Welcome to the January 29, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Editor's Note: In Monday's edition of ACM TechNews, in the item "A $100 Million Bet That Vacationland Can Be a Tech Hub, Too," an error in editing misidentified Northeastern University as Northwestern University. We regret the error.

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Man Diagnosed with Wuhan Coronavirus Is Being Treated Largely by a Robot
Nicole Chavez
January 24, 2020

The first person diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S. is being treated with the help of a robot at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA. The robot is equipped with a stethoscope to help doctors take the man's vital signs; it communicates with him via a large screen. "The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him," said the medical center’s Dr. George Diaz, adding that the use of the robot minimizes exposure of medical staff to the infected man, who remains in isolation.

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Melinda Gates speaking at the University of Washington in December 2017 Melinda Gates' Nonprofit Launches $50M Initiative to Increase Representation of Women in Tech Hubs
Monica Nickelsburg
January 28, 2020

Pivotal Ventures, a philanthropic group founded by Melinda Gates, has announced the Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities initiatives, a $50-million project designed to transform tech hubs into more inclusive places for women. The initiative will focus on increasing the number of women working in tech in three cities over the next five years; Chicago was revealed to be the pioneer city, with the remaining regions to be announced. The funding will create diversity programs in academia, the private sector, venture capital, and other components of the tech pipeline in each city. In addition, GET Cities will work with other nonprofits and diversity-focused organizations in each region. Said Gates, “As the tech industry continues to expand beyond Silicon Valley to other areas across the country, we have the opportunity to reimagine what the sector could look like."

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Delivering More 5G Data with Less Hardware
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
January 28, 2020

Researchers in Japan have proposed a solution to a key challenge of mobile 5G networks in urban areas: the need for a massive amount of hardware to ensure reliable service. The proposal involves installing small radio units on vehicles and crowdsourcing data transmission when the cars are parked. The researchers envision using parked cars' batteries to charge the units for activation, while the crowdsourced units set up a wireless mobile front-haul connection with nearby distribution units and send data to nearby phones. Experiments showed 100 radio units on parked cars and 200 complementary stationary units can transmit data with better throughput than 400 uniformly dispersed stationary units.

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Intel Patching the Patch for the Patch for 'Zombieload' Flaw
Andy Greenberg
January 27, 2020

Intel said it will release yet another patch for a microarchitectural data sampling (MDS) vulnerability that allows hackers to fool microprocessors into exposing protected data. The newest patch is intended to address MDS-based chip exploits that have persisted, despite two previous patches released last year. Researchers and analysts disclosed the initial attack last May following a warning to Intel nearly a year earlier. Intel's first patch added a safeguard to the processors' microcode to delete sensitive data from the chip when it shifts between processes with different security privileges—but two other MDS attack variants remained viable. Researchers said the persistence of MDS attacks suggests little effort on Intel's part to proactively identify new flaws or variations of existing vulnerabilities.

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Internet of Things: Smart Cities Pick Up the Pace
Financial Times
Nick Huber
January 28, 2020

Adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) networks and other smart city technologies is ramping up. Gartner estimates the global IoT network accounted for 14.2 billion devices last year, and IDC forecasts 41.6 billion IoT devices will be connected by 2025. Simon Dixon at Deloitte said cities mainly use IoT devices for traffic and waste management at present, but experts anticipate artificial intelligence will assume more complex metropolitan tasks and predictive capacities over the next decade. For example, the Nashville (TN) Fire Department is testing advanced analytics software to predict future fires, which improved average emergency response time to motor vehicle accidents by up to a minute, according to researchers at Vanderbilt University. Said Vanderbilt's Abhishek Dubey, “The idea is to move to a proactive, rather than reactive, emergency response strategy."

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Google Logo Have a Search Warrant for Data? Google Wants You to Pay
The New York Times
Gabriel J.X. Dance; Jennifer Valentino-DeVries; Michael H. Keller
January 24, 2020

Google has started charging government agencies for legal requests to access emails, location tracking data, and search queries. The search engine giant charges $45 for a subpoena, $60 for a wiretap, and $245 for a search warrant; a Google spokesperson explained the fees help offset compliance costs. Google received over 75,000 requests for data on nearly 165,000 accounts worldwide in the first half of 2019, with one in three requests originating from the U.S. Privacy experts favor fees as deterring excessive monitoring, and although Google has previously assessed fees for legal requests, the new policy covers standard legal processes. Google attorney Al Gidari said, “The actual costs of doing wiretaps and responding to search warrants is high, and when you pass those costs on to the government, it deters from excessive surveillance.”

