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Tech Beat - February 18, 2015

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Editor: Michael Baum
Date created: June 23, 2010
Date Modified: February 18, 2015 
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New NIST Tools to Help Boost Wireless Channel Frequencies and Capacity

Smartphones and tablets are everywhere, which is great for communications but a growing burden on wireless channels. Forecasted huge increases in mobile data traffic call for exponentially more channel capacity. Boosting bandwidth and capacity could speed downloads, improve service quality, and enable new applications like the Internet of Things connecting a multitude of devices.

Kate Remley
To support wireless communications at higher frequencies offering more channel capacity, NIST engineer Kate Remley led development of this new 94 gigahertz calibrated signal source for testing receivers and other devices.
Credit: NIST
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16-antenna array
NIST researchers developed this directional 16-antenna array to support modeling of wireless communications channels at 83 gigahertz.
Credit: NIST
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To help solve the wireless crowding conundrum and support the next generation of mobile technology—5G cellular—researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are developing measurement tools for channels that are new for mobile communications and that could offer more than 1,000 times the bandwidth of today’s cell phone systems.

Like pioneers who found land by going west, telecom researchers can find open spectrum by going up—to higher frequencies. Mobile devices such as cell phones, consumer WiFi devices and public safety radios mostly operate below 3 gigahertz (GHz) (see infographic). But some devices are starting to use fast silicon-germanium radio chips operating at millimeter (mm) wavelengths above 10 GHz. Researchers at NIST and elsewhere are eyeing channels up to 100 GHz and even beyond.

The metrology infrastructure for telecommunications at these frequencies is incomplete. NIST’s challenge is to develop tools and test methods that are far more precise than today’s versions to optimize device performance. Because high-speed digital circuits can easily distort mm wave signals, even tiny errors can result in erroneous bits of information. In addition, mm waves don’t travel around corners as well as lower frequency waves, so channel models will be complex.

Possible solutions include development of complex antenna arrays that may provide novel capabilities such as beam steering—the capability to transmit in many different directions to point the beam directly at the receiving device, and even track mobile devices. This would strengthen signals and cause less interference to neighboring devices.

“We want to provide U.S. industry with the precision measurement methods needed to develop innovative millimeter-wave wireless technologies and associated standards,” NIST project coordinator Kate Remley says. “This work can advance the state of the art in telecommunications and help meet the expected increases in demand for wireless capacity.”

So far, Remley and her colleagues have developed a calibrated, modulated signal source to test mm wave instruments such as receivers* and “channel sounders” to support modeling of mm wave communications channels in indoor and outdoor environments. Other NIST researchers have demonstrated a new probe for making the first calibrated measurements of electric fields above 100 GHz** and a new facility for characterizing antennas operating above 100 GHz.***

The new calibrated signal source, demonstrated at 44 GHz and 94 GHz, enables measurements of modulated signals to be traced to fundamental physical quantities. The source is based on commercial parts so that companies and other users can easily put together their own systems. The mobile channel sounder, demonstrated at 83 GHz so far, provides calibrated received signal strength and additional data for analysis of signal scattering and reflections, to help researchers develop network protocols that account for distortions.

As part of the same project, NIST researchers are also developing a millimeter-wave instrument to measure the nonlinear characteristics of the transistors and amplifiers that will be used in mm wave receivers, transmitters and other devices.

All of this research is being done in NIST’s new Communications Technology Laboratory. The signal source was funded in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

wireless communications infographic

Click on image for full-size version.
Credit: Irvine/NIST
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*K.A. Remley, D.F. Williams, P.D. Hale, C.-M. Wang, J.A. Jargon and Y. Park. Measurement uncertainty in error vector magnitude at millimeter-wave frequencies. IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques. Forthcoming.
**See 2014 NIST Tech Beat article, “NIST Quantum Probe Enhances Electric Field Measurements,” at www.nist.gov/ctl/20141007_efield_meter.cfm.
***See J.A. Gordon, D.R. Novotny, M. Francis, R. Wittmann, M. Butler and J. R. Guerrieri,. “The CROMMA Facility at NIST Boulder: A Unified Coordinated Metrology Space for Millimeter-Wave Antenna Characterization”; and D.R. Novotny, J.R. Guerrieri and J.A. Gordon, “Antenna Alignment and Positional Validation of a mm Wave Antenna System Using 6D Coordinate Metrology.” Both papers were presented at the Antenna Measurement Techniques Association Conference, Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 13-17, 2014.

