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

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smart pajamas with sensors Research Team Introduces 'Phyjama,' a Physiological Sensing Pajama
UMass Amherst News
September 11, 2019

University of Massachusetts, Amherst researchers have unveiled physiological-sensing textiles that can be woven or stitched into sleep apparel. Their "phyjama" design exploits the fact that certain parts of sleepwear press against the wearer's body due to posture and contact with outside surfaces. The researchers combined a fabric-based pressure sensor with a triboelectric sensor triggered by changes in physical contact to create a distributed sensor suite that could be incorporated into loose-fitting clothes. The researchers also utilized companion data analytics to meld signals from many points that accounted for the quality of the signal from each location. User studies indicated the phyjamas can read heartbeat peaks with high precision, breathing rate with less than one beat per minute error, and can perfectly forecast sleep posture.

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voting booths in Minnesota How State Election Officials Are Contributing to Weak Security in 2020
The Washington Post
Joseph Marks
September 10, 2019

A study by cybersecurity company NormShield found U.S. state election offices are failing to implement digital safeguards, increasing the 2020 elections' susceptibility to hackers. Various offices have not patched computer systems against established digital attacks and still rely on obsolete software. Some state offices are not fully shielding their websites against exploits or following technical strategies to prevent hackers from masquerading as employees via email. These security lapses are particularly threatening because attackers frequently access an organization's most sensitive systems and data by first targeting less-protected assets, like public-facing websites or employee email accounts. NormShield’s Bob Maley said his company based its findings on publicly available online information, which means Russian hackers and other adversaries who wish to interfere with the 2020 election likely are aware of the vulnerabilities.

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man with artificial limb crossing a creek Artificial Leg with Sensors Helps People Feel Every Step
New Scientist
Clare Wilson
September 9, 2019

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have developed an artificial leg equipped with sensors that allow users to feel when the leg flexes and lands on the ground. The researchers took a commercially available prosthetic leg and installed sensors on the sole of the foot and inside the knee that can be connected via wires to nerves in the user's thigh. The researchers found that users reported less phantom limb pain, and were able to walk up to six meters per minute faster using the new artificial leg. "Being able to perceive the motion of your joints is incredibly important,” said Aadeel Akhtar of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It makes you feel like the prosthetic becomes your own.”

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Raspberry Pi Launches Isaac Computer Science to Promote STEM
Electronics Weekly (UK)
Alex McCarthy
September 9, 2019

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has partnered with the U.K.'s University of Cambridge to launch an online platform for teachers and students of A-level Computer Science. The project is based on a similar initiative by the University of Cambridge, and makes use of the same back-end systems. The new Isaac Computer Science platform provides free online learning materials for the classroom, as well as homework and revision. Isaac Computer Science provides "continuous support for computer science education, preparing students for further study or entry into the workforce and tomorrow's ever-more-digital age," according to Raspberry Pi’s Duncan Maidens.

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man grabbing his chest AI Technology Could Identify Those at Risk of Fatal Heart Attacks, Research Claims
Anmar Frangoul
September 6, 2019

Researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. have developed artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help gauge a person's risk for suffering a deadly heart attack years ahead of time. A so-called fat radiomic profile created via machine learning can flag inflammation, scarring, and changes in vessels that feed blood to the heart. Oxford's Charalambos Antoniades said, "By harnessing the power of AI, we've developed a fingerprint to find 'bad' characteristics around people's arteries." Antoniades said the tool could potentially identify incipient symptoms that could lead to fatal heart attacks, so clinicians can take preventive measures. British Cardiovascular Society president Simon Ray said AI's use in heart scans could improve diagnostic accuracy and offer important data that will enable cardiologists to better predict disease progression and personalize treatment planning.

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YouTube video on a smartphone YouTube Videos Are a Gold Mine for Health Researchers
The Atlantic
Sidney Fussell
September 9, 2019

Rather than interviewing test subjects or using questionnaires, researchers at Keele University in the U.K. conducted a behavioral study on autistic children using YouTube videos. Keele's Bappaditya Mandal and colleagues trained an artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze YouTube footage of children with autism in motion, to classify their body language as typical or atypical. According to Mandal, the goal is to have computers expeditiously assess edge cases that might normally require the use of laboratory equipment or invasive tactile sensors. The project builds on algorithms that monitor the manifestation of tremors or seizures in epileptic subjects. This research is an example of digital phenotyping, an expanding field of study that takes advantage of passive social media or smartphone data as evidence of an individual's state of health, or to explore health dynamics on a broader scale.

