Welcome to the May 16, 2016 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
4 Big Plans to Fix Internet Security
InfoWorld (05/13/16) Fahmida Y. Rashid
Moore's Law Is Dead. Now What?
Technology Review (05/13/16) Tom Simonite
The looming obsolescence of Moore's Law is forcing scientists to look for other ways to improve computer performance and innovation. The effects of this trend will likely be felt by mobile computing devices later than by other types of computing, predicts University of Michigan professor Thomas Wenisch. He says two more generations of mobile devices could be produced before being affected, but a more immediate impact would be on billion-dollar data centers that underlie many useful mobile applications. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Horst Simon, co-recipient of the 1988 and 2009 ACM Gordon Bell Prizes, says the approaching limit to transistor density will rekindle interest in rethinking the fundamental computer architecture among supercomputer and data center designers, but this will require a redrafting of many types of software and an overhaul of programmer habits. Wenisch says Intel and other firms will need to take inventive approaches to ramping up computing power, and the possibilities include working harder to improve chip design and specializing chips to accelerate specific algorithms. One likely inevitable trend is strong demand for silicon tuned for calculations that are vital to deep learning. Microsoft and Intel are focusing on running code on reconfigurable field-programmable gate array chips to boost efficiency. Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Neil Thompson raises the question of whether computing advances similar to those achieved via Moore's Law will be possible once it has ended.
How Toy Street Lamps Are Shedding New Light on Quantum Computing
IDG News Service (05/12/16) Katherine Noyes
The bulbs from toy street lamps, among other things, are helping to reveal new insights into quantum computing. Researchers at the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Yale University captured electrons from the tungsten filament of a miniature toy light bulb by coaxing them to float above the surface of superfluid helium at 1/100th of a degree above absolute zero. When the bulb heats up, electrons "boil" off and fly onto the surface of the helium, and the University of Chicago's Gerwin Koolstra says, "we can trap the electrons and hold them for basically as long as we want." The researchers say their ultimate goal is to build a trap that holds a single electron for use as a quantum bit (qubit). Meanwhile, a separate research team at the University of Chicago and Argonne used supercomputers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to determine the application of strain to aluminum nitride can induce structural defects similar to those in diamonds, which can be harnessed to create qubits. A third project conducted by the universities of Bristol and Western Australia involved development of a method for efficiently modeling "quantum walk" physics that are observable with a primitive quantum computer, according to Bristol lecturer Jonathan Matthews. He thinks more refined quantum computer designs and a new class of quantum algorithms could stem from this discovery.
Lincoln Laboratory Establishes a Supercomputing Center
MIT News (05/11/16) Jacob Solomon
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory founded the Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center (LLSC) in April to acknowledge the value of LLGrid world-class computing capability. Although the new facility is partly based on the LLGrid infrastructure, it was developed to augment computing power and accessibility to more than 1,000 MIT researchers. "By establishing the LLSC, Lincoln Laboratory will be able to better address supercomputing needs across all Laboratory missions, develop new supercomputing capabilities and technologies, and spawn even closer collaborations with MIT campus supercomputing initiatives," says LLSC director Jeremy Kepner. "These brilliant engineers, scientists, faculty, and students use our capabilities to conduct research in diverse fields such as space observations, robotic vehicles, communications, cybersecurity, machine learning, sensor processing, electronic devices, bioinformatics, and air traffic control." LLSC manager Albert Reuther says the center is distinguished from similar labs due to its researchers' "focus on interactive supercomputing for high-performance data analysis." He notes the LLSC largely owes its existence to researchers who employ supercomputing capabilities to generate cutting-edge research results, while also crediting the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Beaver Works Center for playing an essential role in the LLSC's collaborations with campus. "Laboratory researchers will see continued improvement in the LLSC systems, MIT Campus will benefit from our unique interactive supercomputing technologies, and Laboratory and campus researchers will be able to collaborate more closely on their joint research projects," Kepner predicts.