Media Contact: Laura Ost, laura.ost@nist.gov, 303-497-4880

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NIST Shows Crystal Pattern Mapping Can Recover Obliterated Serial Numbers in Metals

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have demonstrated a technique for mapping deformation in metals that can recover destroyed serial numbers on metal objects such as firearms, a common challenge in forensics.

firearm comoposite
For an experiment to recover serial numbers that have been destroyed, NIST researchers hand-stamped X imprints into stainless steel (first image) to simulate a firearm serial number. Then they polished away the imprints (second image, scale bar in millimeters). Researchers recovered the imprints (third image) by combining pattern quality maps, calculated by software, which reveal crystal damage and deformation in the steel.
Credit: White/NIST
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The technique might also meet other forensic needs such as reconstructing vehicle identification numbers or imprints on ammunition casings, the researchers suggest.

Law enforcement agencies use serial numbers to track ownership of firearms and build criminal cases. But serial numbers can be removed by scratching, grinding or other methods. Analysts typically try to restore the numbers with acid or electrolytic etching or polishing, because deformed areas behave differently from undamaged material. But these methods don’t always work.

As a possible alternative, NIST researchers used a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to read, in the crystal structure pattern, imprints on steel that had been removed by polishing. In EBSD, a scanning electron microscope scans a beam of electrons over the surface of a crystalline material such as a metal. The electrons strike atoms in the target and bounce back. Because the atoms are arranged in a regular pattern, the scattered electrons interact and form patterns that reveal the crystal’s structure on a scale down to tens of nanometers. The more perfect the crystal structure, the stronger and clearer the pattern. Software can then calculate the pattern quality to reveal crystal damage; areas with more damage produce lower quality patterns.

In the NIST experiments, described in Forensic Science International,* researchers hammered the letter “X” into a polished stainless steel plate. The letter stamps were as deep as 140 micrometers, meeting federal regulations for firearm serial numbers. The researchers then polished the metal again to remove all visible traces of the letters, and collected the EBSD diffraction patterns and pattern quality data and analyzed them for evidence of the imprints.

Ordinary SEM imaging methods revealed very faint outlines of the X stamps in the metal grains. However, pattern quality mapping more clearly revealed the outlines of the Xs, and according to the team, would probably be acceptable for submission as forensic evidence. The latter technique is significantly more sensitive to small amounts of crystal lattice damage.

The technique is still experimental, but shows some promise. The NIST team found evidence of metal deformation down to about 760 micrometers below the surface, much deeper than the actual X stamps. Even so, the researchers say it’s not clear whether EBSD pattern quality mapping is more sensitive and/or more effective than conventional techniques for reconstructing serial numbers, or whether EBSD will work in cases of the most extreme destruction. Experimental comparison of the new technique to traditional techniques is under way.

Currently, the NIST method is time-consuming: A technician would need three full days to reconstruct an 8-character number. With further development and optimization, such as making pixel sizes larger in the images, recovery time probably could be reduced to about an hour, according to the researchers. The researchers suggest that wide adoption of this technology might enable manufacturers to place “hidden” sub-surface serial numbers on firearms—numbers that would be invisible to criminals but clearly detectable by law enforcement with this new analysis method.

The idea of using EBSD to recover firearm serial numbers was first proposed at a conference several years ago by Carl Necker of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

*R.M. White and R.R. Keller. Restoration of firearm serial numbers using electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD). Forensic Science International. In press accepted manuscript. Published online Feb. 9, 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.02.003.

