Tech Beat Search] [Credits] [NIST Tech Beat
Contacts] [Subscription Information]
Urges Improvements in Nightclub Fire Safety
that develop building and fire safety codes, standards and
the state and local agencies that adopt them—can improve
the fire safety of nightclubs by making specific changes in
those codes, according to a draft report released March 3 by
the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
report was released at a news conference in Providence, R.I.,
the result of the agency's investigation of the Feb. 20,
2003, fire that killed 100 people at The Station nightclub
in W. Warwick, R.I.
for changes in nightclubs include requiring sprinklers, tighter
restrictions on the use of flammable materials in finish products,
and improved means of egress in emergencies. Other recommendations
address emergency preparedness and response practices as well
as a call for more research to better understand the way people
behave in emergency situations such as fires.
NIST report identifies three factors that directly contributed
to the rapid spread of the fire, the resulting building
failure and the large loss of life at The Station nightclub.
are: (1) the hazardous mix of building contents; (2) an
inadequate capability to suppress the fire early; and (3)
of exits to handle the egress of all of the occupants in
the short time available with such a fast-growing fire.
about the investigators' findings, the full text of their
and presentation at the news conference, and videos of fire
tests conducted by NIST fire experts and of computer models
the spread of the fire and temperatures in the nightclub are
available at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/mar_3_05_ribriefing.htm.
taken inside the nightclub by WPRI-TV (Providence, R.I.)
and reporting by the Providence Journal assisted
the NIST investigation
comments on the report, available at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/ncst.htm#draft_report,
which are received by April 4, 2005. Comments may
sent via surface mail to The Station Investigation,
Dr., Stop 8660, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-8660; via
fax to (301) 975-4052; or via e-mail to email@example.com.
ID Standard Announced for Federal Agencies
Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez recently approved a new
standard for a smart-card-based form of identification
for all federal government departments and agencies
to issue to their employees and contractors requiring
access to federal facilities and systems. On Aug. 27,
2004, President Bush issued a Homeland Security Presidential
Directive calling for a mandatory, government-wide
personal identification standard.
security specialists at the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) worked closely with other federal
agencies as well as private industry to develop Federal
Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 201, Personal Identity
Verification (PIV) of Federal Employees and Contractors.
The standard specifies the technical and operational requirements
for the PIV system and card. About the size of a credit
card, the PIV card will contain integrated circuit chips
for storing electronic information, a personal identification
number and biometric data—a printed photograph and
two electronically stored fingerprints. The standard includes
requirements to protect the privacy of PIV cardholders.
OMB will provide privacy and implementation guidelines
The first part
of the standard, which federal agencies must meet by
October 2005, describes the minimum requirements
needed to meet the control and security objectives of the
Presidential directive, including the process to prove
an individual’s identity. The second section explains
the many components and processes that will support a smart-card-based
platform, including the PIV card and devices that read
the card's contents. It also describes a means to collect,
store and maintain information and documentation needed
to authenticate and assure an individual’s identity.
The Office of Management and Budget will determine the
timeline for agencies to comply with the second part of
For more information, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/federal_ID.htm.
Architecture Proposed for Quantum Computing
new NIST architecture for quantum computing relies on
several levels of error checking to ensure the accuracy
of quantum bits (qubits). The purple spheres represent
qubits that are either used in error detection or in
actual computations. The yellow spheres are qubits that
are measured to detect or correct errors but are not
used in final computations.
here for a high-resolution version of this image.
quantum computer could produce reliable results even if its
components performed no better than today’s best first-generation
prototypes, according to a paper by a scientist at the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the March
3 issue of the journal Nature*.
such a quantum computer could be used to break commonly
used encryption codes, to improve optimization
complex systems such as airline schedules, and to simulate
other complex quantum systems.
issue for the reliability of future quantum computers—which
would rely on the unusual properties of nature’s
smallest particles to store and process data—is
the fragility of quantum states. Today’s computers
use millions of transistors that are switched on or off
values of 1 or 0. Quantum computers would use atoms,
for example, as quantum bits (qubits), whose magnetic
properties would be manipulated to represent 1 or 0 or
even both at the same time. These states are so delicate
qubit values would be unusually susceptible to errors
caused by the slightest electronic "noise."
around this problem, NIST scientist Emanuel Knill suggests
using a pyramid-style hierarchy of qubits made of smaller
and simpler building blocks than envisioned previously, with
teleportation of data at key intervals to continuously double-check
the accuracy of qubit values. Teleportation was demonstrated
last year by NIST physicists, who transferred key properties
of one atom to another atom without using a physical link.
has been a tremendous gap between theory and experiment
in quantum computing,” Knill says. "It
is as if we were designing today's supercomputers
in the era of vacuum
tube computing, before the invention of transistors.
This work reduces the gap, showing that building
may be easier than we thought. However, it will still
take a lot of work to build a useful quantum computer."
further information, see www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/quantum_computers.htm.
*Knill, E. 2005. "Quantum computing with realistically
noisy devices." Nature. March 3.
Web Site 'Drills Down' into Government Standards
and, sometimes, fruitless searches for government-applied
technical standards may soon be a thing of the past.
