The National Institute of Standards and Technology has helped to keep U.S. technology at the leading edge. Over the years, NIST has made solid contributions to image processing, DNA diagnostic "chips," smoke detectors, and automated error-correcting software for machine tools. NIST has had major impact on advancements in atomic clocks, X-ray standards for mammography, scanning tunneling microscopy, pollution-control technology, and high-speed dental drills, just to name a few of NIST’s successes.
Founded on March 3, 1901, as the National Bureau of Standards, NIST was one of the first federal research laboratories.
NIST’s nearly 120 years of research to advance measurement science, standards and technology enabled significant progress in American innovation, prosperity and quality of life.
This is remarkable for a small federal agency focused on developing practical solutions to the nation’s evolving technology needs.
“NIST has the broadest science and technology portfolio of any science agency in the United States and likely in the world,” said Walter G. Copan, under secretary of commerce for standards and technology and NIST director.
NIST is widely respected by industry leaders and the U.S. Congress because it provides practical solutions and tremendous value to the nation.
At a July 2018 media-sponsored event attended by representatives of industry and the U.S. Congress, one senator reported walking along the Florida seashore and seeing buildings that had collapsed during a hurricane, located side-by-side with others still standing — standing because they were built to comply with NIST-recommended codes and standards, NIST reported in a release.
Copan intends to launch an ambitious effort that will make it easier for many more NIST innovations to transfer into American industry and scientific research to reap a bigger taxpayer return on all federal investment in research and development.
NIST technologies continue to form the basis of new products and industries, and most importantly, save lives. Although there is no comprehensive dataset of NIST’s impact on American ingenuity, history offers many examples. Below are a few more highlights.
NIST was a leader in the early days of radio, pioneering, among other things, the instrument or blind landing systems. Anyone who has flown on an airplane at night or in stormy weather can thank NIST for this system. Blind landing relying on radio guidance provides the basis for today's air traffic control systems.
NIST has long maintained U.S. civilian time standards, which support everyone who keeps a schedule, uses a phone, the internet, electricity, or owns stocks. NIST’s Internet Time Service responds to about 40 billion automated requests per day to synchronize clocks in computers and network devices, while NIST radio broadcasts update an estimated 50 million watches and other clocks daily.
You may be surprised to learn that NIST official time supports time-stamping of hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. financial transactions each business day.
Another ubiquitous NIST technology is closed captioning. Originally called TvTime, a method for broadcasting time and frequency data on television, this Emmy Award-winning technology has greatly benefited hearing-impaired individuals and launched a new industry providing closed-captioning and other related services.
NIST advances improvements in public health and safety in many ways. NIST engineering studies of fire and structural disasters have led to life-saving changes in building practices, standards and codes.
NIST keeps American innovation and economic prosperity robust and enduring.