Media Contact: Laura Ost, laura.ost@nist.gov, 303-497-4880

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Vendors Sought to Develop Model System to Monitor Security of Energy Industry Networked Control Systems

The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) is seeking collaborators on an effort to help energy companies improve the security of the networked technologies they rely upon to control the generation, transmission and distribution of power. Participants would provide products and technical expertise to create a model, standards-based system that could capture, transmit and analyze data from industrial control systems and related networking equipment—in real or near-real time.

power lines
The National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence is inviting participation in a project to help energy companies improve the security of the networked technologies they rely upon to control the generation, transmission and distribution of power.
Credit: Shutterstock ©xuanhuongho

The NCCoE is a partnership of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the State of Maryland and Maryland's Montgomery County, dedicated to furthering rapid adoption of practical, standards-based cybersecurity solutions for business and public organizations using commercially available technologies. This project is one of two current center efforts focused on the energy sector.

While there are a number of useful products on the market for monitoring enterprise networks for possible security events, they tend to be imperfect fits for the unusual requirements of control system networks. A network monitoring solution that is tailored to the needs of control systems would reduce security blind spots.

Details of the challenge are laid out in an NCCoE “use case” that defines specific function requirements of the desired system. The center invited public comment on a draft version of the use case in 2013 and used that input to develop the final version.

Participating technology vendors will provide commercially available products to serve as modules in an end-to-end sample solution. NIST will not endorse particular products, but will use them as references that provide certain capabilities and conform to existing standards. To adopt this situational awareness system, energy companies can use similar products with the same capabilities.

The project also will result in a freely available NIST practice guide that includes a materials list and instructions for implementing the reference design. The NCCoE will seek the public's feedback on reference designs, and improve them accordingly.

Companies interested in participating in the reference design project must submit a letter of interest in which they outline their proposed contribution. Full details of this process are published in a Federal Register notice (docket number 141231999-4999-01) at https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-01844. Those selected to participate will enter into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with NIST.

To learn more about the NCCoE and how to collaborate on its projects, visit http://nccoe.nist.gov.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

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NIST Releases Update of Industrial Control Systems Security Guide for Final Public Review

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued proposed updates to its Guide to Industrial Control Systems (ICS) Security (NIST Special Publication 800-82) for final public review and comment.

refinery
Credit: Shutterstock ©Christian Lagerek

The final draft includes revisions and additions responding to comments that NIST received from about 30 organizations during the initial comment review period. Comments on the latest—and final—review draft are due before March 10, 2015.

Downloaded more than 3 million times since its initial release in 2006, the ICS security guide advises on how to reduce the vulnerability of computer-controlled industrial systems to malicious attacks, equipment failures, errors, inadequate malware protection and other threats. Industrial control systems encompass the hardware and software that control equipment and the information technologies that gather and process data. They are commonly used in factories and by public utilities and other owners and operators of major infrastructure.

Most industrial control systems began as proprietary, stand-alone collections of hardware and software that were walled off from the rest of the world and isolated from most external threats. Today, widely available software applications, Internet-enabled devices and other nonproprietary IT offerings have been integrated into most such systems. This connectivity has delivered many benefits, but it also has increased the vulnerability of these systems. Cybersecurity threats to ICS can pose significant risks to human health and safety, the environment, and business and government operations.

The current draft—the second revision of the guide—includes updates to sections on ICS threats and vulnerabilities, risk management, recommended practices, security architectures, and security capabilities and tools for ICS.

Due to their unique performance, reliability, and safety requirements, ICS cybersecurity often requires adaptations and extensions to NIST-developed security standards and guidelines for traditional IT systems.

A significant addition to the draft is a new appendix offering tailored guidance on how to adapt and apply security controls and control enhancements detailed in the 2013 comprehensive update of Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations (NIST SP 800-53, revision 4) to ICS. SP 800-53 contains a catalog of security controls that can be tailored for specific needs according to an organization's mission, operational environment, and the technologies used.

The new draft of the ICS security guideincludes an overlay that adapts and refines that baseline to address the specialized security needs of utilities, chemical companies, food manufacturers, automakers and other users of ICS.

NIST SP 800-82, Guide to Industrial Control System (ICS) Security, Revision 2 Final Public Draft can be downloaded from the NIST Computer Security Resource Center at: http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsDrafts.html#SP-800-82-Rev.2.

The public comment period runs from February 9 through March 9, 2015. Comments may be submitted by mail to: National Institute of Standards and Technology; Attn: Computer Security Division, Information Technology Laboratory; 100 Bureau Drive, Mail Stop 8930, Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8930; or by email to: nist800-82rev2comments@nist.gov

*K. Stouffer, S. Lightman, V. Pillitteri, M. Abrams and A. Hahn, Guide to Industrial Control System (ICS) Security, Revision 2 Final Public Draft (NIST SP 800-82), February 2015.

