Welcome to the May 13, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The Bbeep suitcase that’s designed to help visually impaired individuals navigate airport terminals CMU Researcher Designs Suitcase, App to Help the Blind at Airports
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tom Davidson
May 7, 2019

Chieko Asakawa of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), who is blind, is investigating the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for assisting visually impaired people in everyday tasks. Asakawa’s newest project aims to help the blind navigate airports with greater independence. Through a partnership with Pittsburgh International Airport, a team of researchers from CMU, the University of Tokyo, and Japan’s Waseda University developed a combined suitcase/smartphone app for this purpose. The rolling "BBeep" suitcase alerts users to obstacles, helping blind users navigate airport crowds. The suitcase employs a camera to track pedestrians in the user's path to anticipate potential collisions, warning users and others in close proximity to stop or move aside. BBeep's NavCog app, co-developed by CMU and IBM, uses Bluetooth beacons modified for airport use.

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Rattled by Cyberattacks, Hospitals Push Device Makers to Improve Security
The Wall Street Journal
Melanie Evans; Peter Loftus
May 12, 2019

With cyberattacks against Internet-connected medical devices increasing, hospitals and health systems in the U.S. are pressuring device manufacturers to bolster their products' safety, and asking them to disclose their proprietary software. Stephanie Domas of cybersecurity consultancy MedSec said hospitals lack sufficient information about the security of networked devices, and manufacturers do not always release timely software updates to patch bugs. Security experts noted some manufacturers have started helping hospitals shield devices from cyberattack by including new features and revealing more about their products. According to hospital technology officials, having access to devices' software would help them construct safeguards.

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An illustration of chains breaking For Better Computing, Liberate CPUs From Garbage Collection
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
May 8, 2019

Among other things, central processing units (CPUs) manage a "garbage collection" process of identifying and deleting redundant or irrelevant data from apps so computers have more memory available, taking up 10% or more of the total time a CPU spends on an app. Former University of California, Berkeley researcher Martin Maas and colleagues have engineered a compact accelerator to relieve the CPU of this garbage collection task. The accelerator, which can be added to the CPU, runs on a small amount of chip area and power, and can handle garbage collection more efficiently by performing a larger number of memory operations concurrently. The device far outperformed a CPU core, and cut the amount of power needed for garbage collection by 15%. Maas said, "This means that you could build a system where the software does not have to worry about garbage collection at all and just keeps using the available memory."

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Smart Software Tool Could Pave the Way for Changing How Things Get Designed, Made, Supplied
Purdue University News
Karthik Ramani
May 8, 2019

Researchers at Purdue University have developed smart software that helps users design their own furniture, three-dimensionally-print the joints, and assemble the structure at home. First, the user scans or imports a shape into the program. Then, the tool, called "Shape Structuralizer," guides and validates the design, automatically estimating the weight or forces that each part of the structure could handle. In addition, the tool ranks alternative designs and calculates the size of connectors that will be required. During testing, the researchers found study participants with little experience in design or fabrication could still build a structurally sound object in under 35 minutes.

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R's Out of Top 20 Programming Languages Despite Boom in Statistical Jobs
Liam Tung
May 7, 2019

Tiobe ranks the R programming language as the 21st most popular in its monthly index for May, marking the first time in three years the language sits outside the top 20. Tiobe suggests R is not benefiting as much as Python from the boom in data science and machine learning. Python is considered a more general language than R, which was designed specifically for large datasets and statistical analysis. However, multiple language indexes have shown a decline in R's popularity, despite growth in machine learning. Python's growth and R's decline also could be attributed to the increase in high-quality Python libraries for statistics and machine learning, making it a more attractive starting point for new developers. Tiobe also speculates this trend could be linked to the fact that "statistical programming is finding its way from university to industry nowadays and Python is more accepted by the industry."

