Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NIST Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Newsletter - February 2021

News Alert

NIST Smart Grid Interoperability Framework has been published!  See press release here.

Back to Top

NARUC Releases Cybersecurity Guidance for Utilities, Based on NIST Publications

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) released its Understanding Cybersecurity for the Smart Grid: Questions for Utilities report. It draws on NIST's Smart Grid Interoperability Framework 4.0 to assess smart grid vulnerabilities. Moreover, NARUC used NIST's Cybersecurity Framework Smart Grid Profile to develop questions that can help public utility commissions explore how utilities are mitigating cybersecurity risks. The questions are organized according to NIST’s five cybersecurity core functions for risk management and can be summarized as follows.

Identify: Have utilities identified key hardware and software assets and where are they on the network? Have utilities identified third-party vendors and suppliers and their cybersecurity risks?

Protect: What safeguards do utilities have to protect critical assets and service delivery? Do safeguards include protecting data? Are personnel trained in these safeguards?

Detect: How do utilities monitor safeguards and rapidly discover cybersecurity events? How do third parties do this? Are such procedures tested? Do utilities share threat information with third parties?

Respond: How will utilities contain and minimize the impact of cybersecurity events? Are plans and capabilities tested? How are lessons incorporated?

Recover: How fast can utilities restore functions to acceptable levels? Are minimum functionality thresholds documented? Do restoration plans include third parties?

Back to Top

NIST Co-organizes EU-USA Webinar on Smart Cities and Regions

A joint EU-USA webinar, conducted on December 11, 2020, garnered over 100 participants, including those connected in the USA, Europe, Australia, India and Japan. In addition to NIST, the webinar was co-hosted by the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics at National University of Ireland Galway and the Next Generation Internet Explorers.

Speakers were from the Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office at the Engineering Laboratory, NIST; Internet of Things, Data Stream Processing and Intelligent Systems Research Unit at the Data Science Institute, National University of Ireland Galway; Eurocities; European Network of Livings Labs; and Open Agile Smart Cities Ireland. Smart city stakeholders, represented by the City of Barcelona and City of Galway, also provided their insights.

Speakers addressed how the Internet-of-Things, artificial intelligence, big data and other technologies can enable innovation for the future of smart cities and regions. NIST's Chris Greer and Sokwoo Rhee provided a vision for smart cities and regions. Martin Serrano from the National University of Ireland Galway, who is an international associate at NIST, introduced a methodology for identifying smart city key performance indicators (KPI) and transforming them into holistic KPIs for communities to measure progress towards smart city goals. Serrano also discussed the possibilities and benefits of using the methodology to assess smart cities and regions initiatives for their impact on society and inclusiveness.
NIST International Associate, Dr. Martin Serrano, explains the Holistic Key Performance Indicators method for smart cities and regions.

Back to Top

NIST-led Workshops Seek a Common Approach for AI in Cyber-Physical Systems

In virtual workshops held on October 7, 2020 and November 19, 2020, NIST brought together experts from industry, government and academia to explore the development and assurance of artificial intelligence-enabled, cyber-physical systems and Internet of Things. The workshops' purpose was to plan a broad-stakeholder meeting on engineering and validation methods needed to assure AI-enabled Cyber-Physical Systems’ trustworthiness. Presenters included researchers from Sandia National Lab, St. Joseph’s University, North Carolina State University, Tulane, Dartmouth and NIST’s Engineering and Information Technology Laboratories.

Participants presented approaches to validating AI components of cyber-physical systems. NIST participants presented the essentials of its CPS Framework and sought feedback on its relevance to addressing AI-specific engineering concerns. NIST research collaborators from St. Joseph’s University proposed adding AI-related concerns to the CPS Framework. Workshop presentations are available at the AI Assurance Technical Working Group website. Based on these meetings' outcomes, workshop participants plan to hold a Spring 2021 workshop, to gather perspectives on foundations and methods for monitoring and assessing AI performance.

Back to Top

NIST Conducts Forum on Remotely Operating and Monitoring Vehicles

Industry is interested in ground vehicles that can be remotely operated, or that can operate with varying degrees of autonomy, using Cloud-based computing. For example, several commercial trucks, without personnel onboard, might be "platooned" to transport loads over great distances.

How such vehicle operations may be conducted safely was the subject of the NIST-sponsored Vehicle Teleoperations Forum on November 13, 2020, led by Tao Zhang of the NIST Information Technology Laboratory. The event included participants from the automotive and telecoms industries, technology companies, and federal and state governments. The workshop highlighted ongoing efforts related to safe vehicle operations, with humans remotely operating or monitoring. NIST's Chris Greer and Ed Griffor addressed measuring vehicle safety, based on the activities of NIST’s Automated Driving System Safety Measurement Technical Working Group. The workshop enabled opportunities for further collaboration on the safety of remotely operated vehicles.