Media Contact: Mark Bello, mark.bello@nist.gov, 301-975-3776

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Seeking Excellence? All Roads Lead to 2015 Quest Conference in April

Look up the origin of the word “quest” and you’ll find it comes from a Latin verb to “seek or ask.” For organizations seeking insight toward improved performance and results, there’s no better place to “seek and ask” about successful strategies and best practices than the Quest for Excellence® conference. Registration is now open for the 27th annual conference, April 12-15, 2015, in Baltimore, Md., that will feature insight from current and past winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—the nation's highest honor for performance excellence and innovation.

Geoff Colvin and Katherine Gottlieb
Keynote speakers at the 27th annual Quest for Excellence® conference this April will be Geoff Colvin (left), senior editor-at-large for Fortune magazine and noted radio/TV commentator on leadership, management and other Baldrige-related issues; and Katherine Gottlieb (right), president and CEO of Southcentral Foundation, a 2011 recipient of the Baldrige Award in health care, and an organization that supports more than 80 health care programs and care services across nearly 300 square kilometers of southcentral Alaska.
Credit: Geoff Colvin.com and Southcentral Foundation
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The conference includes an invitation for registrants to attend a ceremony and reception on Sunday evening, April 12, honoring the 2014 recipients of the Baldrige Award:

  • In the service category, PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector Practice (McLean, Va.);
  • In the health care category, Hill Country Memorial (Fredericksburg, Texas) and St. David’s HealthCare (Austin, Texas); and
  • In the nonprofit category, Elevations Credit Union (Boulder, Colo.).

Additionally, registrants have the option to participate on Sunday, April 12, in pre-conference workshops (for beginner and intermediate users of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence) during the day.

This year's Quest will feature in-depth plenary sessions featuring the senior executives of the 2014 recipients, and numerous concurrent sessions, including:

Presentations by each of the 2014 recipients on their successful use of the seven categories of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, including leadership, strategic planning, customer focus and other areas critical to organizational performance; and presentations featuring the strategies, best practices and insights of 18 past Baldrige Award recipients in the categories of manufacturing, service, small business, education, health care and nonprofit.

The Quest for Excellence conference will be highlighted by two keynote addresses. The first, on Tuesday, April 14, will be given by Katherine Gottlieb, president and chief executive officer of Southcentral Foundation (SCF) in Anchorage, Alaska, a 2011 recipient of the Baldrige Award in the health care category. An innovative and visionary leader, Gottlieb has helped transform health for the Alaska Native community. At SCF, she leads 1,800 employees in a complex health care delivery system that supports more than 80 programs and serves a geographical area stretching some 277,000 square kilometers (107,000 square miles) across Southcentral Alaska. In 2004, Gottlieb was recognized with a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (also known as the “Genius Award”) for demonstrating “that high-quality health care and effective preventive services are possible, even in communities facing obstacles of poverty and geographic isolation.”

At the Quest for Excellence conference, Gottlieb will be honored with the 2015 Harry S. Hertz Leadership Award from the Baldrige Foundation. Named after the Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the award recognizes individuals who demonstrate exemplary behaviors consistent with Baldrige core values.

The second keynote, on Wednesday, April 15, will feature Geoff Colvin, senior editor-at-large for Fortune magazine and author of Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else. In his fourth decade at Fortune, Colvin is one of journalism’s sharpest and most respected commentators on leadership, management, globalization, regulation, corporate governance, competition, the economy, the infotech revolution, human performance and related issues. Colvin’s regular column and frequent cover stories in Fortune have earned him millions of loyal readers. He was co-anchor of television’s “Wall $treet Week with Fortune” on PBS for three years, succeeding longtime host Louis Rukeyser. Colvin is heard each weekend on the CBS Radio Network, where he has made more than 10,000 broadcasts and reaches seven million listeners. He has appeared on “Today,” “The O’Reilly Factor,” “Good Morning America,” “Squawk Box,” “CBS This Morning,” “ABC’s World News Tonight,” CNN, PBS’s “Nightly Business Report” and dozens of other programs.

