NIST Funds Testing Tools For Smart Systems

University of Maryland researchers get contract to develop a framework for developing and testing intelligent control systems.

Elizabeth Montalbano, Contributor

October 12, 2011

2 Min Read

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The federal technology standards body is working to develop open standards-based testing, measurement, and development tools that can ensure the reliability of intelligent control systems.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded the University of Maryland at College Park (UMD) $1 million over three years to work together with NIST as it develops standards and frameworks for testing and building what are called cyber-physical systems (CPS), which network together physical, computer, and biological technologies.

CPS are those that control facilities, medical devices, airplanes, cars, and other systems that combine computing, communication, and automation capabilities in various interconnected components.

[ NIST has its fingers in a lot of pies. Read NIST Releases Federal Cloud Guidelines. ]

These systems are "fiendishly complex" yet "the hardware and software must work 100% of the time," said Shyam Sunder, director of NIST's Engineering Laboratory, in a statement. "We want to help industry ensure that the systems are safe, secure, and resilient."

CPS also are very expensive, and as they grow more intelligent are expected to exceed 50% of the cost of the equipment that they are operating by the end of the decade, according to NIST. Working to ensure their reliability will help cut costs in the long run and also protect smart systems from cyber threats, the organization said.

Researchers said that current methods for engineering CPS--which are in their nascent stage--are too costly and error-prone, take too long to develop, and are too application-specific, so the goal of the partnership is to make improvements in these areas.

Together NIST and researchers from UMD's Institute for Systems Research will work to create a framework for an open-standards approach to building CPS so all of their internal systems and components will interoperate more seamlessly, according to NIST. This also should pave the way for new and innovative applications for them.

Researchers also will aim to develop modeling and analytic tools for designing, integrating, testing, and managing CPS, as well as evaluate the technical and theoretical basis for current systems, which are in a state of rapid evolution, according to NIST.

To achieve the latter, collaborators will aim to identify gaps and obstacles in how current systems are developed, and work on measurements and standards to ensure this process creates effective and reliable systems.

Additionally, the partnership will try to identify markets for CPS and develop a framework for directing future investments in related research, according to NIST.

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