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Researchers Invent Cryptocurrency Wallet That Eliminates 'Entire Classes' of Vulnerabilities
Charlie Osborne
September 12, 2019

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have created a new cryptocurrency wallet that eliminates entire classes of design vulnerabilities. MIT's Anish Athalye and colleagues developed Notary, a universal serial bus (USB) platform that the team said eradicates "entire classes of bugs that affect existing wallets," and could potentially augment transaction approval security. Notary employs reset-based switching, a strategy which resets the central processing unit, memory, and other hardware elements when users switch between apps. The goal is to remove the threat of vulnerability by ensuring apps are isolated from one another, providing greater protection should an individual app be hacked. Said Athalye, “Being able to build a secure hardware wallet would lead to better security for so many different kinds of applications."

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Photo of a house destroyed by a weather disaster. Cloud-Based Tool Provides Clear Communication for Disaster Situations
University of Missouri News Bureau
Eric Stann
September 10, 2019

University of Missouri (MU) researchers have developed a self-contained communication tool that provides support for first-responders from separate organizations operating in a disaster situation. Utilizing smart technology, the Panacea's Cloud tool gives first-responders the ability to relay real-time information, such as location, to others on the scene or nearby. Data populates a dashboard, allowing agencies to select and filter the most relevant information. Said MU's Prasad Calyam, "This system is useful for FEMA and other federal agencies because they want to improve training and protocols for disaster response. This device can also be used for medical triage, search and rescue, and campus safety, such as university police departments.”

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A 2009 photo of BP Florida manager Kourtney Hardwick standing near a methane gas well in Colorado. BP Launches Gas Cloud Imaging, Drones to Monitor Methane Emissions
Houston Chronicle
Jordan Blum
September 10, 2019

BP is launching a new system of gas cloud imaging and aerial drones to monitor and help reduce methane emissions around the world. The company plans to deploy this continuous measurement system for methane emissions at all of its new major projects worldwide, in addition to using frequent drone flights to monitor methane emissions at its existing wells. The system was pilot-tested and installed at BP's natural gas Khazzan field in Oman, where inspections that used to take seven days could be completed in just 30 minutes. Said BP’s Gordon Birrell, "The faster and more accurately we can identify and measure leaks, the better we can respond and, informed by the data collected, work to prevent them."

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Companies Explore Encryption That Withstands Quantum Computing
The Wall Street Journal
Adam Janofsky
September 9, 2019

Organizations that manage sensitive data are investigating techniques for safeguarding that data from quantum decryption. IBM recently announced a quantum-resistant tape drive. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is evaluating the tape drive's two quantum-resistant algorithms—along with 24 other candidates—with the goal of selecting two to six algorithms to be standardized for academia, corporations, and government by 2022. NIST's Dustin Moody is assessing algorithmic tolerance to traditional and quantum-computer-based hacks, operational speed, and support by small devices with low processing power. IBM's Vadim Lyubashevsky said, "Once NIST declares a standard, there will be a steady transition—big companies will transition their browsers, clouds, and storage to quantum-safe [algorithms]."

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A photo of the lattice structure, illustrating its flexibility and sensor manipulation. Optical Lace Gives Robots Heightened Sensory Ability
Cornell Chronicle (NY)
David Nutt
September 11, 2019

Researchers at Cornell University's Organic Robotics Lab have developed a stretchable optical lace that could give soft robots a soft touch. The synthetic material creates a linked sensory network similar to a biological nervous system that would enable robots to better sense how they interact with their environment, and adjust their actions accordingly. The researchers used a flexible, porous lattice structure manufactured from three-dimensionally-printed polyurethane. The team threaded the lattice structure's core with stretchable optical fibers containing more than a dozen mechanosensors, and attached an LED light to illuminate the fiber. When the researchers pressed the lattice structure at various points, the sensors were able to identify changes in the photon flow. Said Cornell’s Patricia Xu, "When the structure deforms, you have contact between the input line and the output lines, and the light jumps into these output loops in the structure, so you can tell where the contact is happening."

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Facebook, Microsoft Launch Contest to Detect Deepfake Videos
Elizabeth Culliford
September 5, 2019

Facebook, Microsoft, the Partnership on AI coalition, and academics from several universities are establishing the Deepfake Detection Challenge, a contest to better detect deepfakes. Facebook is contributing $10 million to the effort, commissioning researchers to produce realistic deepfakes to create a data set for testing detection tools. The videos, which will be released in December, will feature paid actors and no user data will be utilized. The Deepfake Detection Challenge is not the only academic research Facebook is funding to address the issue. The social media giant is also spending $7.5 million on teams at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maryland, and Cornell University in response to the threat. Facebook’s new contest will involve researchers from Cornell Tech, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maryland, the State University of New York at Albany, and the University of Oxford in the U.K.

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