Welcome to the July 6, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Chinese Scientists Set New Quantum Entanglement Record
July 3, 2018

Researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China have set a world record for entanglement of 18 quantum bits (qubits), keeping China ahead in the international research competition to establish a functioning quantum computer. The computing power of a quantum computer grows exponentially with the number of qubits that can be manipulated, and a big enough system could solve large computation problems that are beyond the ability of current classical computers, says the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Pan Jianwei. For example, a quantum computer with 50 qubits would be more powerful than today's fastest supercomputer in solving quantum sampling problems. Pan's team has been leading the race for quantum supremacy, achieving the first five, six, eight, and 10 entangled photons in the world. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Europe are actively collaborating on quantum research, and high-tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM have their own quantum computing research underway.

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Entrance to Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York Big Tech's Hot New Talent Incubator: Community College
The Wall Street Journal
Christopher Mims
June 29, 2018

Two-year community colleges are being increasingly tapped by the technology industry to fill a talent shortage, with the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations' Edward Alden noting the trend of setting up talent pipelines for tech companies of all sizes is "taking off across the country." Technology giants are establishing apprenticeships, new certifications, and degrees, in a trend driven in part by mounting student loan debt and a widening skills gap between available job candidates and open positions. For example, Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, NC, provides internships with companies that have local offices, and supports continuing education for workers at companies such as Infosys and Credit Suisse. Wake Tech serves 74,000 students, 90% of whom are part-time. One reason technology companies turn to community colleges is that they are seeking candidates who are unavailable elsewhere, such as veterans with security clearances.

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Calling Android: Researchers See If Rowhammer-Based Exploits Still Possible
Tech Xplore
Nancy Owano
July 4, 2018

Researchers at institutions that include Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands have discovered a variant of the Rowhammer hack that allows malicious applications to access the entire operating system and assume complete control over an Android device. This "RAMpage" exploit entails ramming memory pages to acquire arbitrary read and write access. "It targets an Android's universal generic memory management system called ION introduced by Google in 2011 as part of Android 4.0," says Threatpost's Tom Spring. "It's part of a subsystem used to manage and allocate memory. An attack consists of a write and refresh request on the device's RAM until it flips a bit in an adjacent row." The Rowhammer attack involves manipulating data from dynamic random-access memory (DRAM), caused by the unintended phenomenon of charge leakage from memory cells. The researchers published a paper describing their defense against the exploit.

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Computer screen’s internet browser and the words USACM Calls on Congress to Enact Comprehensive Consumer Privacy Protections
Association for Computing Machinery
Jim Ormond
July 2, 2018

ACM's U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USACM) this week submitted recommendations to the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security that focus on protecting personal privacy in the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. USACM urged Congress to immediately act to protect the public good and the integrity of the democratic process by addressing technical and ethical issues raised by the data breach. Specifically, USACM wants Congress to draft and adopt comprehensive personal privacy protection legislation extending beyond social media to meet nine critical goals, including limiting collection/minimizing retention of personal data; clarifying and simplifying user consent processes and maximizing user control of data, and simplifying data-sharing policies and assuring data-flow transparency. USACM chair Stuart Shapiro says the organization has significant expertise in the technical and ethical aspects of the case, and looks forward to serving as an apolitical resource for Congress in pursuit of solutions.

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This Robotic Insect Walks on Water
Greg Nichols
July 5, 2018

Harvard University researchers have updated a centimeter-scaled microrobot introduced earlier this year to be able to walk on the surface of water. The microbot was first created to demonstrate that sophisticated mobile robots can be engineered at very small sizes by taking inspiration from nature. The Harvard Ambulatory Microbot (HAMR) has been equipped with special feet that give it the ability to walk on water or dive beneath the surface. The feet consist of four asymmetrical flaps that spread HAMR's approximately two grams of weight over sufficient area that no one foot will break the surface tension of the water. The robot can walk by moving its legs at a frequency of up to 10 Hz, and it can carry an additional payload that nearly equals its own weight. HAMR dives by applying voltage through its feet to break the surface tension.

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Traffic cameras and sensors on a traffic light Portland Installing 200 Sensors to Improve Traffic Safety
Government Computer News
Matt Leonard
June 29, 2018

Portland, OR's Traffic Safety Sensor Project involves installing 200 CityIQ sensor nodes in the city's "high crash network" to gather data on vehicle and pedestrian traffic, in the hope that will help officials learn how to prevent fatal accidents. The sensors will be installed on 30 Portland streets that account for more than half of the city's traffic fatalities, even though they make up only 8% of the city's roadways. The nodes, which are attached to existing street light poles, have more than 30 built-in sensors, including two cameras that capture images of the roadway and sidewalk, and an array of environmental sensors for measuring temperature, pressure, and humidity. Specialized chips power vision analysis in the units and produce metadata featuring traffic and pedestrian counts, along with time and location stamps. The metadata is transmitted to a cloud platform, where it can be accessed via application programming interfaces.

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New Data Science Major Promotes Diversity in High-Tech
University of California, Riverside
Holly Ober
June 28, 2018

The Center for Advancing Women in Technology (CAWIT), an organization dedicated to increasing the participation of women in technology “from campus to career,” has bestowed a $400,000 gift on the University of California, Riverside (UC Riverside) to support the creation of a new data science degree to bring more women and underrepresented groups into technology fields. Through its Technology Pathways Initiative (TPI), CAWIT is funding programs at several different universities, including UC Riverside. TPI funds interdisciplinary degree programs that integrate computing and information technology into majors that tend to draw women. An integral part of the UC Riverside program will be outreach activities aimed at establishing data science-related curricula, projects, and activities in K-12 education. The program is expected to have a "soft rollout" in fall 2018 with a fully operational degree in fall 2019; about 50 new students are expected to enroll each year.

