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October 27, 2004

  In This Issue:
bullet New System ‘Sees’ Crimes on Audiotape
bullet New Software Judges Quality of Scanned Fingerprints
bullet NIST WTC Investigators Release Latest Research Findings
bullet NIST Releases House Repair Planning, Budgeting Software
bullet NIST Helps Capital Facilities Industry Join Information Revolution
  Quick Links:
bullet Labor Department Issues Grants to Five Manufacturing Centers

Comments Sought on Federal Computer Security Guide

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New System ‘Sees’ Crimes on Audiotape

NIST real-time audiotape imaging system
The NIST real-time audiotape imaging system reveals where a write head (taping event) stopped as a series of smudges or streaks on a film strip. (See faint smudge on center blue line.)
Click here to download a higher resolution version of this image.

Investigators then can go back and take high resolution images to produce a 3D computerized rendering of smudges for more intensive analysis.
Investigators then can go back and take high resolution images to produce a 3D computerized rendering of smudges for more intensive analysis. This image shows audio test tone patterns on the upper right and a write-head stop event on the left. Click here to download a higher resolution version of this image.

A real-time magnetic imaging system that enables criminal investigators to “see” signs of tampering in audiotapeserasing, 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 than currently possible, was recently delivered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and will be evaluated for its possible routine use in criminal investigations.

The 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 machines, cassette recorders and digital audiotape recorders.

At the heart of the NIST technology is a cassette player modified with an array of 64 customized magnetic sensors that detects and maps the microscopic magnetic fields on audiotapes as they are played. The array is connected to a desktop computer programmed to convert the magnetic data into a displayable image. Authentic, original tapes produce images with non-interrupted, predictable patterns, while erase and record functions produce characteristic “smudges” in an image that correlate to “pops” and “thumps” in the audio signal.

An examiner can also use the new system to help determine the authenticity of a tape or if that tape is a copy.

“We 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.

A second-generation audiotape imaging system is under development, which is expected to provide ultrahigh image resolution of 1,600 dots per inch. That system will use 256 microscale sensors designed by NIST.

For more information, see

Media Contact:
Laura Ost,, (301) 975-4034


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New Software Judges Quality of Scanned Fingerprints

An 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 (NIST).


Click here to download a high-resolution version of image

Compiled on a CD-ROM,* the software can be used to help ensure that images collected with digital fingerprint scanners from criminal suspects, employees, visa applicants or others will be high enough quality to produce good matches with fingerprints already on file. Ideally, a fingerprint image will have clear and distinct ridges and valleys. But problems, including dry 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.

The 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 systems 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.

The 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 of Homeland Security.

For more information on NIST’s fingerprint matching research program, see

Media Contact:
Jan Kosko,, (301) 975-2767

*To 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 The CD is subject to export controls.


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NIST WTC Investigators Release Latest Research Findings

The 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.

Key findings not previously reported by the WTC investigation team include:

  • Differences in the time that the two towers stood following impact (WTC 1 fell in 103 minutes; WTC 2 in 56 minutes) were attributable primarily to asymmetrical structural damage caused by the plane to WTC 2 and the faster progression of fire in WTC 2 that weakened critical structural columns.
  • The towers withstood the initial aircraft impacts and they would have remained standing indefinitely if not for the subsequent fires.
  • Fireproofing dislodged by debris from the aircraft impacts on the towers left key structural elements extremely vulnerable to heat from the subsequent fires.
  • Full-building evacuations from the towers revealed significant challenges for both occupants and first responders, especially in the areas of communication, movement 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.

Full descriptions 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

Media Contact:
Michael E. Newman,, (301) 975-3025


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NIST Releases House Repair Planning, Budgeting Software

Home 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.

Maintenance 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.

Maintenance Planner also helps homeowners make budgeting decisions. Homeowners select whether to finance or save for each task. Printed reports show the savings or financing schedule.

Maintenance 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 programs. NEST Builder enables a homeowner to specify house type and size, and to choose the materials used for windows, roofing and garage doors. Photos of each material are displayed as icons that, when clicked, are depicted on the home. Durability Doctor helps homeowners decide which building material is optimal for their home by combining cost and service life information to estimate the installation and maintenance cost, as well as the monthly financing cost, of each alternative product.

NIST 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


Media Contact:
John Blair,, (301) 975-4261

*For more information on NEST, see


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NIST Helps Capital Facilities Industry Join Information Revolution

The 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.

NIST with FIATECH (an industrial consortium for advancing the integration and automation capabilities of the capital facilities industry), and with other industrial organizations, has developed specific consensus language for various types of project and technical information. This data exchange vocabulary, called the Automating Equipment Information Exchange (AEX) XML Schemas,* specifies ways to express everything from pump design conditions to procurement dates.

Just 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 with software systems that use the AEX format will be able to exchange information about equipment seamlessly, without having to rekey data or laboriously match up requirements manually. The standard will be particularly useful for streamlining and automating design collaboration and responding to requests for bids for equipment purchases.

On Oct. 12, software vendors attending the FIATECH Technology Conference in Houston demonstrated the use of AEX Version 1.0 for exchanging information on centrifugal pumps, a major product used in capital facilities.

NIST and FIATECH plan to extend the AEX schemas to cover other types of equipment, including compressors, fans, motors, valves, pressure vessels, storage tanks, transmitters and more types of pumps.

Media Contact:
John Blair,, (301) 975-4261

*The AEX schemas and documentation are available without charge from the FIATECH Web site at


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Quick Links

Labor Department Issues Grants to Five Manufacturing Centers

The 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 (NIST).

On Oct. 19, Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Steven J. Law presented $3.2 million to the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The funding will help MEP centers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada provide lean manufacturing training to 48 food processing companies 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 percentage 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, or contact Patrick Murphy at (503) 725-2660.

On Oct. 20, Assistant Secretary of Labor Emily DeRocco presented $3 million to the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC), Philadelphia. Ben Wu, deputy undersecretary for technology at the U.S. Department of Commerce, also participated. The funding will support 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 more information, see or contact Tony Girifalco, DVIRC, (215) 464-8550.

The 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.

Comments Sought on Federal Computer Security Guide

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) 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 that are not national security systems. The guideline will form the basis for a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) that will become mandatory for federal agencies in December 2005. The publication describes 17 security 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 private-sector organizations.

Recommended 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 be sent to through Nov. 30, 2004. NIST expects to publish the final guideline early in 2005. A copy of the publication is available at For more on the NIST FISMA Implementation Project, see


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Editor: Gail Porter

Date created:10/26/04
Date updated:10/27/04