ACM TechNews


Welcome to the December 7, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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robot in supermarket Retail, Transportation Among Industries Most Impacted by AI
The Wall Street Journal
Angus Loten
December 4, 2018


Swiss bank UBS Group predicted companies in the automotive, aerospace, and defense and retail industries will likely experience the greatest impact from artificial intelligence (AI) in the coming years. Banking, media, support services, technology, telecom, and transportation also will be transformed by AI, via cost reductions and improved efficiency, according to the UBS analysis. UBS analysts based their forecast on each sector's level of data "intensity" by integrating the type of data collected by businesses in that industry with their average information technology spending. The study highlighted banking, media, and healthcare as data-rich areas with high tech investment, while also noting ventures in emerging sectors like autonomous vehicles also are generating vast volumes of unstructured data. Analysts cited fast growth in computational power and the availability and accessibility of large datasets as two factors supporting improvement in the industrial usage of AI.

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Wi-Fi everywhere, illustrative photo Sculpted Wi-Fi Waves Can Turn Your Whole Office Into a Computer
New Scientist
Leah Crane
December 4, 2018


Researchers at the Langevin Institute and the GreenerWave startup in France have found that Wi-Fi waves, if bounced around a room in a precise and controlled manner, can be used as an "analog computer" to perform complex calculations. Such a system could execute in one step what a traditional computer would require many steps to accomplish. For example, to know what two plus five is, the system creates a wave representing two, and sends it through a medium that modulates in a manner corresponding to adding five, so at the end the wave represents seven. The researchers demonstrated the concept with a more complicated type of calculation called matrix multiplication, in which the wave is bounced off specially designed panels before sending it through ordinary air. During testing, the resulting computations were correct more than 96% of the time.

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2018 ACM Fellows Honored for Pivotal Achievements that Underpin the Digital Age
HPCwire
December 5, 2018


ACM has named 56 members as 2018 ACM Fellows for both theoretical and specific achievements in computer architecture, mobile networks, robotics, and systems security, underpinning the technologies that define the digital age and have had significant ramifications in our professional and personal lives. This year's Fellows were lauded for contributions in areas that include accessibility, augmented reality, algorithmic game theory, data mining, storage, software, and the World Wide Web. The Fellows were from universities, companies, and research centers in Finland, Greece, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.S. Among them are the Georgia Institute of Technology's Amy S. Bruckman, who was lauded for contributions to collaborative computing and foundational work in Internet research ethics; the University of Rochester's Sandhya Dwarkadas, recognized for her work on shared memory and reconfigurability; and Indiana University's Katy Borner, who contributed methods and tools for rendering data into actionable insights.

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Microsoft to Bring Internet to 3 Million in Rural America by 2022 Microsoft to Bring Internet to 3 Million in Rural America by 2022
NextGov.com
Mike Murphy
December 4, 2018


Microsoft announced it is expanding an initiative to bring high-speed Internet to 2 million rural U.S. residents by 2022 by another 1 million. The software company said it has already connected 1 million people, and will expand its Airband Initiative into 10 more states. According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Microsoft aims to provide broadband Internet to the approximately 24 million citizens currently without it. The firm also would like to work with the FCC to better calculate the percentage of the U.S. population with online access, which it suggests may be much higher than current FCC counts.

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Captcha screen New Attack Could Make Website Security Captchas Obsolete
Lancaster University
December 5, 2018


Researchers at Lancaster University in the U.K., Northwest University, and Peking University in China have demonstrated a deep learning algorithm that could render captcha security and authentication redundant. The algorithm solves captchas with substantially greater accuracy than earlier captcha attack systems, and successfully cracks captcha versions that defeated previous hacks. The system uses a generative adversarial network (GAN), educating a captcha generator to produce large numbers of training captchas that are indistinguishable from actual captchas. These are employed to quickly train a solver, which is tested against real captchas; the algorithm only needs 500 genuine captchas, rather than the millions required to train a conventional attack program. Lancaster's Zheng Wang said, "Our work shows that the security features employed by the current text-based captcha schemes are particularly vulnerable under deep learning methods."

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Hour of Code tutorial Accenture Brings Hour of Code Tutorial Into 15 Languages
CNet
Erin Carson
December 3, 2018


As part of Computer Science Education Week, Accenture is translating its Hour of Code coding tutorial into 15 different languages. Accenture and Code.org collaborated on the tutorial on artificial intelligence, which will now be available in languages that include Chinese, Dutch, Polish, Slovak, Swedish, and Vietnamese. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identified technology jobs as being some of the fastest-growing, highest-paying jobs available. Said Accenture's Jill Huntley, "By learning to code, kids will grow up understanding how humans and technology work together—an important first lesson in preparing for the future." Code.org organizes the Hour of Code program, which runs every year during Computer Science Week and aims to teach basics and to broaden participation in the field of computer science.

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An illustration of the quantum frequency processor. Researchers Demonstrate New Building Block in Quantum Computing
R & D
December 3, 2018


Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have demonstrated a new level of control over photons encoded with quantum data. The team conducted distinct, independent operations concurrently on two quantum bits (qubits) encoded on light particles of differing frequencies, a key capability in linear optical quantum computing. Said ORNL's Pavel Lougovski, "To realize universal quantum computing, you need to be able to do different operations on different qubits at the same time, and that's what we've done here." He said the system, consisting of two entangled photons within a single strand of fiber-optic cable, is the "smallest quantum computer you can imagine." Using a quantum frequency processor, the researchers manipulated the photons' frequency to induce superposition, facilitating quantum operations and computing. The team achieved 97% interference visibility versus the 70% visibility rate from similar studies, indicating near-identical photonic quantum states.

