Welcome to the July 6, 2012 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Google Glass Launches New Age of Personal Computing
Computerworld (07/05/12) Sharon Gaudin
Google's recently unveiled computerized eyeglasses could mark the beginning of a new computing era in which wearable computers are common. The Google Glass development effort is all about "doing brand new risky technological things that are really about making science fiction real," says Google cofounder Sergey Brin. He says the next generation of computers likely won't sit on a desk or have keyboards or monitors. Meanwhile, analysts predict that future computers will be incorporated into other items that people use, such as clothing or jewelry. "I believe that in five years we will see many different form factors and brands of wearable computers," says analyst Patrick Moorhead. He says Google's research could lead to the mainstream use of these new technologies. "We can go beyond the glasses and visualize computers in our jewelry, in our watches, and even inside our bodies," Moorhead says. Google Glass and other wearable computers also could be very useful in many workplaces, notes analyst Rob Enderle. "They could be used regularly for things like taking inventory in warehouses, and for tasks on factory floors and other places where folks need to use computers and their hands at the same time," Enderle says.
New Technologies Spread Arrival of Robots Into Our Lives
USA Today (07/05/12) Jon Swartz
Robotics experts predict that within 10 years general-purpose robots will perform household chores while consumers are at work. "We are putting robots into people's lives," says Bossa Nova Robotics co-founder Sarjoun Skaff. Companies are developing dexterous robots capable of assembling smartphones and working safely in close proximity to people. Carnegie Mellon University researchers are developing software that enables robots to determine which parts to choose and assemble properly. These new systems are more efficient tools for repetitive tasks and could greatly reduce the labor costs of consumer electronics manufacturers. In the next 10 years, groups of unmanned planes will attack enemy sites, launching missiles and avoiding detection by using sophisticated jamming technologies. The transition to automated weaponry is crucial to the military's transformation from heavy ground forces to smaller human units backed by large robotic weapons. "A robot is the interface between the information world and physical world," says SRI International's Richard Mahoney. Recent movies have humanized robotics technology, making people more comfortable with the idea of interacting with robots. "Robots will be bigger than the [personal computer] in 10 to 20 years, but it will be linked to your computing device either in the cloud or on your person," predicts Orbotix CEO Paul Berberian.
Sharing Data Links in Networks of Cars
MIT News (07/05/12) Larry Hardesty
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Georgetown University, and National University of Singapore recently presented an algorithm that enables Wi-Fi-connected cars to share their Internet connections. The algorithm's approach is to aggregate data from hundreds of cars in a small amount and then upload it to the Internet. However, the difficultly lies in the fact that the layout of a network of cars is constantly changing in unpredictable ways. In general, cars that come into contact with the most other cars would aggregate the data. Using realistic assumptions, the researchers determined that for every 1,000 cars, five cars would aggregate and upload the data, says MIT graduate student Alejandro Cornejo. The researchers were able to show that the algorithm would still function well even if there were sparse connections between cars. However, their analysis also demonstrates that aggregation is not possible if the network of cars has slightly more linkages between them. “There’s this paradox of connectivity where if you have these isolated clusters, which are well-connected, then we can guarantee that there will be aggregation in the clusters,” Cornejo says. “But if the clusters are well connected, but they’re not isolated, then we can show that it’s impossible to aggregate."
New Technology Slashes Data Center Energy Consumption
CORDIS News (07/04/12)
A new energy-aware plug-in can reduce energy consumption in data centers by more than 20 percent, according to researchers with the European Union-funded Federated IT for a Sustainable Environment Impact (FIT4Green) project. Experts from industry and academia designed the technology to work on top of the current management tools used by data centers to organize the allocation of information and communications technologies resources and turn off unused equipment. The FIT4Green plug-in does not compromise the equipment's compliance with service-level agreements and quality-of-service metrics. The plug-in is designed to work in any data center type, and the savings ranged from 20 percent to as much as 50 percent during testing. Moreover, the savings in carbon dioxide emissions were on the same scale as the energy savings, while direct energy savings for information and communications technology gear also induced additional savings due to reduced cooling needs. One of the project participants, the VTT Technical Research Center, mainly focused on optimizations for supercomputing applications. The technology is now available to data centers, while the plug-in code has been released as open source software.
