Welcome to the September 26, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

ACM TechNews mobile apps are available for Android phones and tablets (click here) and for iPhones (click here) and iPads (click here).

To view "Headlines At A Glance," hit the link labeled "Click here to view this online" found at the top of the page in the html version. The online version now has a button at the top labeled "Show Headlines."
White House Issues Quantum Computing Strategy and Hosts Public-Private Summit
Alan Boyle
September 24, 2018

Federal officials and industry leaders on Monday convened at a White House summit to brainstorm new quantum information science projects. Recommendations included establishing a U.S. Quantum Consortium, as well as a series of Grand Challenges. According to a federal subcommittee, "The need to protect sensitive data and provide a reliable infrastructure over the long term requires moving to 'post-quantum' or 'quantum-resistant' forms of cryptography." A strategy paper from the subcommittee urged agencies to formulate their own "science-first" strategies for advancing quantum information research over a decade by the first quarter of next year, concentrating on challenges that could include new types of quantum processors, sensors, navigation tools, and security systems. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) said it would provide $31 million in awards for basic quantum research; NSF's France Cordova said that research would help "position the U.S. to be a global leader in quantum research and development and help train the next generation of quantum researchers."

Full Article

Air brushing tool spraying MXene onto surface Researchers Develop Invisibly Thin Spray-On Antennas
Help Net Security
September 25, 2018

Drexel University researchers have developed a method for creating invisibly thin antennas from a two-dimensional metallic material called Mxene, which perform as well as antennas currently used in mobile devices, wireless routers, and portable transducers. Mxene, made from titanium carbide, can be dissolved in water to create an ink or paint, and the material's exceptional conductivity enables it to transmit and direct radio waves, even when applied in a very thin coating. Drexel's Kapil Dandekar said, "The ability to spray an antenna on a flexible substrate or make it optically transparent means that we could have a lot of new places to set up networks—there are new applications and new ways of collecting data that we can't even imagine at the moment."

Full Article
Do You Know Cobol? If So, There Might Be a Job for You
The Wall Street Journal
Max Colchester
September 21, 2018

Although it was developed in the late 1950s, the Common Business-Oriented Language (Cobol) remains the most prevalent programming language in the financial services industry worldwide. Software programmed in Cobol powers millions of banking transactions every day and forms the foundation of critical computer mainframes. This is likely to remain unchanged, as banks and other companies have realized that implementing new mainframes would be expensive and complicated. However, Cobol is not popular with new programmers, and as a generation of Cobol experts prepares to retire, there is an ongoing search to find new coders to service the technology. Several companies continue to teach programmers Cobol; said Derek Britton of Micro Focus International, which offers Cobol programming training to 400 colleges, "We don’t see that demand going anytime soon."

Full Article
News Site to Investigate Big Tech, Helped by Craigslist Founder
The New York Times
Nellie Bowles
September 23, 2018

ProPublica journalists Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson are launching The Markup, a news site dedicated to investigating technology and its effects on society. The startup is relying on a $20-million gift from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, along with $3 million raised from the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative, and several other organizations. The site will examine three broad investigative areas: how profiling software discriminates against the poor and others, Internet health and infections, and the power of technology companies. Programmers will partner with journalists at the beginning of each story, and work with them until the story is completed, to improve understanding. The Markup executive director Sue Gardner, former head of the Wikimedia Foundation, says, "Part of the premise of The Markup is the level of understanding technology and its effects is very, very low, and we would all benefit from a broader understanding."

Full Article

Screen shot of a Yelp review You Can't Tell Whether an Online Restaurant Review Is Fake—But This AI Can
Aalto University
September 17, 2018

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland used a technique called neural machine translation to improve a University of Chicago-developed deep neural network for generating fake restaurant reviews. In 2017, University of Chicago researchers developed a fake restaurant review program using a dataset of three million real restaurant ratings from Yelp. However, the new method had a difficult time staying on topic; for a review of a Japanese restaurant in Las Vegas, the model could make references to an Italian restaurant in Baltimore. The Aalto researchers helped the review generator stay relevant using neural machine translation to give the model a sense of context. Building on this work, the team created a classifier that can spot fake reviews effectively, especially in situations in which human evaluators struggled the most to determine authenticity. By identifying fake reviews, the work could protect consumers and businesses, for example, from companies seeking to boost sales or damage rivals with false narratives.

Full Article
Smartphone, M.D.
The Current
Sonia Fernandez
September 20, 2018

A multi-institutional team led by University of California, Santa Barbara researchers has developed an application and laboratory kit that enable smartphones to identify bacteria from patients anywhere in the world in only 60 minutes. The researchers say their system rapidly and accurately diagnoses urinary tract infections. The app employs a smartphone camera to quantify a chemical reaction and make a diagnosis in an affordable and simple manner, which means the test can be conducted in far-flung locations. Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital's Jeffrey Fried says, "The app enables early-stage diagnosis and intervention, which is particularly important in the context of multidrug-resistant pathogens for which treatment options are highly limited."

