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System ‘Sees’ Crimes on Audiotape
real-time magnetic imaging system that enables criminal investigators
to “see” signs of tampering in audiotapes—erasing,
overdubbing and other alterations—while listening
to the tapes has been developed by researchers at
the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST). The new system, which permits
faster screening and more accurate audiotape analysis
possible, was recently delivered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) and will be evaluated for its possible routine
FBI’s Forensic Audio
Analysis Unit receives hundreds of audiotapes annually
for analysis. Representing evidence
from crimes such as terrorism, homicide and fraud, these
tapes come from a wide variety of devices, including answering
cassette recorders and digital audiotape recorders.
the heart of the NIST technology is a cassette player modified
with an array of 64 customized magnetic sensors
and maps the microscopic magnetic fields on audiotapes
they are played. The array is connected to a desktop computer
to convert the magnetic data into a displayable image.
Authentic, original tapes produce images with non-interrupted,
patterns, while erase and record functions produce characteristic “smudges” in
an image that correlate to “pops” and “thumps” in
the audio signal.
examiner can also use the new system to help determine
the authenticity of a tape or if that
tape is a copy.
are the first to implement real-time magnetic imaging of
audiotapes, and now, users can listen to the tape at
the same time,” says project leader David Pappas of NIST’s
Boulder, Colo., laboratories.
second-generation audiotape imaging system is under development,
which is expected to provide ultrahigh
of 1,600 dots per inch. That system will use 256
microscale sensors designed
more information, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/tape_analysis.htm.
Software Judges Quality of Scanned Fingerprints
improved suite of automated fingerprint analysis tools,
including a new software program that judges the quality
of a scanned fingerprint, is now available to U.S. law
enforcement agencies, manufacturers and biometrics researchers
from the National Institute of Standards and Technology
on a CD-ROM,* the software can be used to help ensure
that images collected with digital fingerprint
criminal suspects, employees, visa applicants or others
will be high enough quality to produce good matches with
already on file. Ideally, a fingerprint image will have
clear and distinct ridges and valleys. But problems,
skin, the size of the person’s fingers, or equipment
issues such as dirty or damaged sensor plates, can result
in poor images that could produce inaccurate matches.
NIST software assigns a scanned fingerprint with a quality
level ranging from 1 for a high-quality print to
5 for an
unusable print. Poor quality images then can
be rescanned if necessary. Although most commercial fingerprint
already include proprietary image quality software, the
availability of the NIST software will for the first
time allow users
to directly compare the fingerprint image quality produced
by scanners made by different manufacturers.
CD also includes improved software for matching fingerprints,
pattern classification, minutiae detection, fingerprint
encoding and decoding, and segmenting four-finger “slaps” into
individual prints. Funding for the project was provided
by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department
more information on NIST’s fingerprint matching
research program, see http://fingerprint.nist.gov.
obtain a free copy of the CD, “NIST Fingerprint
Image Software -- Version 2,” law enforcement agencies,
biometrics researchers or manufacturers of fingerprint scanning
equipment should contact Craig Watson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CD is subject to export controls.
WTC Investigators Release Latest Research Findings
latest findings from National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) researchers on their building and fire
safety investigation into the Sept. 11 World Trade Center
(WTC) disaster were released on Oct. 19. The findings still
may be revised and additional findings still may be included
in the team’s final report, scheduled for release as
a draft document for public comment in December 2004 or January
2005. NIST is not making any recommendations at this time.
All recommendations will be made in the final report.
findings not previously reported by the WTC investigation
in the time that the two towers stood following impact
1 fell in 103 minutes; WTC 2 in 56 minutes) were attributable
primarily to asymmetrical structural damage caused by
to WTC 2 and the faster progression of fire in WTC 2 that
weakened critical structural columns.
towers withstood the initial aircraft impacts and they
would have remained
if not for the
dislodged by debris from the aircraft impacts
on the towers left
key structural elements
to heat from the subsequent
evacuations from the towers revealed significant challenges
occupants and first responders,
in the areas of communication,
in the stairwells and egress
of mobility-impaired persons.
The NIST WTC investigation’s
goal is to recommend improvements in the way people design, construct,
maintain and use buildings, especially high-rises.
of the latest findings from the NIST WTC investigation, as
well as the complete leading collapse hypotheses for each
of the WTC towers, may be found at http://wtc.nist.gov.
E. Newman, email@example.com,
Releases House Repair Planning, Budgeting Software
repair decision-making just became easier. Researchers
at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
have created “Maintenance Planner,” a software
program for planning and budgeting home repairs and replacements.
Planner enables a homeowner to plan for future repair and
replacement of windows, roofing, siding and garage
doors. Necessary maintenance tasks are represented by icons
displayed on a graphical schedule. Homeowners can view and
change the timing, cost and material for any task by clicking
on the task icon.
Planner also helps homeowners make budgeting decisions.