Moving Mobile Communication Onto the Cloud
CORDIS News (05/12/16)
The European Union-funded Mobile Cloud Networking project could provide the future communications architecture for mobile cloud services. The project's team reports they have integrated domains, cloud computing services, and mobile networks to provide a platform upon which Europe's future mobile network services can be run. Last year at the European Conference on Networks and Communications, the team demonstrated the deployment of a Mobile Core Network (MCN) on a cloud infrastructure and how it could be used to develop mobile networking services. The researchers say much of this work is now ready for further exploitation and eventual commercialization. Organizations such as a utility provider would sign a contract with an MCN provider, which would maintain contracts with a set of cloud-ready mobile networks and data center providers. The researchers note the project should be of great interest to Europe's telecommunications sector because it has yet to fully tap the vast commercial potential cloud computing offers mobile services.
System Harnesses Thousands of Network Cameras for Public Safety
Purdue University News (05/10/16) Emil Venere
Purdue University researchers have developed a prototype system that can tap into thousands of cameras located in numerous venues, including parking garages, college campuses, national parks, and highways. The system is a combination of the existing Visual Analytics Law Enforcement Toolkit (VALET) and Continuous Analysis of Many CAMeras (CAM2) systems. VALET can visualize multiple sets of data, including crime locations, calendar events, and weather, while CAM2 is an interactive visualization and analysis tool that shows the locations and orientations of public network cameras. The new system integrates public and closed-circuit TV cameras, and quickly finds which area is covered by which camera. Purdue professor Yung-Hsiang Lu notes many organizations have deployed cameras for a wide range of purposes, and they are accessible to the public without the need for a password. CAM2 locates public-network cameras and identifies certain properties, such as location, orientation, whether it is indoors or outdoors, the frame size, and frame rate. Information is displayed on a map so law enforcement and the general public can visualize which locations are monitored by the public network cameras. The system also could be used to quickly find damage, plan rescues, and other operations during natural disasters.
New Design of Primitive Quantum Computer Finds Application
University of Bristol News (05/10/16)
An efficient simulation of a "quantum walk" on a new design for a primitive quantum computer processor has been developed by researchers and engineers from the universities of Bristol and Western Australia. The quantum walk represents the quantum mechanical incarnation of very useful models such as Brownian motion and the "drunken sailor's random walk." The chief distinction is the particle in the quantum walk follows the principle of quantum superposition; this has enabled other researchers to demonstrate a new way to consider how full-scale quantum computers might operate and generate useful quantum algorithms. "It's like the particle can explore space in parallel," says University of Bristol postdoctoral researcher Xiaogang Qiang. "This parallelism is key to quantum algorithms, based on quantum walks that search huge databases more efficiently than we can currently." Fellow Bristol researcher Jonathan Matthews says this research may have revealed "a new example of quantum walk physics that we can observe with a primitive quantum computer, that otherwise a classical computer could not see. These otherwise hidden properties have practical use, perhaps in helping to design more sophisticated quantum computers."
New Electrical Energy Transmission System Makes Distance Wireless Charging a Reality
Autonomous University of Barcelona (05/10/16)
It may soon be possible to charge mobile devices without even taking them out of one's pocket. Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) have developed a system to efficiently transfer electrical energy between two separated circuits, thanks to the use of metamaterials. The researchers say the experimental system can be adapted to mobile devices to charge them wirelessly and at a longer distance than currently possible. Earlier experiments seeking to concentrate static magnetic fields required the use of superconductor metamaterials, unfeasible for everyday use with mobile devices. "In contrast, low-frequency electromagnetic waves--the ones used to transfer electrical energy from one circuit to the other--only need conventional conductors and magnets," says UAB's Carles Navau. The research was conducted by Navau and UAB's Alvar Sanchez with the collaboration of Jordi Prat at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The system is comprised of metamaterials that combine layers of ferromagnetic materials, such as magnets, and conductor materials such as copper. The researchers say the metamaterials envelop the emitter and receptor and enable the transfer of electrical energy between the two at a distance and with unprecedented efficiency.
