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U.S. may be falling behind in researching tech's next big thing

Patrick Thibodeau | Oct. 3, 2014
Is the U.S. serious about the Internet of Things?

A major funder of advanced research on cyber-physical systems is the Defense Dept., which doesn't disclose all of its spending. But a recent defense project solicitation, "Capabilities for Cyber Resiliency," wants to improve the ability of systems, whether software or hardware, to "withstand, minimize, survive and recover" from the negative effects of adversity, whether man-made or natural. This project has a budget of $49 million, but that money is spread through 2019.

It's difficult to tally the overall total spending in this area by the government, because various agencies, including the Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Energy and NASA, will fund their own cyber-physical efforts.

Stankovic does not know what the government is spending on cyber-physical systems today, but "anecdotally, I would say they are not spending enough."

NIST may have a relatively small budget for these systems, but it has assembled a working group of about 200 people to investigate how systems will interconnect and the need for standards and formats.

The only way to create interconnected systems "is by working towards interoperability," said Chris Greer, director of NIST's Cyber Physical Systems and Smart Grid Program Office, at an agency conference Tuesday.

But that interoperability is not present in some fundamental areas, such as weather and time, said Greer. Data formats used for weather data in the electric grid sector are not the same as those used in climate and weather. "We've got to get those to coverage -- we can't even talk about weather in the same language," he said. The same problem exists in time formats in different applications, he said.

Stankovic believes investment in cyber-physical systems is critical. If the U.S. doesn't have the expertise, other nations "are going to be in the lead for these new kinds of technologies and products."


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