Sign up for the Quest for Excellence conference by March 16, 2015, for a discounted registration fee. The registration site is www.nist.gov/baldrige/qe.

For more about the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, call (301) 975-2036 or e-mail baldrige@nist.gov.

Media Contact: Michael E. Newman, michael.newman@nist.gov, 301-975-3025

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NIST Announces Pilot Grants Competition to Improve Security and Privacy of Online Identity Verification Systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is launching a competition for a fourth round of grants to pilot online identity verification systems that help improve the privacy, security and convenience of online transactions. The pilot grants support the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), a White House initiative launched in 2011. NSTIC's goal is to improve trust online through the creation of a vibrant "Identity Ecosystem," in which individuals and organizations are able to better trust one another because they follow agreed-upon standards and processes for secure, privacy-enhancing and interoperable identity solutions online.

NIST anticipates funding several grants, with awards of approximately $1 million to $2 million per year, per project, for up to two years. NIST is seeking to fund pilots that advance the Identity Ecosystem inline with the NSTIC's guiding principles: that identity solutions be privacy-enhancing and voluntary, secure and resilient, interoperable, cost-effective and easy-to-use.

NIST will fund projects that are intended to demonstrate or deploy new solutions, models and frameworks that either do not exist or are not widely adopted in the marketplace today. The projects could address the needs of individuals, private-sector organizations and all levels of government. Pilot projects that maximize their contribution to the development of the broader Identity Ecosystem Framework through public forums such as the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) are encouraged.

Accredited institutions of higher education; nonprofit organizations; commercial organizations; and state, local, and Indian tribal governments located in the United States and its territories are eligible to apply. While the applicant must be located in the United States, it may have a parent organization in another country.

NIST will hold an applicants' conference to provide general information regarding NSTIC, to offer general guidance on preparing applications and to answer questions. The date and time of the conference will be announced on the NSTIC website.

Applying for a pilot grant is a two-step process. The Federal Funding Opportunity, 2015-NIST-NSTIC-01, describes the format for an abbreviated application, which must be received through www.grants.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Once the abbreviated applications are reviewed, full applications will be requested from qualifying organizations. NIST expects to finalize the grant awards by September 2015. See the FFO at www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=273968.

Past grantees are improving online identity for students, parents, patients, seniors, veterans, online shoppers and a variety of other groups. They are helping veterans access their medical records online and receive retail discounts; allowing citizens to access state benefits online; and helping seniors enroll and securely access personal health records.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

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NIST Advisory Committee Welcomes New Member

Michael Garvey, president and CEO of M-7 Technologies, an engineering, manufacturing and research organization, has joined the primary advisory committee for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May appointed Garvey to the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) for a three-year term.

Michael Garvey
Michael Garvey
Credit: Courtesy of Youngstown State University

M-7 Technologies, located in Youngstown, Ohio, is a founding and governing board member of America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute established in 2012 to serve as a pilot for a National Network of Manufacturing Institutes.

Garvey began his career with the Wall Street firm of Wagner, Stott and Co., trading equities on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. In 1985, he returned to Ohio to help his ailing father rebuild the family’s manufacturing business.

Since his return to Ohio, Garvey has worked in the U.S. defense, transportation, energy and industrial markets, teaming with technology partners from around the globe. For the past 15 years, he and his company have focused their efforts on equipping the small and mid-sized enterprise manufacturing workforce with 21st century digital capabilities.

Garvey is a former examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a member of the local Workforce Investment Board, and a former member of the Governor’s State Workforce Policy Board. He is a former board member of the Northeastern Ohio Technology Council, a current executive board member of the Youngstown Business Incubator, and a member of the Youngstown State University College of STEM Advisory Committee. In 2010, M-7 Technologies was recognized by the state of Ohio as the Ohio Employer of the Year. Garvey is a graduate of Michigan State University.

Garvey is attending his first VCAT meeting Feb. 4 and 5, 2015, on NIST’s Gaithersburg campus. To learn more about the committee, visit www.nist.gov/director/vcat/.

Media Contact: Jennifer Huergo, jennifer.huergo@nist.gov, 301-975-6343

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