European Parliament Rejects Anti-Piracy Treaty
New York Times (07/05/12) Eric Pfanner
An international pact to fight digital piracy has been rejected by the European Parliament, and opponents see this as a triumph of their campaign to discourage Internet strictures. Meanwhile, groups representing media companies and other rights holders say protesters had distorted the debate to make the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) appear more sinister than it was, and the European rejection will hurt initiatives to curb online copyright theft. Copyright owners were hoping that ACTA would give them additional authority to prosecute rights violations, especially in developing nations marked by lax enforcement. The Parliament "has given in to pressure from anti-copyright groups despite calls from thousands of companies and workers in manufacturing and creative sectors who have called for ACTA to be signed in order that their rights as creators be protected," says European Publishers Council executive director Angela Mills Wade. However, opponents say the agreement could still supply a legitimate international framework for antipiracy strategies they detest, such as a system in France that suspends Internet access for repeat violators. The treaty also urges Internet service providers to act as copyright enforcers, which they have generally been reluctant to do.
Algorithm Identifies Top Ten Technology News Trend Setters
Technology Review (07/04/12)
Berlin Institute of Technology researchers are studying the problem of trend setting among news sites in an effort to determine which Web sites lead the news coverage and which ones follow it. The approach involves taking a snapshot of the words generated by a group of Web sites at any point in time and comparing it to the words generated by one of the Web sites at an earlier point in time, which enables them to calculate whether the content of the earlier Web site is a good predictor of future content on other sites. The researchers monitored 96 technology news sites throughout 2011, generating data on about 100,000 words. The researchers found that the top 10 trendsetters in technology news coverage were BusinessInsider, Arstechnica, Engadget, TechCrunch, Mashable, Venturebeat, Techdirt, The Register, Forbes, and Guardian. For the Berlin researchers' test, the trend setters were the ones who posted the stories first or posted so many of them that they are first often enough to appear to be trend setters. The research could lead to insights into how diseases are spread in epidemics, or determining where the first spark in a forest fire occurred.
Patent Trawler Aims to Predict Next Hot Technologies
New Scientist (07/03/12) Paul Marks
Hungarian Academy of Sciences researchers have developed a data-mining tool that automatically helps predict emerging technologies. The tool works by analyzing the frequency with which patents are cited by other patents. The researchers say that by plotting how the frequency of these citations changes over time shows that patents can be grouped into related clusters, which in turn can evolve, sometimes branching into new disciplines and other times merging with one another. The researchers, led by Peter Erdi, have developed software that charts this evolution, as well as looks into the future on the rate and type of citations to help predict whether existing technologies can lead to new areas of innovation. "Patent-citation data seems to be a gold mine of new insights into the development of technologies, since it represents the innovation process," Erdi says. In making innovation slightly more predictable, the researchers aim to remove some of the risk in futurism. "It sounds like a great antenna for what is happening in the marketplace, and the kind of discussions people are having," says Ford Motor futurist Sheryl Connelly.
Mobile, Java Developers Hard to Find: Dice
eWeek (07/03/12) Nathan Eddy
Software developers in general, as well as Java developers, mobile software developers, Microsoft .Net developers, and general security specialists are the five most difficult positions for information technology (IT) managers to fill, according to Dice.com. SAP developers, Microsoft SharePoint specialists, Web developers, active federal security clearance specialists, and network engineering professionals round out the top 10 most difficult-to-fill IT jobs. Dice.com surveyed 866 technology-focused hiring managers and recruiters, and found that the market for some skills is expanding faster than the talent pool can adapt. "Technology hiring managers largely want journeymen, not apprentices," Dice notes. "Competition is fierce when companies are all chasing the same talent, making positions hard to fill." As of July 2, 84,940 tech jobs were available, including 52,290 full-time positions, 36,157 contract positions, and 1,677 part-time positions. The New York/New Jersey metro area led the country with 8,871 positions listed, followed by the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metro area with 8,334, Silicon Valley with 5,684, Chicago with 3,900, and Los Angeles with 3,551. Dice.com notes the overall unemployment rate is about 3.5 percent, which is far lower than the U.S. jobless rate, but is unlikely to move much lower.
