descend from tall buildings, or how people merge into a crowded stairwell.”

Working with the Public Buildings Service at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), NIST researchers made video recordings of evacuation drills in stairwells at nine buildings ranging in height from six to 62 stories tall. The first data sets being released (available at www.nist.gov/bfrl/fire_research/building-occupant-evacuation.cfm) come from four of the buildings and include movement information on more than 3,000 people. Other evacuation data will be posted on the NIST Web site as it becomes available.  Read more

NIST to Frame 1297 Magna Carta

Image of historic Magna Carta, courtesy David M. Rubenstein and NARAFabrication specialists at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are joining forces with conservators at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to protect and display a document that influenced our nation’s foundation, the 1297 Magna Carta. Only four originals of the 1297 Magna Carta survive, and the one at the Archives is the only original on display in the United States.

The famous charter is on exhibit in the West Rotunda Gallery in the National Archives Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

The Magna Carta harkens back to 1215 when King John of England was forced by an assembly of barons to write down the traditional rights of the country’s free persons. By so doing, he bound himself and his heirs to grant “to all freemen of our kingdom” the rights and liberties described in the great charter, or Magna Carta. Each subsequent ruler did the same. The 1297 Magna Carta represents the transition from a brokered agreement to the foundation of English law, upon which U.S. law is based.  Read more  |  NARA release