Back to Top

NIST Researcher Wins Best Poster in Virtual IEEE Conference

In November 2020, NIST's Amimul Ehsan presented a research paper and poster, "Dependent Wind Speed Models: Copula Approach," at the 2020 IEEE Electric Power and Energy Conference. Ehsan and other researchers focused on understanding wind speeds across multiple, distributed wind farms, which greatly impact power generation. The understanding also could inform wind farm installations to optimize performance.

Ehsan used a mathematical distribution function or "copula" to understand the overall dependence of wind turbines on each other to generate needed power levels. The research found the best copula for 38 widely distributed, wind speed pairs. The research was detailed in a paper and summarized in a poster, which included graphics. The IEEE conference awarded Ehsan its best poster award and the paper was published in IEEE Xplore, January 18, 2021.

Back to Top

Catching Up

The following are some additional news items from the past year 2020 that you may be interested in:

GCTC'S Virtual Cybersecurity Symposium Gets Widespread Interest

The GCTC conducted a Cybersecurity Symposium on October 14-16, 2020, with international participation, which included attendees in Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, Taiwan, U.K, and U.S. As described by the master of ceremonies, John David, "This past year we saw gaps in our technologies, and the purpose of this symposium is to help fill some of those gaps."

RAND Corporation's Jared Mondschein described RAND interviews with city leaders on smart city deployments, and reported that cybersecurity was a major challenge for three reasons:

  • Unclear cybersecurity responsibilities: Some smart city initiatives involve corporations providing discounted technologies to cities in exchange for data. However, agreements often did not delineate cybersecurity responsibilities.
  • Lack of support for cybersecurity: One city council was reported to prefer funding more visible initiatives, like filling potholes, rather than less visible projects like cybersecurity.
  • Uncertainty about roles across levels of government: Some local governments were concerned that their decisions and policies might be superseded by state and federal governments.

The need to address cybersecurity upfront was emphasized by Chappie Jones, Vice Mayor of San Jose, CA, who explained that "Our cities are under attack... As city leaders, we don't have a choice, in terms of making investments. If we don't do it now, it's going to cost us a lot more to address the problem later."

GCTC Conducts Virtual Workshop on Smart Regions' Innovations

The Global City Teams Challenge’s Smart Regions workshop on October 29-30, 2020 addressed innovation, resilience and recovery in smart regions, which are multi-jurisdictional and allow broad sharing of resources. This past year, municipalities and smart regions had to make major changes in their operations. Such changes were aided by the GCTC; it had previously enabled relationships with stakeholders, which municipalities and regions quickly reached out to when needs arose. Changes also happened fast. As one presenter stated, “what we said we were going to do, we're doing now.” The following are some workshop highlights, with additional descriptions available on its website.

The smart mobility session addressed the dramatic changes in transportation in a time of increased teleworking, as well as, how transportation needs for handicapped personnel were met.

  • In the education and healthcare session, the Digital Equity Task Force described how it closed gaps in broadband coverage by deploying hot spots, mini-cell towers, and point-to-point microwave.
  • In the East Coast regional showcase session, the City of Schenectady, NY presented on how sharing data across municipalities is helping enforce city codes and solve urban problems.
  • In the West Coast regional showcase session, the Arizona Commerce Authority provided its plan for achieving a "smart state" – a network of connected smart regions across Arizona.

The smart agriculture and rural prosperity session detailed how one farm uses an Internet of Things approach to collect sensor data, including drone images, and accessing AI in the Cloud to aid decision making.

NIST and Vanderbilt University Researchers Advance Testbed for Assessing Grid Load Forecasters' Vulnerability to Cyber Attack

Power generation is based on demand; this means utilities must continuously estimate loads, so as not to under produce or overload the grid. Such forecasting has become challenging with the integration of distributed energy resources, like solar and wind. They also produce power, but at varying levels due to weather.

To help with this challenge, utilities are increasingly using deep learning systems to forecast loads, based on readings from smart sensors monitoring power flows on the grid. However, these deep learning systems are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which could modify predictions, possibly resulting in significant damage to the grid.

To help counter such attacks, NIST and Vanderbilt University researchers presented an Online Testbed for Evaluating Vulnerability of Deep Learning Based Power Grid Load Forecasters as described in their paper, published in IEEE Xplore, July 7, 2020. The Testbed supports evaluation of load forecasters' vulnerabilities and resilience in the presence of cyber attacks. The testbed is designed to be reconfigurable and reusable. It is also web-based and Cloud-deployed, and allows test personnel to conduct real-time collaboration, in addition to analyzing deep learning forecasters.

Back to Top


Created September 16, 2021, Updated September 28, 2021