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Welcome to the April 18, 2011 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE


Aberdeen Researchers to Collaborate With India on Development of Trusted Mobile Technologies for Rural Healthcare
University of Aberdeen (04/14/11) Shaunagh Kirby

University of Aberdeen researchers, in collaboration with several Indian institutions, are launching the Trusted Mobile Platform for the Self-Management of Chronic Illness in Rural Areas (TRUMP) project, a three-year study to explore how mobile technologies can be used to manage chronic diseases in rural areas of the United Kingdom and India. The TRUMP project is part of the Bridging the Urban and Rural Divide series of projects. "This project has the potential to be the most significant and comprehensive dual-country m-health research effort to date and I expect the next three years to be incredibly exhilarating," says Aberdeen professor and TRUMP project leader Peter Edwards. TRUMP will focus on developing platforms designed to help people with chronic diabetes and depression. The researchers will analyze existing health care systems, design sustainable technology solutions, and incorporate existing proven chronic management programs and training methods. The new platforms will include patient record systems, methods for tracking patients, and ways to raise patient awareness for managing their own condition.


New Global Portal for Cyber-Physical Systems Research Launched
Vanderbilt University (04/14/11) Brenda Ellis

Vanderbilt University's Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) recently launched the Cyber-Physical Systems Virtual Organization (CPS-VO), a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF)-backed portal designed to unite researchers, educators, and students. CPS-VO is part of a larger NSF project called Virtual Organization for Cyber-Physical Research (VOCYPHER). Cyber-physical systems are smart technologies that combine the physical world with computerized environments. They have a variety of scientific applications, including aerospace research, civil engineering, and medicine. CPS-VO wants to connect basic researchers with the potential to solve problems to those in the field that need solutions, says VOCYPHER's Chris vanBuskirk. CPS-VO enables researchers to post problems, publish results, perform online experiments, and exchange ideas. The goal is to find out "who's out there working on techniques that can be applied to the really grand challenges of our age," vanBuskirk says. ISIS researchers are currently working on several CPS-related projects, including ways to normalize the types of conveyance used in military vehicles, and networking technologies that will help medical devices interact in hospitals.


Supercomputing Experts Gather at UD
University of Delaware (04/14/11)

The University of Delaware recently hosted a group of national supercomputing experts, including members of the Ubiquitous High Performance Computing Runnemede and X-Caliber projects, as part of a workshop examining how parallel program execution models affect system software and hardware designs. Parallel program execution models are crucial to the design of high-performance computers because they determine how a program executes on the actual machine hardware, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and workshop keynote speaker Jack Dennis. The U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy, as well as the National Science Foundation, sent representatives to the workshop to give presentations and panel discussions. The event also highlighted ongoing research efforts and future plans for extreme-scale computing.


Computer Factories Eat Way More Energy Than Running the Devices They Build
Network World (04/14/11) Michael Cooney

Researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) and the Rochester Institute of Technology recently conducted a study on the manufacturing process of computers and found that as much as 70 percent of the energy a typical laptop consumes in its lifespan is used in its manufacturing. The researchers determined that more energy would be conserved by reducing the power used in the manufacturing process instead of reducing the amount of energy the devices use to operate. The researchers compared the amount of power used to operate a 2002 Dell Inspiron 2500 laptop over its typical lifetime to the energy consumption involved in its manufacturing. The manufacturing process emitted at least 500 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is a very high amount, according to ASU's Eric Williams. "It shows that the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from energy consumed in the manufacture of a laptop computer can in some cases come close to or equal the emissions resulting from the manufacture of a refrigerator," Williams says. In their paper, the researchers said that "mitigating manufacturing energy use, for example through extending lifespan, can be an important strategy to manage the lifecycle energy of laptop computers."


New 'Spin' on Magnetic Reversal
University of York (04/14/11) Caron Lett

Researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen, the University of York, and Nihon University have developed technology that could lead to much faster data processing within computer hard drives. The researchers demonstrated ultrafast magnetic reversal using thin films of an alloy of gadolinium-iron-cobalt and ultrafast heating with a laser. Conventional hard drive technology can process data in a nanosecond, while the new technique has the potential to make the process up to a thousand times faster. "Our study demonstrated that by using heat and gadolinium-iron-cobalt, there is the potential to make magnetic reversal occur much faster," says York professor Roy Chantrell. The sample films were developed by Nihon University and the laser-heating technique was developed by Radboud University Nijmegen. "Aiming to observe the ultimately fast magnetization reversal we pushed the magnet into a regime that had not been described by any of the existing theories in magnetism," says Radboud's Alexey Kimel.


Mentorship Key for Women in IT, Says Collaborate Panel
Computerworld (04/13/11) Jaikumar Vijayan

A recent panel discussion at the Collaborate 11 Oracle user conference concluded that mentors and sponsors are crucial to helping women advance their careers in information technology (IT). The panelists said that women need to constantly push themselves forward in addition to finding somebody who can help them. Oracle's Beth Renstrom says that women need to take ownership of the value they bring to the organization. "Take ownership of what you have done and make sure you are letting people know what you have accomplished," Renstrom says. It also is important for a woman in IT to find someone to mentor and sponsor her within the organization, says Hitachi Consulting's Helen Berg. Women who are in positions of power need to be willing to mentor those that are new to the field, Renstrom says. Mentoring can be useful in organizations where women are not organized into groups, notes DRW's Michelle Malcher. In 2009 just 25 percent of U.S. IT professionals were women, compared to 31 percent in 1991, according to the National Center for Women & IT. In addition, just 18 percent of college degrees awarded in computer and information sciences in 2008 went to women, down more than 50 percent from 1985.


