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NIST Cooperative Agreement with University of Maryland Supports Research on 21st Century Smart Systems

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) awarded today a $1 million cooperative agreement to the University of Maryland at College Park (UMD). Researchers at UMD's Institute for Systems Research will help NIST as it develops and deploys standards, test methods and measurement tools to support consistently reliable performance of new smart systems.

The new technologies, known as cyber-physical systems (CPS), are networked physical, computer and biological technologies. Examples are building control systems and remotely monitored and controlled medical devices. Computing, communication and automation capabilities are integrated into nearly every interconnected component of such systems, including the materials from which they are made.

By developing standards, test methods and measurement tools, the UMD/NIST effort can help U.S. industry accelerate development of innovative cyber-physical system products that create jobs, while also protecting these new types of CPS infrastructure from cyber threats.

"Smart vehicles, buildings, electric grids and manufactured products that combine IT and physical technologies into interactive, self-fixing systems are transforming industries," explains Shyam Sunder, director of NIST's Engineering Laboratory. "These systems are fiendishly complex. Yet, the hardware and software must work 100 percent of the time. We want to help industry ensure that the systems are safe, secure and resilient."

Computing, sensing, communication, control and related technologies already account for significant shares of the cost of cars, planes, machine tools, medical equipment and a host of other products. For many of these products, the CPS portion is expected to exceed 50 percent by the end of the decade. Innovations that distinguish one competitor's offerings from the rest of the pack will depend increasingly on the mastery of CPS.

Under the new cooperative agreement, UMD and NIST will evaluate the existing technical and theoretical foundation for today's rapidly evolving CPS, identify gaps and obstacles, and ascertain needs for measurement and standards. Institute for Systems Research staff also will assess existing and anticipated markets and develop a framework to help guide investments in CPS-related research.

Awarded over three years, the funding also will support efforts to devise a framework to foster an "open standards platform" approach that will enable systems and underlying subsystems and components to work together in an interoperable manner, unleashing creativity in developing innovative, new applications. A fourth set of research activities will focus on developing modeling and analytic tools for designing, integrating, testing and managing CPS.

"While we can expect an ever larger and more diverse range of smart operating systems and applications," says Sunder, "they all share a basic set of requirements that should not be addressed in stovepipe fashion. With this effort we will take a broad view of these new technologies as we develop standards and measurement tools that would apply to all."

"Current approaches to engineering CPS are at their infancy at best, and they are too application-specific, too costly, too error prone, and they take too long," explains UMD principal investigator John S. Baras, the Lockheed Martin Professor in Systems Engineering and former (founding) director of the Institute for Systems Research. "There is a clear need for unifying principles within and across application domains. Investigating and understanding how the cyber components can be synergistically interweaved with the diverse physical components in CPS pose foundational research challenges in science, engineering and computing, and they will transform science and engineering education. We welcome the opportunity to help meet this need and the associated challenges by working closely with NIST scientists and engineers."

Established in 1985 as one of the National Science Foundation's first six Engineering Research Centers, the Institute for Systems Research is an interdisciplinary research unit within the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. It is home to about 100 faculty and other researchers from 14 departments and four colleges across the university.

NIST is a non-regulatory federal agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce. It promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

Additional Contacts:
ltune [at] (Lee Tune) (UMD), 301-405-4679
rebeccac [at] (Rebecca Copeland) (UMD), 301-405-6602

Released October 13, 2011, Updated February 2, 2023