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A 3d printed manikin 3D Printed Baby Dummy for Better Resuscitation Training
Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands)
Valentina Bonito
May 8, 2019

Mark Thielen, a researcher at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, developed a three-dimensionally (3D) printed baby manikin based on an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan of an actual newborn, that could be used to better train health professionals on how to resuscitate newborns. The baby dummy contains 3D-printed organs and chest bones, and an artificial circulatory system. The manikin offers a much more realistic feeling during the training of resuscitation procedures than previous stand-ins, and provides trainees the opportunity to monitor vital signs such as blood pressure and heart rate during resuscitation. The design incorporates a variety of sensors to measure the quality of resuscitation. For example, the jaw is equipped with position sensors to monitor the opening of the airway, and blood pressure and flow sensors measure the effectiveness and quality of the cardiac massage.

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AI Can Now Defend Itself Against Malicious Messages Hidden in Speech
Matthew Hutson
May 10, 2019

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a technique to protect artificial intelligence (AI) against deception by adversarial examples, like audio clips. The researchers created an algorithm that transcribes a full audio clip, as well as an independent segment of it; the program flagged a clip as potentially compromised if transcription of that segment did not closely correspond to the transcription of the complete audio file. Testing revealed that the algorithm always spotted meddling in several attack scenarios, even when the attacker was aware of the countermeasures.

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Derek Cedarbaum demonstrating equipment for Enertiv Seeking an Edge, Developers, Investors Turn to 'Proptech'
The New York Times
Lisa Prevost
May 7, 2019

Property technology (proptech) has made gains as developers and investors pursue competitive advantages in real estate purchasing, sales, and management. Rudin Management has been a leader of this movement, initiating proptech investments for an operating system (OS) with smartphone-like functionality, to enable interoperable building systems. A Rudin spin-off designed Nantum, an OS that collects real-time data on building occupancy, water usage, and office temperatures. Rudin also invests in proptech vendors like Enertiv, which builds platforms for operating systems in commercial buildings, using sensors and digital models to track equipment performance, make maintenance recommendations, and identify nascent malfunctions.

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Top Schools Are Offering More Blockchain, Cryptocurrency Courses
Kyle Kucharski
May 10, 2019

The size of the blockchain market is projected to reach nearly $25 million by 2023, leading universities around the world to embrace the study of decentralized financial systems. A recent Coinbase study found that 42% of the top 50 universities worldwide now offer at least one course on cryptocurrency and blockchain, with the highest concentration in institutions based in the U.S. For example, last year Stanford University launched its Center for Blockchain Research as an incubator for technology innovation and development. In addition, Coinbase found that students in law, business, and the social sciences were more interested in taking cryptocurrency courses than those in economics and math.

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Obstacles to Overcome Before Operating Fleets of Drones Becomes Reality
Iowa State University News Service
Angie Hunt
May 2, 2019

Researchers at Iowa State University have developed a mathematical model to calculate the time and energy needed to complete a task based on the number of drones used and the number of recharging stations available. While piloting a single drone by remote control is relatively simple, operating a fleet requires an automated system to coordinate the task, allowing drones to independently respond to unexpected events. The new model considers the energy required for each drone to complete its portion of a task and fly to a charging station as needed. Based on the model, the researchers developed three offline optimization techniques and one online algorithm. The researchers conducted a series of simulations using four drones to test for efficiency and security, and found the online algorithm successfully managed the security-energy trade-off within the energy limits of the drone.

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A man holding out a phone in front of him Android App to Tackle Cybersecurity in the Developing World
The Washington Post
Joseph Marks
May 7, 2019

Android is now offering a free app to boost security for smartphone users in the developing world, designed by the nonprofit Quad9. Quad9 executive director John Todd said the overall goal of the app is to improve the entire cybersecurity ecosystem, given cybercriminals' tendency to use computing power they steal from poorly secured targets to exploit sophisticated quarry in developed nations. The nonprofit offers Domain Name Service safeguards to deter people from linking to malicious websites, which Todd said helps shield users from the most ubiquitous attacks. The Android app is designed to bolster cybersecurity protection in poorer regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where Todd said users are far more likely to connect online via smartphone.

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