Newly emerging technologies such as a smart electrical grid (i.e., Smart Grid), interoperable electronic healthcare records, and cloud computing promise to transform our society and galvanize U.S. industry. For each technology to be effective, however, many complex interconnected components must be fully interoperable, able to exchange information, and work together seamlessly on a nationwide scale.
Lack of standards for interoperability can significantly slow adoption of these emerging technologies, dampen confidence in industry, and increase the risks of stranded investments in solutions that quickly become obsolete.
A nationwide Smart Grid would improve the reliability, flexibility, and efficiency of the power grid. It could help consumers lower energy costs while helping to minimize energy consumption. When fully deployed, the Smart Grid will incorporate sophisticated new information-technology applications that will help bring energy security and meet energy independence goals for the U.S. electrical grid, which comprises of more than 9,000 power-generation plants connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. It must work 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 requires mutually agreed-upon standards and test and evaluation protocols for interoperability.
Today's healthcare industry lags behind other fields in the use of information technology. For example, only 13 percent of doctors use any form of electronic health records. It is estimated that only 1.5 percent of U.S. hospitals have a comprehensive electronic-records system, and an additional 7.6 percent of U.S. hospitals only have a basic system, even though $1 out of every $6 of the U.S. economy is spent on health care. Greater adoption and use of electronic health records can reduce the number of medical errors and lead to direct reductions in healthcare costs. Standards-based interoperability is essential to realize wide deployment of electronic health records and their full potential to improve the quality and efficiency of the nation's healthcare system.
Moving computing resources from corporate server rooms to the cloud offers the promise of massive cost savings and greatly increased agility for business opportunities. Worldwide spending on cloud services in 2009 was estimated to be in excess of $54 billion, and the overall market for cloud services is estimated to reach about $150 billion by 2013. The federal government is keenly interested in adopting cloud-computing models in order to avoid duplication of systems and reduce its infrastructure and maintenance costs. Meanwhile, average citizens are tapping into the cloud to get more out of information technology from wherever they are located—whether in the form of Web-based email services or word-processing tools, or accessing the Web through a smartphone. However, cloud computing services are either proprietary in nature, or are often not interoperable with other clouds. Interoperability standards and conformity assessment systems will help spur even greater adoption and use of the cloud, and consequently more technological innovation by eliminating barriers to interoperability.
Interoperability for such complex systems is not easy to achieve. NIST has deep technical expertise in this field. 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, conformity tests, and associated architectural frameworks.
This initiative will support interoperability in Smart Grid, health IT, cloud computing, and other emerging technology areas that address national priorities by enabling NIST to:
NIST work in this area will help bring about: