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Welcome to the August 28, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A researcher holding up the WIO, a software program Using Wi-Fi Like Sonar to Measure Speed and Distance of Indoor Movement
North Carolina State University
Matt Shipman
August 27, 2019

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers have developed a method for measuring speed and distance in indoor environments, which could be used to improve navigation systems for robots, drones, or people using GPS-like tools. Wi-Fi-assisted Inertial Odometry (WIO) uses a novel combination of Wi-Fi signals and accelerometer technology to track devices in near-real time. WIO uses Wi-Fi as a velocity sensor to accurately track how far something has moved. The researchers found that using WIO significantly improved a device's speed and distance calculations. Said NC State researcher Raghav Venkatnarayan, "We envision WIO as having applications in everything from indoor navigational tools to fitness tracking to interactive gaming."

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Signage is displayed on monitors during the Democratic National Committee Virtual Caucus at Risk After DNC Experts Hacked Conference Call
Tyler Pager
August 24, 2019

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) warned its Rules and By-Laws Committee that virtual caucusing via teleconferencing may be untenable, as experts successfully hacked into a conference call among the DNC, the Iowa Democratic Party, and the Nevada Democratic Party. These issues could doom the effort, conceived to ease voter participation in electing presidential nominees as an alternative to primaries, in which voters must be physically present. Participants at the Rules and Bylaws Committee conference said members were split over how to proceed with the virtual caucus scheme. Some said the cybersecurity issues were too serious to finalize a virtual system, while others sided with states saying the system is workable.

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Investigators Use New Strategy to Combat Opioid Crisis: Data Analytics
The Wall Street Journal
Byron Tau; Aruna Viswanatha
August 26, 2019

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been using data analytics to combat the opioid crisis. Unlike street drugs, opioids are manufactured by major pharmaceutical companies and often are distributed through the traditional healthcare system. DOJ investigators use data from Medicare, Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state pharmacy databases, and other sources to support traditional law-enforcement techniques such as undercover stings, search warrants, and cultivating cooperating informants, to develop cases that can be brought before a judge. Brian Benczkowski, head of the DOJ's criminal division, said the DOJ will soon announce another round of opioid-related indictments against medical professionals, built in part upon the data analytics program.

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AI Could Help Data Centers Run Far More Efficiently
MIT News
Rob Matheson
August 21, 2019

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created a system that automatically learns how to optimally allocate data processing workloads across thousands of servers, as a means of boosting data center efficiency. The Decima scheduler leverages reinforcement learning to make scheduling decisions for specific workloads in specific server clusters. Decima tests multiple incoming workload allocation strategies across the servers to find the best trade-off between the use of computational resources and fast processing speeds. Decima's completion speed is about 20% to 30% faster than the best handwritten scheduling algorithms, the researchers say. MIT’s Hongzi Mao observed that “any slight improvement in utilization, even 1%, can save millions of dollars and a lot of energy in data centers.”

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AR Glasses May Help People with Low Vision Better Navigate Their Environment
USC Viterbi News
Veena Vijai
August 26, 2019

A study by University of Southern California (USC) researchers found adapted augmented reality (AR) eyewear can improve mobility and grasp performance in people with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa. USC's Mark Humayun said the AR-augmented glasses used in the research were modified to project bright colors onto users' retinas, corresponding to nearby objects, as they navigated an obstacle course. Study subjects, who all had retinitis pigmentosa, averaged 50% fewer collisions when wearing the AR glasses. Participants also were asked to grasp a wooden peg against a black background, located behind four other wooden pegs, without touching the front items; their grasp performance improved 70% when wearing the AR glasses. Said USC's Anastasios N. Angelopoulos, "Through the use of AR, we aim to improve the quality of life for low-vision patients by increasing their confidence in performing basic tasks, ultimately allowing them to live more independent lives."

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Smartphone App Can Detect Tiny Amounts of Norovirus in Water
New Scientist
Donna Lu
August 27, 2019

University of Arizona (UA) researchers have created a smartphone app that detects small amounts of norovirus (the most common cause of gastroenteritis) in water, when combined with a microscope attachment and a light source. UA's Jeong-Yeol Yoon said the technique can identify as little as 10 attograms of norovirus per milliliter of water, outperforming other portable detectors by six orders of magnitude. The researchers are using the app to monitor groundwater sources in Tucson, AZ; it allows them to test water sources directly, rather than needing to bring water samples to a lab.

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IEEE Senior Member Nitish M. Devadiga Software Engineering Grads Lack Skills Startups Need
IEEE Spectrum
Kathy Pretz
August 23, 2019

A study by Nitish M. Devadiga, principal software engineer at seed-stage software provider Datarista, found that the present state of software engineering education at universities does not meet the needs of technology-based software startups. Devadiga reviewed core courses offered in software engineering programs at Boston-area universities and interviewed Boston-area startups, and found the standard software engineering curriculum places little emphasis on skills valued by startups, such as an in-depth understanding of the software ecosystem and its tools, and the ability to build scalable systems and program for large-scale, distributed, data-intensive systems that leverage cloud computing. Devadiga said today’s technology-oriented, fast-paced, Internet-scale companies use technologies that are “data-intensive and much different than what has been taught in universities over the last 20 years.”

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Three men involved in developing a new technique to measure quantum entanglement RIT Researchers Help Develop Practical New Method for Measuring Quantum Entanglement
Rochester Institute of Technology
Luke Auburn
August 23, 2019

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) researchers, working with colleagues from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Florida Atlantic University, and private analytical services provider Quanterion Solutions Incorporated, have developed a technique for measuring quantum entanglement, which could help support the development of next-generation computing, simulation, and secure communications technology. For this study, the team focused on measuring the quantum entanglement of spatially entangled photon pairs; the new technique required a million times fewer measurements than previous techniques. RIT's Gregory Howland said, "This turns out to be critical because it means we never accidentally tell you that you have more of the resource than you really have. It's especially important for something like secure communication, where you're trying to avoid an adversary intercepting a message."

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Scurrying Roaches Help Researchers Steady Staggering Robots
Georgia Tech Research Horizons
Ben Brumfield
August 22, 2019

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) biomechanics researchers studied cockroach locomotion to create a technique that can be used to evaluate and improve the movements of robots. The researchers observed how each of a cockroach’s leg operates individually, and how they work together; from these observations, they developed principles and equations which they subsequently utilized to make a test robot walk more steadily. While the insects and robots display what the researchers called “utterly divergent motion dynamics,” they said their new technique worked for both, and should be applicable to other animals and robots.

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Universal Algorithm Set to Boost Microscopes
EPFL (Switzerland)
August 27, 2019

A new algorithm developed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne (EPFL) can ascertain within seconds whether a super-resolution microscope is operating at maximum resolution, from just one image. The technique could find use as a tool in research labs using automated microscopes. The team based the algorithm on Fourier's transform, tweaked to derive the most data possible from a single image. The algorithm produces a single number, which scientists can compare with the microscope's maximum possible resolution, to see whether the device can function better, or attempt to upgrade the resolution by modifying experimental conditions. Said EPFL's Adrien Descloux, "Our algorithm is universal. And because only one image is needed, it is particularly suited for fast optimization of imaging conditions, which is challenging when observing dynamic processes."

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