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Welcome to the September 25, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Part of the 2020 California wildfire. As Wildfires Approach Silicon Valley, Tech Firms Struggle to Find the Backing to Fight Them
Jane Lahnee Lee; Nathan Frandino
September 24, 2020

With wildfires threatening Silicon Valley, technology startups hoping to combat the blazes face difficulty drawing capital from traditional investors, who see little revenue potential in selling to fire departments. One startup, Zonehaven, which offers an evacuation platform that networks maps, fire and police departments, dispatch, and local residents, was developed with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and received a $50-million investment last year from data analysis firm Splunk. Stanford University offshoot Buzz Solutions, which crunches visual data to establish alerts for power grid maintenance, raised $1.2 million from investors in June. At Squishy Robotics, which makes a ball that can be dropped into fires to detect gases and show ground activity to firefighters, COO Deniz Dogruer said investment has been slow, and public safety agencies' new technology procurements can take a long time.

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3D Camera Earns Its Stripes at Rice
Rice University
September 24, 2020

Rice University engineers are using a three-dimensional (3D) camera that utilizes stripes to capture images beyond the capability of ordinary cameras. Rice's Kevin Kelly said, "We're getting four-dimensional information from an image, three spatial and one spectral, in real time. Other people use multiple modulators and thus require bright light sources to accomplish this, but ... we could do it with a light source of normal brightness and some clever optics." The Hyperspectral Stripe Projector (HSP) projects patterned stripes with an off-the-shelf digital micromirror device, which are diffracted into colors; each color is reflected back to the monochrome camera, which assigns a numerical gray level to that pixel. Pixels are recombined into an overall spectral value for that section of the object, while pattern distortions are reassembled into 3D point clouds. The Rice team envisions HSP as a step toward collecting spatial and spectral data for applications like self-driving cars, machine vision, and crop monitoring.

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Logo of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. Hacker Accessed Network of U.S. Agency, Downloaded Data
Andrew Martin; Alyza Sebenius
September 24, 2020

The U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on Thursday disclosed that an unnamed federal agency had been the victim of a cyberattack in which a hacker accessed its network. The intruder implanted malware that avoided the agency's safeguards, and infiltrated the network by using valid access credentials for multiple users' Microsoft 365 and domain administrator accounts. CISA said the hacker was able to browse directories, copy at least one file, and exfiltrate data. The agency added that the hacker may have acquired the credentials by exploiting a known flaw in Pulse Secure virtual private network servers. CISA learned of the attack through an intrusion detection system that monitors federal civilian agencies.

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NIST System Detects Ultra-Faint Signals Using Principles of Quantum Physics
September 23, 2020

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) demonstrated a system they developed that could boost the performance of communications networks, while ensuring record-low error rates in detecting even ultra-faint signals. The system combines a novel quantum-based receiver with a signal-processing method based on the properties of quantum physics that can manage even extremely feeble signals with pulses containing many bits of data, making amplifiers unnecessary. NIST's Sergey Polyakov said, "The future exponential growth of the Internet will require a paradigm shift in the technology behind communications. Quantum measurement could become this new technology."

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Illustration of the global network. High-Tech Tools Shine a Light on Sustainable Farming
Financial Times
Anna Gross
September 23, 2020

New technologies aim to make it easier to determine whether companies are honoring their commitments regarding responsible land use, emissions reductions, and human rights. The U.K. Spatial Finance Initiative, for example, aims to integrate geospatial data and analysis into financial decision-making by having tiny satellites take high-resolution images of every point on the planet on a daily basis, supplementing that with drone footage, and using artificial intelligence to scan and interpret the data. Meanwhile, the Ex-Ante Carbon-Balance Tool from the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization lets agriculture and forestry companies calculate their total greenhouse gas emissions, using an algorithm that calculates a firm’s net carbon position based on data like water consumption, land use, and conservation activities.