Univ. Researchers Develop Weapons-Tracking Program
Diamondback (MD) (04/13/11) Claire Saravia

Software developed at the University of Maryland could help U.S. forces in Afghanistan narrow their search for hidden artillery, weapons caches, and insurgent leaders. The program makes decisions on possible enemy locations based on pre-programmed information, such as road maps and observations from previous attacks. In addition to geographical information, the program combines cultural information, such as the political affiliation of local tribes. "Insurgents don't want attacks to be too near caches because people will look around there, but they don't want them to be too far away either," says Maryland professor V.S. Subrahmanian, who has been working on the Spatio-Cultural Abductive Reasoning Engine (SCARE) for three years. "These constraints help us figure out where they are." SCARE is similar to the Amazon search engine in that U.S. commanders would simply type something into the engine to obtain a list of possible locations for weapons or opposition leaders. In tests, SCARE was 35 times more effective than the Army's current surveillance methods.


Watson Goes to Work in the Hospital
Technology Review (04/13/11) Tom Simonite

University of Ontario Institute of Technology researchers are using the same analytical techniques that the supercomputer Watson uses to provide an early warning when babies in an intensive care unit (ICU) acquire a hospital-borne infection. Institute researcher Carolyn McGregor led a team that developed Artemis, software that analyzes all of the data that comes out of the neonatal ICU, including the babies' electrocardiograms, heart rates, breathing rates, blood oxygen levels, temperatures, and blood pressures. Artemis also can process data from medical records, such as the baby's birth weight. The system can spot episodes of apnea and variations in heart rate, which are both signs of infection. "We have proposed our own algorithm that uses those, and a wider range of data, to detect signs of infection," McGregor says. Artemis is built on an analytics platform called InfoSphere Streams that quickly makes decisions based on data arriving at a high speed from many sources. InfoSphere Streams uses stream computing, which involves information constantly flowing into the program, where question-answering algorithms determine the correct information.


Using Computers and Sensors to Curb Electricity Use in Buildings
UCSD News (CA) (04/13/11) Doug Ramsey

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) have developed algorithms and a real-time occupancy sensor network to create a smart heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. The software and sensor-based system resulted in electrical energy savings of nearly 16 percent during the initial test. "This is a significant real-world energy saving that comes while maintaining important quality-of-life measures related to building availability, lighting, comfort, and appearance," says UCSD's Yuvraj Agarwal. During testing, the sensors detected several periods of low occupancy when HVAC systems were fully operational and wasting energy. "Our solution is a novel control architecture that uses a network of sensors to keep track in real time of which areas of the building are occupied," Agarwal says. The UCSD experiment used passive-infrared sensors with a magnetic reed switch to create an occupancy sensor with 96 percent accuracy. The sensors can be modified to count people and detect environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity, and light levels.


Munger: China Could Become Supercomputing Partner
Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) (04/13/11) Frank Munger

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) scientific computing chief Jeff Nichols says the United States needs to form a partnership with China on high-performance computing. He notes that the world's fastest computer is in China, and bigger and better machines are under development. "They're a force to be reckoned with, and we can't ignore them," Nichols says. "We have to understand what their vision is, what their strategies are." Although the Chinese have developed some very fast machines, Nichols says they are still using U.S. parts for processing capabilities. China wants to be able to develop its own X86 processors and its own graphics processing unit processors. Nichols also notes that China is just starting to develop applications for its high-end supercomputers. Meanwhile, NVIDIA is building a strong relationship with ORNL, and is filling a key role in the work on Titan, a 20 petaflops supercomputer under development with Cray and scheduled for delivery in 2012.


Georgia Tech Scientist Creates 3-D Scanner iPhone App
Georgia Tech News (04/12/11) David Terraso

Georgia Tech University's Grant Schindler has developed Trimensional, an iPhone app that takes three-dimensional (3D) scans of objects and shares them via email. Trimensional uses the device's screen to shine four different lighting patterns on the target while using the camera to take pictures. The app produces a full 3D image with zoom-and-pan features to manipulate the model. The program works by taking every pixel and asking the same question using four different lighting conditions. "There's one three-dimensional answer per pixel, and combining all those answers results in the full 3D model," Schindler says. The program automates a technique developed in the 1980s that required expensive lighting equipment and a still model. "Once we get scanners in everyone's hands, you should be able to use these images for any use you can think of, replicating physical objects by sending your scans to a 3D printer, or creating a perfect digital substitute to take your video calls when you're not looking your best," Schindler says.


Making Personal Computers Inclusive
The Hindu (India) (04/10/11) Paromita Pain

Microsoft Research India's Indrani Medhi is developing a computer interface that enables non-literate people to use computers. Medhi says computers must be adapted because large parts of the global population are not able to use them. Her research has led to the launch of the Text-Free User Interface (UI) project, which seeks to develop guidelines for computer-human interfaces that aid the illiterate and semi-literate in using the Internet to find jobs, access information, and use mobile phone-based banking services. The Text-Free UI makes use of audio prompts and symbols that are particular to specific illiterate or poor communities. Video also is used to demonstrate how applications work. For example, a person using the job search option would see a domestic helper asking for and getting a job. Extensive tests have been conducted on a research prototype and pilot projects have been rolled out.


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