Full Article

Human and prosthetic hands side by side Engineers Add Sense of Touch to Prosthetic Hand
National Institutes of Health
September 21, 2018

With funding from the U.S. National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) researchers have engineered an "electronic skin" that can incorporate a sense of touch into a prosthetic hand. The "e-dermis" is equipped with biosensors that emulate human touch and pain receptors; they are electronically connected to nerves in the user’s arm that relay touch and pain sensations to the brain. JHU's Luke Osborn says the e-dermis "will allow the wearer to tell the shape of what he or she is picking up. Sharp objects will actually cause the feeling of pain, which is an attempt to give the person a range of realistic sensations." The researchers are working to expand the skin's capabilities to include temperature perception.

Full Article
A New Way to Count Qubits
Syracuse University
Rob Enslin
September 24, 2018

Syracuse University and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have developed a technique for measuring the state of quantum bits (qubits) in a quantum computer. Syracuse's Plourde Group, which specializes in creating superconducting devices and measuring their capabilities at low temperatures, is led by Britton Plourde, who says superposition, when combined with entanglement, leads to the possibility of quantum algorithms with many applications. Development efforts by teams at Google and IBM have yielded quantum processors with approximately 50 qubits, comprised of superconducting microwave circuits cooled to near absolute zero. Plourde says the new approach replaces the need for a cryogenic amplifier and much room-temperature hardware and electronics currently required to measure the state of qubits. Plourde says the technique could support scaling to quantum processors with millions of qubits.

Full Article
Small Modulator for Big Data
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Leah Burrows
September 24, 2018

Researchers at Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have devised a method for designing and fabricating integrated on-chip modulators 100 times smaller and 20 times more efficient than current lithium niobite (LN) modulators. SEAS’ Cheng Wang said that by integrating LN on a small chip, "the drive voltage can be reduced to a CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor)-compatible level. In previous research, the team demonstrated a technique to fabricate high-performance LN microstructures using standard plasma etching to physically sculpt microresonators in thin LN films. Combining that technique with specially designed electrical components allows for fabrication of an integrated high-performance on-chip modulator. Said SEAS' Marko Loncar, "Our platform could lead to large-scale, very fast, and ultra-low-loss photonic circuits, enabling a wide range of applications for future quantum and classical photonic communication and computation."

Full Article

Students at the opening ceremony of the Google Tech Exchange Google, Expanding on HBCU Pilot, Launches 'Tech Exchange' to Boost Diversity in Industry
EdSurge (CA)
Emily Tate
September 19, 2019

Google's just-launched Tech Exchange program will send 65 students from 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions to Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA, to study advanced computer science skills and concepts, as a means of increasing diversity in the computer science sector. Howard University's Wayne A.I. Frederick says the program constitutes a scaling-up of a pilot held last year, in which 26 Howard students spent the summer studying and researching at Google. Google's April Alvarez said Tech Exchange participants are college juniors with a substantial footing in computer science, an essential element because the curriculum is "engaging, rigorous" and more hands-on than traditional computer science courses. "We're focused on building a more diverse Google, one that definitely reflects our users," said Alvarez. "This Tech Exchange is a piece of that puzzle."

Full Article
Electric Grid Protection Through Low-Cost Sensors, Machine Learning
Government Computer News
Patrick Marshall
September 21, 2018

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a cost-effective method for detecting power-grid attacks on the fly through the use of phasor measurement units (PMUs). Berkeley Lab's Sean Peisert says, "If we could leverage the physical behavior of components within the electrical grid, we could have better insight in terms of whether there was a cyberattack that sought to manipulate those components." The team used micro-PMUs designed to take four times more measurements than current PMUs, to deliver a higher-resolution view of the grid's status and more redundancy. They then combined the measurements and transmitted them to the existing supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems used by utilities. The team also tweaked the cumulative sum algorithm, which sequentially analyzes data to spot aberrant behavior. Berkeley Lab's Ciaran Roberts says, "All the computing is done in real time during the physical data collections, and the algorithms are designed to run in real time."

Full Article

Young boy wearing glasses with vision test in background Machine Learning Confronts the Elephant in the Room
Quanta Magazine
Kevin Hartnett
September 20, 2018

Scientists at York University and the University of Toronto in Canada found that artificial intelligence (AI) systems fail a vision test that children easily pass. Researchers are working to understand why this is so, but suspect the problem is rooted in AIs lacking the ability to understand when a scene is confusing and return for a second look. The team fed a neural network an ordinary scene so it could accurately detect objects in the image before introducing an incongruous object, which led to misidentification. The researchers think one solution could be imbuing the network with the ability to go backward, in essence "do a double take," to detect objects more accurately.

Full Article
The Sparse Fourier Transform
ACM Chapters

Association for Computing Machinery

2 Penn Plaza, Suite 701
New York, NY 10121-0701

ACM Media Sales

If you are interested in advertising in ACM TechNews or other ACM publications, please contact ACM Media Sales or (212) 626-0686, or visit ACM Media for more information.

To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: [email protected]