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Standards and Conformity Assessment for Interoperability in Emerging Technologies

(+$10 million)


Back end of an electric car
Credit: ©Foto-Ruhrgebiet/Shutterstock
Medical worker looking at x-rays
Credit: ©Konstantin Sutyagin/Shutterstock
Newly emerging technologies such as an electric-power Smart Grid and national health care information systems promise to transform our society and revitalize the U.S. economy, but they require an unprecedented level of complexity. To be effective their many interconnected components must be fully interoperable, so that they can exchange information and work together seamlessly at a national level.

A nationwide Smart Grid would improve the reliability, flexibility, and efficiency of the power grid, bringing consumers economic benefits while helping to minimize energy consumption. The Smart Grid must incorporate sophisticated new information-technology applications for more than 9,000 power-generation plants connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines, together with local renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, and fuel cells, and interact with the countless smart power meters and appliances of residential and business consumers across the nation. This cannot happen without accepted standards and test and evaluation protocols for interoperability. Major manufacturers have publicly announced plans for the introduction of smart appliances, but they cite the lack of interoperability standards as the greatest risk to their business plans.

Similarly, the electronic health records in use today are based on many individual clinical and technical standards, but there are no widely adopted sets of standards that could integrate them into a single efficient system, and most physician's offices do not presently use any form of electronic health record. Standards-based interoperability for electronic health records is essential to realize their full potential to improve the quality and efficiency of the nation's healthcare system.

Interoperability is not easy to achieve in these complex systems. NIST has deep experience and technical expertise in this field, and can help to establish a framework of standards and related test protocols, and conformity assessment requirements that would facilitate seamless, end-to-end interoperability for both of these technologies. As a respected and trusted technical partner NIST is uniquely positioned to bring together stakeholders from industry, government academia, and standards development organizations to establish consensus-based interoperability standards and conformity tests.

Proposed NIST Program

This initiative will support interoperability in smart grid, health care information technology, and other emerging technology areas by enabling NIST to:

  • expand on its current work with the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel to develop and implement a Smart Grid testing and certification framework;
  • work with existing industry-led, voluntary consensus processes to develop sets of Health IT standards for clinical areas identified as national-level priorities;
  • expand the existing Health IT testing infrastructure and assist the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator in developing the conformity assessment process for new and updated industry-developed Health IT standards, devoted to personal health records and healthcare delivery; and
  • work with industry to develop IT requirements, including security requirements, standards, and tests for emerging health technologies and their applications, such as mobile health care, and smart medical sensors and implants.

Expected Impacts

NIST work in this area will help bring about:

  • a more cost-efficient, reliable, secure, and interoperable electrical power system that minimizes consumer costs by enabling better awareness and control of energy usage and mitigates harmful environmental impacts by enabling the integration of distributed renewable energy sources such as solar and wind energy;
  • commercialization and deployment of new Smart Grid technologies, a market estimated to be worth $70 billion by 2013, and improved international markets for U.S. energy products through incorporation of U.S.-developed technologies in international standards;
  • a robust nationwide healthcare system that is safer, more affordable, and more accessible, and that will support all healthcare applications including clinical applications, home-based healthcare, clinical research, medical training, and public health enabled by new standards for Health IT; and
  • the ability of patients to have real-time, ongoing monitoring of chronic conditions without having to be at a clinic, physician's office, or home monitoring station due to health IT innovations supporting new technologies such as sensors and implants enabled by standards for Health IT.

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Created February 2, 2010, Updated December 29, 2016