A new Web site, Standards.Gov, provides businesses,
other organizations and interested citizens with
a direct portal to sources of information on the
thousands of specifications that government agencies
reference in regulations or use to guide their purchasing
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
the new site to further the government’s
progress in using private-sector standards in lieu of
agency-unique specifications, whenever practical. Under
the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act
(NTTAA), NIST leads and coordinates federal, state and
local government efforts to increase use of voluntary
consensus standards over in-house, proprietary standards.
basic tutorials to a searchable database of standards
in federal regulations, the Web site offers
a broad perspective on the government’s complex
standards landscape. Using Standards.Gov, visitors can
quickly home in on their particular interests, be it
standards incorporated into drinking water requirements,
specifications for military equipment, guidelines for
respiratory protection in the workplace or other topics.
to standards-related Web sites maintained by 12 federal
independent agencies are now
featured on the site. This number is likely to grow as
other governmental units follow suit and post standards
information pertinent to their missions and operations,
says NIST’s Kevin McIntyre, who led development
In all, nearly 30 departments and agencies are members
of the NIST-led Interagency Committee on Standards Policy
(ICSP), responsible for implementing NTTAA requirements.
Each year, these federal units report on their standards-related
activities. NIST compiles and summarizes these submissions
in annual reports that are available on Standards.Gov.
says the new Web site continues to be a work in progress.
He and his team welcome suggestions for
improvements and new features to add. Recommendations
and other comments can be submitted via the “contact
us” page on the site.
visit Standards.Gov, go to http://standards.gov/.
Controls Recommended for Federal Information Systems
The National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) recently released its final version of
security controls for federal information systems. The new
guideline will be the basis for a proposal to be made later
this year by NIST for a Federal Information Processing Standard
(FIPS) that will become mandatory for federal agencies in
fourth and final version of Recommended Security Controls
for Federal Information Systems (NIST Special Publication
800-53) includes changes based on more than 1,200 comments
to earlier drafts. Expected to have a wide audience beyond
the federal government, the publication recommends management,
operational and technical controls needed to protect the confidentiality,
integrity and availability of all federal information systems
that are not national security systems. The controls cover
17 key security focus areas, including risk assessment, contingency
planning, incident response, access control, and identification
and authentication. The security guidelines also provide information
on selecting the appropriate controls needed to achieve security
for low-, moderate and high-impact information systems.
SP 800-53 is one of a series of key NIST standards and guidelines
produced by NIST to help federal agencies improve their security
and comply with the Federal Information Security Management
Act (FISMA) of 2002 and Office of Management and Budget security
policies. All of NIST’s security standards and guidelines
are available at http://csrc.nist.gov.
Future of the Semiconductor Industry
upcoming conference will focus on how to keep the
$87 billion U.S. semiconductor industry competitive
in the 21st century. Semiconductors already underpin
the electronics industry and help drive the global
economy. They will become even more influential as
integrated circuits become the building blocks for
emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology, that
will expand the economy in the future. The need for
new kinds of collaborations and partnerships, and
the problem of growing R&D costs, are among the
issues to be discussed at the 2005 International Conference
on Characterization and Metrology for ULSI Technology,
to be held March 14-18 at the University of Texas
at Dallas in Richardson, Texas.
will include Michael Polcari, president and CEO of
International SEMATECH; Hans Stork, chief technology
officer of Texas Instruments; and Bernard Meyerson,
IBM Fellow and chief technologist and vice president
of STG. The conference, the fifth in a series that
began in 1995, will focus on summarizing major issues,
giving critical reviews of important measurement techniques
needed by the industry, and highlighting new metrologies
needed as the industry moves to silicon nanotechnologies
NIST is one of nine sponsors of the conference.
Reporters interested in attending should contact
David Seiler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details are
available at www.eeel.nist.gov/812/conference/.
Forum To Revisit National Standards Strategy
public forum for comment on the initial
draft of a revised National Standards
Strategy (NSS) (retitled the U.S. Standards
Strategy), will be held on April
from 9 a.m. to noon at the Department
of Commerce in Washington, DC. First
by the American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) in 2000, the NSS is a strategic
framework to guide private and public
sector participation in standards-related
activities affecting trade, market-access,
consumer welfare, and other priority
During the past year, more than 100 members
of the standards and conformity
community have reviewed the strategy.
They have proposed revisions intended
to respond to new issues and anticipated
trends, domestic and international.
National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) has contributed to the ANSI-led
process and will host the April 15 forum
in conjunction with ANSI. To learn
and to register for the meeting, go to
on Synchronization in Telecommunications
say timing is everything. This is
true in telecommunications where synchronization
of networks and delivery of data packets
annual Workshop on Synchronization in
Telecommunications Systems, sponsored
by the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST) and the Alliance
for Telecommunications Industry Solutions
(ATIS), will take place May 10-12, 2005,
in Broomfield, Colo. Workshop organizers
are accepting speaker applications through
Friday, March 18 on a broad range of topics
from synchronization fundamentals to next-generation
networks for both wired and wireless systems.
three-day workshop will include tutorials,
lectures and panel discussions
and will provide educational and networking
opportunities for network operators,
strategists, design engineers, system
architects and synchronization planners
from the wireline, wireless, enterprise
and utilities sectors. For more information
on speaker applications or event registration
and logistics, visit www.boulder.nist.gov/timefreq/seminars/ATIS.2005.html.