Homeowners select whether to
finance or save for
Printed reports show the savings or financing schedule.
Planner is a third tool in a software “toolbox” package
called NEST (for National Economic Service-life Tools).*
It complements the NEST Builder and NEST Durability Doctor
NEST Builder enables a homeowner to specify house type
and size, and to choose the materials used for windows,
and garage doors. Photos of each material are displayed
as icons that, when clicked, are depicted on the home.
Doctor helps homeowners decide which building material
is optimal for their home by combining cost and service
to estimate the installation and maintenance cost, as
well as the monthly financing cost, of each alternative
developed NEST with funds from the Partnership for Advancing
Technology in Housing (PATH), a government-industry initiative
led by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to modernize
the housing industry. NEST is on-line at http://www.pathnet.org/sp.asp?id=9710.
Blair, firstname.lastname@example.org, (301)
more information on NEST, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/techbeat/tb2003_1010.htm.
Helps Capital Facilities Industry Join Information
capital facilities industry, which includes everything
from power plants to commercial buildings, engineering,
construction and management firms to all kinds
of suppliers, has been slow to harness information
technology for the design, procurement, installation
and maintenance of equipment. Too often industry
partners have unique software systems and cannot
exchange information with other software systems.
This causes inefficiencies, delays and sometimes
errors. Researchers at the National Institute
of Standards and Technology (NIST) are collaborating
with industry to overcome such difficulties.
with FIATECH (an industrial consortium
for advancing the integration and automation
of the capital facilities industry), and
other industrial organizations, has developed
specific consensus language for various types
of project and technical information. This
data exchange vocabulary, called the Automating
Information Exchange (AEX) XML Schemas,*
specifies ways to express everything from
conditions to procurement dates.
as Hypertext Markup Language or HTML uses
standard "tags" to
identify web page titles, links or images,
AEX uses XML schemas
and standard descriptors to describe the
size, configuration and performance requirements
of capital facilities equipment. Companies
software systems that use the AEX format
be able to exchange information about equipment
seamlessly, without having to rekey data
or laboriously match up requirements manually.
will be particularly useful for streamlining
and automating design collaboration and responding
to requests for bids for equipment purchases.
Oct. 12, software vendors attending the
FIATECH Technology Conference in Houston
the use of AEX Version 1.0 for exchanging
information on centrifugal pumps, a major
in capital facilities.
and FIATECH plan to extend the AEX schemas
to cover other
types of equipment,
compressors, fans, motors, valves, pressure
tanks, transmitters and more types of
Department Issues Grants to Five Manufacturing Centers
U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded grants
totaling $6.2 million to five centers affiliated
with the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)
of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Oct. 19, Department of Labor Deputy Secretary
J. Law presented $3.2 million to the Oregon Manufacturing
Extension Partnership. The funding will help MEP
in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada provide
lean manufacturing training to 48 food processing
in these four states. Originating in Japan in the
1970s, lean manufacturing is a concept that eliminates
manufacturing activities or actions that add no real
value to the product or service. Because a large
of the workers that make up the region’s food
manufacturing workforce have limited English-language
skills, the project will include an English-as-a-Second-Language
component. For more information, see www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta/eta20042156.htm,
or contact Patrick Murphy at (503)
Oct. 20, Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily
presented $3 million to the Delaware Valley Industrial
Resource Center (DVIRC), Philadelphia. Ben Wu,
undersecretary for technology at the U.S. Department
of Commerce, also participated. The funding will
the DVIRC’s Applied Engineering and Manufacturing
Education Project. Partnering with Philadelphia-area
businesses, educational institutions and workforce
investment organizations, the project will identify
and educate students in advanced manufacturing skills
and place them in jobs with area employers. For
information, see www.dvirc.org/news.html#releases or contact Tony Girifalco, DVIRC, (215) 464-8550.
NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a nationwide
network of non-profit centers helping small manufacturers
in all 50 states and Puerto Rico overcome barriers
to their productivity and competitiveness.
Sought on Federal Computer Security Guide
National Institute of Standards and Technology
requests comments on the second draft of a guideline
recommending minimum safeguards and countermeasures
to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability
of federal information and information systems
are not national security systems. The guideline
will form the basis for a Federal Information
Standard (FIPS) that will become mandatory for federal
agencies in December 2005. The publication describes
control “families,” including contingency
planning, incident response and risk assessment,
and provides information on selecting the appropriate
controls needed to achieve security for low-, moderate-,
and high-impact information systems. It also is
expected to be used on a voluntary basis by many
Security Controls for Federal Information Systems (Special
Publication 800-53) is one of a
series of key NIST standards and guidelines produced
to help federal agencies comply with the Federal
Information Security Management Act (FISMA) of
2002. Comments on this revised, second draft may
to email@example.com through Nov. 30, 2004.
NIST expects to publish the final guideline early
A copy of the publication is available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/drafts.html.
For more on the NIST FISMA Implementation Project,