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Wyss Institute’s human body-on-chip system is layered on top of Leonardo da Vinci’s ink drawing of the “Vitruvian Man,” which represents ideal human body proportions Next Generation of Organ-on-Chip Has Arrived
The Harvard Gazette
Benjamin Boettner
January 27, 2020

Researchers at Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have met the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) challenge to create next-generation organ-on-a-chip models. The researchers developed a modular platform that incorporates the Interrogator instrument to culture, perfuse, and connect organic human-cultured tissues in a multi-organ chip system, while sampling the medium in a fully programmable manner. In another study, the researchers utilized a computational scaling technique to incorporate results from drug experiments involving three distinct types of fluidically linked organ chips to their respective organ dimensions in the human body. Harvard's Donald Ingber said, "We hope our demonstration that this level of biomimicry is possible using organ chip technology will garner even greater interest from the pharmaceutical industry so that animal testing can be progressively reduced over time."

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A Trapped-Ion Pair May Help Scale Up Quantum Computers
MIT News
Kylie Foy
January 28, 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers used trapped-ion pairs to conduct quantum logic operations, making the charged particles candidates for use in quantum computing architectures. The researchers trapped calcium and strontium atoms in a vacuum chamber with electrodes on a chip cooled to almost 450 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, then extracted and converted electrons to ions via lasers. The electrodes caught and suspended the ions above the chip's surface, with cooling lasers keeping the ions corralled; the ions formed a calcium/strontium crystal, with the strontium ion containing a computational quantum bit (qubit) and the calcium ion housing a helper qubit to which the strontium ion could transfer quantum data. Lasers read out the entangled qubits' states, and the ions' exhibited 94% entanglement fidelity—sufficiently high to demonstrate basic quantum logic functionality.

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The U.S. Capitol building Scientists Try to Help Congress Get Smarter About Tech
The Washington Post
Cat Zakrzewski
January 27, 2020

Government scientists and technologists are trying to help U.S. lawmakers become more technology-savvy, with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)'s Science and Technology Assessment and Analytics group aiming to double its technology assessor headcount. Lawmakers and other experts doubt the GAO can address this challenge alone, especially with Congress increasingly concerned about election interference on social media and the impacts of new technologies like quantum computing and 5G wireless communications. “At such a time as this, you can't avoid” tech issues, said GAO’s Tim Persons. "There's so much disruption going on and so much potential for good in solving our complex adaptive systems problems of the day, and it's our job to sort of help bridge that gap of understanding."

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A wall in India Deepfake Software Translates Videos from One Language to Another
New Scientist
Donna Lu
January 24, 2020

Researchers at India’s International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) developed software that automatically translates a video of a person speaking in one language into another language, while matching their lip movements to the new words. The LipGAN algorithm is actually several algorithms functioning in concert, with one recognizing the words being spoken, and another translating the words into a target language. A text-to-speech algorithm produces the new sounds, while yet another algorithm animates synchronizes lip movements and facial movements with words spoken in the new language. IIIT's Prajwal Renukanand suggested the technology could help translate TV shows or movies for international audiences.

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Supercomputer Simulations Reveal Details of Galaxy Clusters
UC San Diego News Center
Jorge Salazar; Jan Zverina
January 24, 2020

A multi-institutional study led by University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers developed high-resolution computer simulations of galactic clusters. The RomulusC models apply black-hole physics to examine the molecular gas within and enclosing the intracluster medium, using ultraviolet light from quasars shining through the gas to explore the clusters in greater detail. The researchers used the Trident software tool to render synthetic absorption line spectra into a realistic spectrum for direct comparison to existing observations. The scientists also tapped four supercomputers, including UCSD's Comet system, to model the clusters. Said the University of Washington’s Iryna Butsky, “Simulations are extremely important in being able to make progress in theoretical work.”

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Study Highlights Security Risks of e-Scooters
The Engineer (UK)
January 27, 2020

Researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have identified a number of potential security risks associated with the e-scooter industry. While the researchers initially set out to examine the dangers e-scooters can pose to pedestrians, they also discovered significant data and security issues associated with the devices. Some e-scooter models communicate with the user's smartphone via a Bluetooth Low Energy channel, which can be easily hacked to eavesdrop on communications between e-scooters and phones, accessing data such as a user's preferred route, personal interests, and home and work locations. In addition, false GPS locations could be delivered to smartphones, leading riders to locations chosen by the hackers.

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Singapore Releases Latest AI Framework Edition to Improve Governance, Trust
Aimee Chanthadavong
January 22, 2020

The government of Singapore has released a second edition of the Model AI Governance Framework, which was developed to increase consumer trust in the use and governance of artificial intelligence (AI). The updated version of the framework includes considerations such as robustness and reproducibility, to make it more relevant and usable. The new edition also notes that an algorithm audit should only be conducted if it is necessary to discover the actual operations of algorithms comprised in models, and only at the request of a regulator. Said Singapore Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, "The objective really is to translate these ethical principles—that it must be human-centric and responsible—and translate that into practical guidelines."

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Concurrency:  The Works of Leslie Lamport
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