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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

22 Ways the Department Of Commerce Is Supporting and Fostering American Innovation

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In an increasingly competitive world, the United States must invest in its best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so that they innovate here, make things here, and create good paying, high quality jobs for middle class families. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus are supporting and fostering innovation at all stages of product development, from original research through to final manufactured goods.

Commerce’s Economic Development Agency has launched two grant challenges, the i6 Challenge and the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, to move ideas from the lab and shop floor to the marketplace at an accelerated rate. Supporting this work is the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network, a web-based tool to help economic development professionals promote entrepreneurship, business development, and technology commercialization in their region.

In April 2010, the Commerce Department launched the Internet Policy Task Force to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation. In doing so, it has produced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, made important steps forward for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, started a conversation about privacy concerns within mobile apps, and worked to combat Botnets that threaten internet security. To ensure continued Internet security, Commerce has opened a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

NIST Kicks Off New National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved

Guest blog post by Donna Dodson, Chief, Computer Security Division and Acting Director, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, National Institute of Standards and Technology

This week, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a workshop to kick off the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), a new public-private collaboration that will bring together experts from industry, government and academia to design, implement, test and demonstrate integrated cybersecurity solutions and promote their widespread adoption.

IT is central to financial, communications, healthcare and physical infrastructures and even entertainment systems. It is also under constant attack by cybercriminals looking to steal business data, personal information and devices, or disrupt private and government business with malicious code, denial of service and Web-based attacks.

We were excited to bring together representatives from various industry sectors (health, utility, financial, and more), along with those from government agencies, academia and other organizations to learn how the center will operate and how the public can participate. In the photo here, NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved.

The NCCoE will provide a state-of-the-art computing facility where researchers from NIST can work collaboratively with both the users and vendors of products and services on holistic cybersecurity approaches. NIST is hosting the center in collaboration with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md.

By providing a test bed where new ideas and technologies can be tried out before being deployed, the center provides the opportunity to thoroughly document and share each solution, supporting specific industry sector business challenges. This will encourage the rapid adoption of comprehensive cybersecurity templates and approaches that support automated and trustworthy e-government and e-commerce.

NIST Goes the Distance for the Olympics

NIST technician Christopher Blackburn uses a microscope to precisely align a retroreflector over the center of a hash mark on a measuring tape. Photo credit: Bruce Borchardt

In yet another Olympian feat of measurement, researchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently calibrated a tape that will be used to measure out the distance of this summer's Olympic marathon—a distance of 26 miles 385 yards—to 1 part in 1,000.

Measurement is a vital aspect of the Olympic Games. Officials measure the height of jumps, the speed of races, and the mass of weights to determine who wins a medal and who goes home. The marathon is no different. Because of the difficulties in measuring out the distance, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) only recognized best times and didn't begin awarding world records for marathons until 2004 when a method using a device called a Jones Counter was officially recognized as sufficiently accurate.

Developed by a father-son duo in the early 1970s, the Jones Counter is a simple geared device that counts the revolutions of a bicycle wheel. To calibrate the device, course measurers lay out a calibrated measuring tape at least 30 meters in length. Once they have determined the number of revolutions that equal that distance—and a couple of successively longer distances—they follow painstaking procedures for laying out the rest of the course. The measurements, which can take hours to complete, will ensure that the shortest distance a runner will run will be at least the required distance and no more than about 40 meters over, corresponding to an error of about one part in 1,000.  Full story

NIST: Creating Jobs with Innovation

Image: NIST Under Secretary and Director Patrick Gallagher tours Omega Plastics

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

We’ve been hearing a lot about manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, these days. Things like U.S. manufacturing :

  • Is critical to innovation since it’s responsible for most of our private sector research and development;
  • Is increasingly about sophisticated computer-driven, highly productive worksites requiring skilled workers; and
  • Is a growing source of good jobs.

What we don’t hear about as often are specific cases where U.S. manufacturers are using new technologies to diversify their markets, improve their products, and create or retain jobs. I was fortunate today to visit one such company, Omega Plastics Inc., located in Clinton Township, MI, about an hour outside Detroit.

The event was part of a “Best Practice Tour” sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), an affiliate of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

NIST Effort Could Improve High-Tech Medical Scanners

Microarrayer machines (A) now can mix colors and deposit them on microscope slides, which can be used to calibrate hyperspectral imagers (HSI) for use in medical applications. The finished slides can be custom-colored (B) to calibrate HSIs to find specific types of tumors or disease tissue. Close up, they resemble dot-matrix printwork (C). Photo: Clark/NIST

A powerful color-based imaging technique is making the jump from remote sensing to the operating room—and a team of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken steps to ensure it performs as well when discerning oxygen-depleted tissues and cancer cells in the body as it does with oil spills in the ocean.