Doing Apps and Start-Ups While Still in High School
New York Times (07/02/12) Quentin Hardy
Palo Alto High School students recently founded the Paly Entrepreneurs Club, an extracurricular group for students who want to create start-ups and develop future technologies. The group meets weekly during the school year to discuss their ventures and ideas, explore issues such as money-raising strategies and new markets, and host guest speakers. “I want to build something that is tied to what is happening next,” says Paly member Matthew Slipper. Club members have been working on several projects, such as a social network to help teenagers organize study groups, and a trading network for Bitcoin, a virtual currency. “The goal here is inspirational,” says Aaron Bajor, one of the group's founders. "A great idea can hit you any time. Even if you do not have a great idea yet, if you have capabilities and passion others will want you on their team.” The start-up mentality is something Paly students are born with, as many of their parents work in the tech industry. “The kids here have such an unfair advantage,” says Box CEO Aaron Levie, who spoke at a recent meeting. “I told them to make friends and leverage their four years of freedom."
Soap Bubble Screen Is 'The World's Thinnest Display'
BBC News (07/02/12)
University of Tokyo researchers have developed a display that uses ultrasonic sound waves to alter soap film's properties and create either a flat or a three-dimensional image. The researchers say the display is the world's thinnest transparent screen. "We developed an ultra-thin and flexible [bidirectional reflectance distribution function] screen using the mixture of two colloidal liquids," says Tokyo researcher Yoichi Ochiai. The display varies in transparency and reflectance, which the researchers can control by hitting the bubble's membrane with ultrasonic sound waves played through speakers. The waves alter the texture of a projected image, making it look smooth or rough. Changing the wave's frequency modifies the reflective property of the screen, meaning that the transparency of the projected image also can be changed. "Our membrane screen can be controlled using ultrasonic vibrations," Ochiai says. "Membrane can change its transparency and surface states depending on the scales of ultrasonic waves."
See, Feel, Hear and Control Your Environment, Virtually
A*STAR Research (07/02/12)
A*STAR researchers have developed technologies that capture and analyze massive amounts of data to create systems that enhance urban living. The A*STAR Science and Engineering Research Council's (SERC's) Sense and Sense-abilities program focuses on pervasive sensing to tackle challenges that city planners face in developing urban environments. The technologies can be used for targeted marketing, enhancing product placement in stores, and deploying traffic management systems. For example, the A*STAR smart energy showcase demonstrates how "Smart Plugs" can be used to remotely monitor and control home appliances over the Internet. The researchers also note that A*STAR's sustainable manufacturing research promotes processes that efficiently recycle used materials, reduce a manufacturer's carbon footprint, and explore technologies that can be used for sustainable urban living. These technologies also can model urban environments to enable city planners to see what future cities might look like. For example, weather and genomic data can be used to combat diseases by predicting possible outbreaks and allowing effective intervention strategies to be rolled out faster. "A*STAR's highly engaging and exciting technology showcases provides an insight of how future cities may function in an even more intelligent and sustainable environment," says A*STAR SERC executive director Raj Thampuran.
At USC, Attacking Combat Vets' PTSD With Virtual Reality
CNet (07/02/12) Daniel Terdiman
Researchers at the University of Southern California's Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT) are developing virtual reality systems to help combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Emergent Leader Immersion Training Environment (ELITE) tasks young officers with learning how to handle struggling subordinates. ELITE utilizes a virtual human and a system that runs trainees through a series of scenarios in which they have to question a subordinate who has gotten into trouble that may stem from an undiagnosed case of PTSD. The program aims for the young officers to learn how to steer their charges in the right direction when this type of trouble arises. ICT researcher Skip Rizzo developed the Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan system, which is designed for use in conjunction with slow and methodical therapy. The ICT researchers also developed SimCoach, a Web-based virtual human programmed to ask questions that can help loved ones understand how to cope with someone suffering from PTSD.
University of Oxford (06/29/12) Pete Wilton
Computer scientist Stephen Wolfram recently gave a lecture at Oxford University in which he described “computational irreducibility,” the idea that some computations cannot be accelerated by any shortcut and the only way to determine what is going to happen is to simulate each step. Computational irreducibility is a “junior version of undecidability,” which is the idea that when you ask the question of what will ultimately happen, the answer is undecidable, according to Wolfram, who created computational tools such as Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha. He says Wolfram Alpha aims to “collect as much knowledge as possible and make it computable," an approach that could be applied to find out which theories about a certain structure or system was more powerful. For example, he notes that a recent pilot study focusing on continued fractions is already showing that the process of organizing theories in a way that is systematically computable is leading to new advances.
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