New Insights Into Motion-Based Video Game Design for Young Disabled Players
University of Lincoln (05/09/16) Cerri Evans
University of Lincoln researchers, working with colleagues from the University of Copenhagen and University College Cork, have been working with a leading special needs school to study whether new motion-based gaming technologies and interactive design approaches could make video games more accessible and appealing for children who use powered wheelchairs. The researchers used a process called "participatory design," which involved working with nine young people at the school who used powered wheelchairs in an attempt to better understand what they would want as players from new movement-based video games. The researchers used the sessions to develop three new games specifically with those users' needs in mind. In each game, wheelchair movements controlled aspects of the game. The system tracks wheelchair movement through body position, while an extended version is marker-based if the user has a very limited ability to move. "Our results showed that the games provided engaging experiences for players with a wide range of cognitive and physical abilities, and that the users appreciated the combination of physical and in-game challenge," says University of Lincoln researcher Kathrin Gerling. The findings also suggest movement-based games can help empower players with mobility impairments by providing experiences that are relevant to their personal situations. Gerling notes the participatory development of movement-based games could create engaging experiences with a physical dimension.
Your Smartphone and Tablet May Be Making You ADHD-Like
Smartphones and other digital technology may be inducing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-like symptoms, according to a study published in the proceedings of ACM CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, CA. Researchers from the Universities of Virginia and British Columbia staged an experiment demonstrating when 221 students kept their phones on ring or vibrate and with notification alerts on, they reported more inattention and hyperactivity than when they kept their phones on silent. This suggests even people without an ADHD diagnosis may experience some of the disorder's symptoms. A second study suggested the use of digital platforms such as tablets and laptops for reading also may increase users' inclination to focus on tangible details rather than interpreting information more contemplatively or abstractly. Using 300 participants, researchers at Dartmouth College's Tiltfactor lab and Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute performed four studies in which participants were tested by reading a short story and a table of information about fictitious Japanese car models. Outcomes showed individuals who completed the same information processing task on a digital mobile device compared to a non-digital platform displayed a lower level of abstract thinking. "The ever-increasing demands of multitasking, divided attention, and information overload that individuals encounter in their use of digital technologies may cause them to 'retreat' to the less cognitively demanding lower end of the concrete-abstract continuum," the researchers say.
The World's First Wireless Satellite
University of Wurzburg (05/06/2016) Robert Emmerich
Two computer scientists from the University of Wurzburg took first prize at the INNOspace Masters competition for developing technology that will enable satellite components to be connected through miniaturized radio modules, instead of electric cables. Wurzburg professor Sergio Montenegro and fellow researcher Tobias Mikschl won the "DLR Space Administration Challenge" category and the overall INNOspace Masters competition as a result of the innovation. Montenegro and Mikschl have developed technology for the world's first wireless satellite. Called Skith, which stands for "skip the harness," the technology uses miniaturized high-speed real-time radio modules with short ranges. The researchers said their approach reduces design effort and costs while boosting the technical reliability and flexibility of the satellite. "The system is ready and waiting in our labs to be tested in space under real conditions," Mikschl says.
We Talked to the Scholar Who Just Got $2.3 Million to Study Games
Motherboard (05/09/16) Emanuel Maiberg
In an interview, the IT University of Copenhagen's Espen Aarseth discusses his study of video games, for which he recently was awarded a $2.3-million Advanced Grant from the European Union's European Research Council. As research director of the university's Center for Computer Games Research, Aarseth says he will use the grant to underwrite a five-year project to create a "theoretical foundation for working with games of both the digital and analog variety." The Making Sense of Games project seeks to establish concepts with which to critically discuss and understand games, their meaning, functions, cultural applications, and relevance to players and possibly designers, according to Aarseth. He anticipates hiring eight postdoctoral students to work on the project, who will concentrate on their own sub-projects but still have common goals in mind. Aarseth believes the most formidable challenge will be ensuring their research is of use to other scientists, the public, and perhaps educators, given the growing use of computer games as classroom learning tools. He says a theoretical framework is mainly about seeing how games are expressive and how they serve as systems in various capacities. Aarseth also says his winning the grant could be validation from experts in other fields that games are "a completely legitimate and important field of study."
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