The technique, called hyperspectral imaging (HSI), has frequently been used in satellites because of its superior ability to identify objects by color. While many other visual surveying methods can scan only for a single color, HSI is able to distinguish the full color spectrum in each pixel, which allows it to perceive the unique color "signatures" of individual objects. Well-calibrated HSI sensors have been able to discern problems from diseases in coral reefs to pollution in the atmosphere as determined by the distinct spectral signature at a location.  NIST Tech Beat item

Nationwide Adoption of NIST-Developed Test Predicted to Cut Death Toll Due to Cigarette-Caused Fires

Examples of results of the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) are shown. Non-filter (top) and filter (left) cigarettes "failed," having burned the full length in the test. The cigarette that extinguished before burning its full length (right) passed. The test calls for performing 40 such determinations for each cigarette and reporting the number of full-length burns. Cigarettes are positioned on the standard ASTM E2187 test substrate.

In 2003, New York became the first state requiring cigarettes sold within its borders to pass a fire safety standard based on a test developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to reduce the risk of igniting upholstered furniture and bedding, a major cause of residential fires.

Last year, when Wyoming enacted a law similar to New York’s, a milestone with lifesaving consequences was achieved: all 50 states had made the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) a regulatory requirement.

A new study projects that, with nationwide adoption, deaths due to fires ignited by cigarettes or other tobacco products will drop 30 percent below the total number of such fatalities in 2003, the last full year before the ASTM E2187 was first implemented in a state. The projected decrease translates into about 200 lives saved annually.  More from NIST

NIST: Improving Safety Measures and Measures of Safety for World Metrology Day 2012

NIST engineer Kate Remley holds two Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices with wireless alarm capability (Photo copyright Paul Trantow/Altitude Arts)

Sunday, May 20, was World Metrology Day, a celebration of the signing of the Treaty of the Meter on that date in 1875. By signing the treaty, representatives from 17 nations, including the United States, recognized the importance of worldwide uniformity of measurements and established a collaborative global framework for the advancement of measurement science. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Metrology for Safety.”

Measurement plays a key role in ensuring that products—e.g., cars, paints, food and medicines—and processes such as medical procedures, are safe. As the U.S. national metrology institute, the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) creates standard reference materials, improves measurement tools, develops performance metrics and advances metrology so that the nation has the best safety measures and measures of safety.

Deputy Secretary Blank Advocates Public Service in Commencement Speech

Guest blog post by Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca M. Blank

This morning, I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to graduate students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) commencement ceremony.

I was also deeply honored to receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree during the ceremony for my work as a public servant, including the leadership I provided in my previous job at Commerce, overseeing the nation’s premier statistical agencies, the Census Bureau (during the 2010 Census) and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The commencement speech provided an opportunity to give advice to the graduate students and to encourage them to use their expertise and experience to find solutions to the pressing problems facing our world. UMBC is particularly well-known for its scientific training. Science, technology, engineering and math–STEM fields–are particularly important, and it is STEM-related research that will drive innovation in the years ahead. In fact, STEM jobs have grown three times faster than other jobs, indicating the need for more workers with these skills.

Deputy Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks on Manufacturing at the Aspen Institute

Deputy Secretary Blank delivers remarks at the Aspen Institute (Photo: Steve Johnson, Aspen Institute)

This morning, Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered the keynote address at “Manufacturing, Innovation, and Workforce Training: What Works In Germany and The United States For Jobs and Growth,” a conference co-sponsored by the Aspen Institute, the German Center for Research and Innovation, the German Embassy, and the Representative of German Industry and Trade. Her remarks come the week before Commerce Secretary John Bryson travels to Dusseldorf and Berlin to meet with government and business leaders.

Deputy Secretary Blank noted how both America and Germany have shown strength in areas such as manufacturing and exporting. She emphasized the importance of maintaining economic growth by strengthening the U.S.-German economic relationship.

Secretary Bryson Discusses the Future of U.S. Manufacturing at MIT

Secretary Bryson Discusses the Future of U.S. Manufacturing at MIT

There is a powerful link between America’s ability to make things and America’s ability to innovate, compete, and create good jobs, as Secretary John Bryson said today when he spoke to CEOs, students and faculty at “The Future of Manufacturing in the U.S.” conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Secretary took the opportunity to discuss the importance of manufacturing in boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports, as part of the administration's ongoing efforts to encourage companies to build things in America and sell everywhere around the globe.

Bryson also released a new U.S. Commerce Department Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) report titled “The Benefits of Manufacturing Jobs,” an analysis of wages and benefits of manufacturing workers, which provides fresh evidence that manufacturing jobs encourage innovation and support economic security for America’s middle class. The report finds that total hourly compensation for manufacturing workers is 17 percent higher than for non-manufacturing workers. It also shows that manufacturing jobs are becoming more skilled and heavily reliant on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and that manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of our private sector R&D, 90 percent of our patents, and 60 percent of our exports.

After a decade in which the United States lost many manufacturing jobs, American manufacturers have added back 489,000 jobs since January 2010—the best streak since 1995. In the first four months of 2012 alone, the U.S. manufacturing sector added 139,000 jobs. At the same time, the number of job openings in manufacturing has more than doubled.