Email Print Share

News Release 15-106

NSF invests $10 million in smart, human-centered service systems

Awards to spur innovation for smart health, manufacturing and infrastructure

Photonic crystal biosensor chip

Photonic crystals will enable a smartphone-based system to detect and track infectious diseases.

September 14, 2015

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

From transportation to healthcare, service systems make our lives easier and more productive on a daily basis.

New technologies that learn from data are bringing intelligence to service systems, allowing them to center on people by incorporating individuals' feedback and input. These systems create more value through adaptive and individualized interactions. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested $10 million in such systems, supporting innovative new partnership projects to create service systems that are smart and human-centric.

The interdisciplinary projects will engage academia and the private sector in highly interactive collaborations. Partners will advance, adapt and integrate novel smart technologies for service systems in ways that dramatically improve performance.

"Smart, human-centered service systems offer unprecedented new economic opportunities and societal benefits, whether to an individual seeking personalized medical care or to a utility company managing energy demands," said Pramod Khargonekar, NSF assistant director for Engineering. "Bringing new technologies, and new system design thinking and human factors together can lead to services we are just beginning to imagine."

Several of these three-year, $1 million projects tie into NSF's investments in smart, connected communities, whether through energy, healthcare, environmental or other services.

"Partnerships between academia and industry supported through these projects can help to translate innovative research and emerging technologies into smart service systems, which will help to enable smart and connected communities of the future," said Jim Kurose, NSF assistant director for NSF's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

Smart service systems utilize data to learn and adapt, and to facilitate decision-making in order to improve how they respond to future situations. Such systems may recognize patterns and preferences to improve performance.

These adaptive capabilities are made possible thanks to emerging technologies for sensing, coordination, communication, control and other purposes. New detection, classification and localization technologies also help make service systems smarter.

By definition, a human-centered service system interacts with people--end users, recipients, beneficiaries, providers and/or decision makers--as it operates. These interactions must add value to people to be considered a service.

This year, NSF funded 10 Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) projects for smart, human-centered service systems:

NSF's fiscal year 2015 investment in PFI:BIC is a collaboration among the directorates for Engineering (ENG), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), and Geosciences. In fiscal year 2014, ENG and CISE funded 11 PFI:BIC projects for smart service systems.

Investments from the PFI:BIC program were announced as part of NSF's commitments at a White House event today launching the National Smart Cities Initiative.


Media Contacts
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738, email:

Program Contacts
Sara B. Nerlove, NSF, (703) 292-7077, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

mail icon Get News Updates by Email 

Connect with us online
NSF website:
NSF News:
For News Media:
Awards database:

Follow us on social