On Feb. 1, 2012, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) launched a competition for pilot projects to accelerate progress toward improved systems for interoperable, trusted online credentials that go beyond simple user IDs and passwords. The competition, managed by the NIST-hosted National Program Office for the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), plans to award a total of approximately $10 million to fund five to eight projects running up to two years.
NSTIC, a White House initiative, works with private-sector organizations, advocacy groups, public agencies and others to improve the privacy, security and convenience of online transactions by creating an "Identity Ecosystem"—secure, efficient, easy-to-use and interoperable mechanisms that allow Internet users to establish their identify for online services in a manner that promotes confidence, privacy, choice and innovation.
Details of the solicitation and submission process are in the NIST Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) notice posted at Grants.gov (www.grants.gov) under Funding Opportunity Number 2012-NIST-NSTIC-01. Initial proposals must be received no later than 5 p.m. Eastern time on March 7, 2012. Selected finalists will be invited to submit a full proposal. NIST anticipates funding projects in the range of approximately $1.25 million to $2 million per year, though proposals requesting smaller amounts may be considered.
NIST has cited several factors that have prevented identity solutions from being widely deployed in the marketplace, including the need for technical standards that ensure interoperability among different authentication systems, a lack of clarity about liabilities when something goes wrong, a need for common standards for privacy protections and data re-use, and problems with the ease of use for some strong authentication technologies. Any "Identity Ecosystem" that addresses these problems, according to NIST, must satisfy four core principles. Identity solutions should be privacy enhancing and voluntary, secure and resilient, interoperable, cost effective and easy to use.
On Feb. 15, 2012, NIST plans to host a proposer's conference from 9 a.m. to 12 noon at the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., to offer guidance on preparing proposals, explain criteria to be used in making awards, and answer questions from the public. The event will include a live webcast. Participants may ask questions through Twitter and live tweets using the event hashtag, #NSTIC.
Details on the webcast address and registration information for the conference are available at: http://www.nist.gov/itl/nstic-pilots-grant-proposers-conference.cfm. Further information about NSTIC and upcoming related events is available at: http://www.nist.gov/nstic.
For more information, see the Feb. 1 NIST news announcement, "NIST to Fund Pilot Projects that Advance Trusted Identities in Cyberspace" at www.nist.gov/public_affairs/nsticpilotgrants.cfm.