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An image of flies buzzing around glasses of wine illustrates how flies detect novel odors. To Detect New Odors, Fruit Fly Brains Improve on a Well-Known Computer Algorithm
Salk News
December 3, 2018


Salk Institute for Biological Studies researchers investigating fruit flies' olfactory systems found insights that could improve algorithms for novelty detection in computer science. The implication is the new algorithmic framework could help detect duplicates or anomalies in large streaming datasets. A study detailing fruit flies' ability to detect entirely new odors described that ability as being similar to a Bloom filter, a data structure for novelty detection that stores a small "fingerprint" of each item using only a few bits of space per item; by checking whether the same fingerprint appears twice in the database, a system can rapidly learn whether the item is a duplicate or something novel. The Salk team's new framework was designed to predict fruit flies' novelty responses. Testing on several machine learning datasets determined the flies’ Bloom filter variant boosted the accuracy of novelty detection compared to other types of novelty detection filters.

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Graphene Unlocks New Potential for 'Smart Textiles'
University of Exeter
December 3, 2018


An international engineering team led by the University of Exeter in the U.K. has pioneered a new method to create fully electronic fibers that can be embedded into the production of everyday apparel to enable "smart textiles." The method involves coating the fibers with lightweight, durable components to allow the direct display of images on the fabric. The engineers employed existing polypropylene fibers to affix graphene-based electronic fibers and create touch-sensor and light-emitting devices. Said Exeter's Ana Neves, "The key to this new technique is that the textile fibers are flexible, comfortable, and light, while being durable enough to cope with the demands of modern life." According to the researchers, this development could revolutionize the fabrication of wearable electronic devices for a wide range of everyday applications, as well as health monitoring and medical diagnostics.

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Walmart Leads the Way...in Floor Scrubbing Robots?
ZDNet
Greg Nichols
December 3, 2018


By the end of next month, Walmart will deploy floor-scrubbing robots programmed to map out pathways via demonstration through the BrainOS operating system (OS) from Brain Corp. Store associates will walk the stores’ floors, guiding the robots along a quick demonstration route. Afterwards, BrainOS will take over to scan the area to be cleaned, while monitoring for people or new obstacles using onboard sensors. Said Brain Corp.'s Eugene Izhikevich, "BrainOS technology allows robots to effectively and safely function in complex, crowded environments, ensuring increased productivity and efficiency across applications." The scrubbing robots are the latest artificial intelligence solution explored by Walmart, as the retailer also uses robots from the Bossa Nova hardware company to scan shelves and aggregate customer activity in select retail outlets.

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An illustration of a plug and outlet coming together. Teachers Say There's a Disconnect in Computer Science Education
EdSurge (CA)
Tina Nazerian
December 3, 2018


Eighty-eight percent of teachers said computer science is critical for students' success in the workplace, but two in 10 said their students are not taught any computer science, according to a survey of 540 K-12 teachers in the U.S. that was commissioned by Microsoft. The teachers attributed the gap to computer science not being part of their schools' curricula, a lack of funding for it, and computer science not being a subject on which students are tested. Microsoft’s Mark Sparvell said, "Computer science is clearly in high demand. Teachers see it as a priority, parents see it as a priority from previous research. And yet, it's in low supply." Sheena Vaidyanathan, a computer science integration specialist in the Los Altos School District in California, said computer science should be part of the core U.S. education curriculum, like math and reading, rather than being dependent on funding and involvement from tech companies.

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10 Popular Programming Languages Developers Should Learn in 2019
TechRepublic
Alison DeNisco Rayome
December 3, 2018


The December 2018 TIOBE Programming Community index shows Java, C, and Python programming languages still dominating the top spots, although Microsoft's Visual Basic .NET reached a record high in fifth place, up from sixth in February. Index analysts said professional developers give Visual Basic little regard since it is often considered a "toy language" intended for novice coders. However, many professional programs and applications are written in Visual Basic, and many small and midsized businesses have crafted apps with Visual Basic because learning it is easy and it accommodates rapid prototyping. Analysts also noted Microsoft is gradually phasing out Visual Basic but halting its co-evolution strategy with C#, which means the language's popularity will eventually decline once more. The December ranking also has C++ in fourth place, and following the fifth-place Visual Basic .NET are C#, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, and Objective-C filling out the top 10 spots.

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A historic photo depicting Yamana people in a row boat—an example of a group with nautical technology. AI for Studying the Ancient Human Populations of Patagonia
SINC (Information and Scientific News Service)
November 29, 2018


Researchers from Argentina's National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), the Spanish National Research Council, and the University of Burgos in Spain used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the migratory patterns and technology of hunter-gatherer groups that inhabited Patagonia, at the southern tip of South America, from their time of arrival about 12,000 years ago until the end of the 19th century. The researchers applied machine learning to an extensive dataset of all available archaeological evidence of human presence in this region, to execute classifications and predictions. Said CONICET's Ivan Briz i Godino, "It is by means of automatic classification algorithms that we have identified two technological packages or 'landscapes': one that characterizes pedestrian hunter-gatherer groups (with their own stone and bone tools) and the other characterizing those that had nautical technology, such as canoes, harpoons, and mollusk shells used to make beads." The researchers also developed maps featuring the settlements of the two communities, and localized regions in which they interacted and shared their technological knowledge.

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The Continuing Arms Race: Code-Reuse Attacks and Defenses
 
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