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Japan Tests Silicon for Exascale Computing in 2021
IEEE Spectrum
John Boyd
June 28, 2018

Japan's Fujitsu and Japanese research institute RIKEN are field-testing a prototype CPU for the next-generation Post-K supercomputer, which they believe will lift the country to the top of global supercomputer rankings. The Post-K follows development of the 8-petaflops K supercomputer in 2012, also by Fujitsu and RIKEN, which has since been upgraded to 11 petaflops in application processing speed. The two organizations intend to "create the world's highest performing supercomputer," with "up to 100 times the application execution performance of the K computer," Fujitsu says. Aiming to place the Post-K machine in exascale territory, the researchers are using the Arm8A-SVE (Scalable Vector Extension) 512-bit architecture, which has been enhanced for supercomputer use. The Post-K runs on CPUs with 48 cores plus 2 assistant cores for the computational nodes, with 48 cores plus 4 assistant cores for the I/O and computational nodes. "It will be the largest Arm system in the world and in fact, likely the largest supercomputer in the world," says RIKEN's Satoshi Matsuoka, recipient of the ACM Gordon Bell Prize for 2011.

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An example of a therapy session augmented with humanoid robot NAO’s face tracking. Personalized 'Deep Learning' Equips Robots for Autism Therapy
MIT News
Becky Ham
June 27, 2018

Researchers in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab have developed a personalized deep learning network to help robots gauge the effect of autism therapy on children, using data that is unique to each patient. The team used humanoid NAO robots that exhibit emotional states via eye color, limb movement, and tone of voice, while interacting with 35 autistic children in 35-minute-long sessions. MIT's Oggi Rudovic says most subjects responded to the robot "not just as a toy, but related to NAO respectfully as it if was a real person," especially during storytelling. The personalized deep learning framework could learn from video, audio, and physiological readings collected on each child, while information about the child's autism diagnosis and abilities, their culture, and their gender also was considered. The robots' perception of the subjects' responses correlated 60% with human experts' assessments.

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It's Time for a Chemistry Lesson. Put on Your Virtual Reality Goggles.
The New York Times
Veronique Greenwood
July 3, 2018

At the University of Bristol in the U.K., researchers have created a virtual reality (VR) environment that allows biochemists studying a molecule to perform simple tasks nearly 10 times faster than on a two-dimensional (2D) screen-based simulation. The new tool allows users to experience the latest information on what scientists know about how molecules move and flex, says University of Bristol's David Glowacki. Anyone with a virtual reality setup can access the new simulation, which runs on Oracle supercomputers. The researchers timed users, both in VR and on computers with a touchscreen or mouse, on three molecule manipulations. For two tasks, users were significantly faster in the VR environment, while the third task took about the same time using either setup, which Glowacki suggests is because the solution was essentially a 2D movement. The findings indicate that VR could allow scientists to learn about molecule movements much more rapidly. In addition, the new tool could allow researchers who are physically separated, such as at pharmaceutical companies or universities, to examine molecules collaboratively and simultaneously, Glowacki says.

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5G Technology Brings 3D Views to Inter-Vehicle Communication
VTT Technical Research Center
June 28, 2018

Through its 5G-Safe project, VTT Technical Research Center of Finland has developed new 5G solutions related to road weather services, road maintenance, automated driving, and real-time, inter-vehicle transmission of three-dimensional (3D) views. The research also included the Finnish Meteorological Institute and several corporate partners. "The speed of the 5G network enables transmitting large 3D views between vehicles. As a result, the communication distances of car observations can be increased and data can be obtained from areas which the car's own sensors do not cover and are not in its view," says VTT's Tiia Ojanpera, who leads the 5G-Safe project. The new solutions and services will gather data and send warnings automatically. The 5G-Safe project solutions are slated for completion by the end of the year.

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A New Direction for HPC Math Libraries
The Next Platform
Rob Farber
June 27, 2018

The University of Tennessee's Jack Dongarra, an ACM fellow and recipient of the 2013 ACM/IEEE Ken Kennedy Award, recently presented a new direction for math libraries at the International Supercomputing conference in Germany. The Parallel Numerical Linear Algebra for Future Extreme-Scale Systems (NLAFET) project concentrates on employing directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) processed by a runtime system. NLAFET seeks to develop novel architecture-aware algorithms that reveal the maximum amount of parallelism, leverage heterogeneity, skip communications bottlenecks, respond to escalating fault rates, and help fulfill emerging power constraints. The DAG serves as an intermediate language to express the parallelism and data dependencies of the numerical algorithm without locking in any specific computer architecture, with the decisions about what to parallelize and how data movement is to be organized postponed until a machine-specific runtime interprets the DAG and makes the decisions for most efficiently running the computation. The outcomes of these efforts will be published in the NLAFET software library.

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Tennis great John McEnroe disputes a call. 'You Cannot Be Serious': IBM Taps Emotions for Wimbledon Highlights
June 26, 2018

IBM's Watson artificial intelligence (AI) platform is analyzing players' emotions at the Wimbledon tennis tournament to compile highlights in which players display a heightened sense of emotion. In addition to recognizing emotions, Watson is also analyzing crowd noise, players' movements, and match data. IBM's Sam Seddon says the company is using machine learning to pinpoint scenes after exciting play when athletes show their emotions. "If you've got the visual element from the player, and you know that it's a tight pressure point in the match, then those are the points that you are going to really target in on in the highlights package," he says. Watson also is offering a Wimbledon chatbot service via Facebook Messenger, which provides fans with access to customized information on scores, news, and players.

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July 2018 Issue of Communications of the ACM
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