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Curling robots on the ice. Robot Beats Humans at Curling, Thanks to Deep Learning
Brooks Hays
September 23, 2020

Researchers at South Korea's Korea University, and Germany's Berlin Institute of Technology and Max Planck Institute for Informatics, developed a deep learning algorithm that enabled a curling robot to beat human players. The team trained the robot, Curly, to evaluate and adapt to uncontrollable environmental conditions using a deep reinforcement learning system to help it compensate for uncertainties and take corrective actions. The scientists integrated this system with a previously developed strategy planning model, with the result that Curly outperformed expert human curlers. Korea University’s Seong-Whan Lee said, "The game of curling can be considered a good testbed for studying the interaction between artificial intelligence systems and the real world.”

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Scientists Develop Technology for Printing Customized Neuroprostheses on 3D Bioprinter
St. Petersburg University (Russia)
September 23, 2020

Scientists from multiple Russian institutions, Germany's Technical University of Dresden, and the U.K.'s University of Sheffield collaborated on the development of three-dimensional (3D) printing technology to produce soft, customizable neuroprostheses. In the NeuroPrint method, the 3D printer creates the geometry of a neural implant from silicone, then deposits microparticles of platinum or another electrically conductive element onto the framework. Cold plasma activates the surface, and the number and arrangement of electrodes in the device can be tailored for implantation in spinal cord, brain, or muscle tissue. Tests of NeuroPrint on mammals and zebrafish demonstrated high biointegration and functional stability levels. St. Petersburg University's Pavel Musienko said, "Considering the compactness of the equipment and the versatility of the approach, it is quite likely that in the future it will be possible to produce patient-specific neural implants right in the hospital."

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An image showing the letters U and M that will self-destruct in seven days. A Self-Erasing Chip for Security, Anti-Counterfeit Tech
University of Michigan News
September 24, 2020

University of Michigan researchers have developed self-erasing chips based on a material that temporarily stores energy, changing the color of light it emits. The chips are assembled from a three-atom-thick layer of semiconductor material deposited on a thin strip of azobenzene-based molecules, which shrink under ultraviolet light; those molecules tug on the semiconductor so it emits longer wavelengths of light. The stretched azobenzene naturally releases its stored energy, losing stored data, over the course of about seven days in no light, or it can be erased on demand with a pulse of blue light. A self-erasing bar code printed on the chip within a device could flag whether someone had opened it to install a spying device.

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Corporate Compliance Programs Hit Refresh With Data Analytics Tools
The Wall Street Journal
Dylan Tokar
September 22, 2020

Companies are stepping up adoption of data analytics tools to implement data-driven corporate compliance programs amid pressure from the U.S. government. Businesses have long used data to inform decision-making in other corporate areas, but uptake of analytics tools for compliance has been slow, due to budgetary constraints, cultural obstacles, and the absence of one-size-fits-all third-party solutions. Well-heeled companies like Microsoft have developed their own compliance analytics systems, while others have adopted modest strategies by hiring data scientists or harnessing an embryonic market of third-party vendors. Said Alexion Pharmaceuticals' Piyush Sharma, “There is no magic formula to this. Everyone's coming from different companies with different risk profiles."

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A camera captures an image of the ventilator screen and sends it to the operating tablet, which can be used to control the robot from outside patient rooms. Hopkins Researchers Develop Robotic System to Remotely Control Ventilators
Johns Hopkins Newsletter (MD)
Amrita Balram
September 21, 2020

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital, its Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics, and the University of Maryland collaborated on a robotic system to remotely control the ventilators of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units. The system is attached to a ventilator on a horizontal bar spanning the top of the ventilator’s touch screen, while two affixed vertical bars allow a stylus to move across the screen. A camera captures an image of the screen and sends it to an operating tablet, which respiratory therapists can use to control the robot from outside a patient’s room. Said respiratory therapist Johnathan Cope, “This robotic system has the potential to be a force multiplier for bedside clinicians to provide timely, detailed care to a larger number of patients.”

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Guiding Light: Skoltech Technology Puts Light-Painting Drone at Your Fingertips
September 23, 2020

At Russia's Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), researchers have developed an interface that lets a user control a small aerial drone to light-paint patterns or letters via hand gestures. The DroneLight interface facilitates interaction with a micro-quadcopter equipped with a light reflector and controllable light-emitting diodes. The user wears a glove outfitted with an inertial measurement unit, while a machine learning algorithm operating on a base station matches gloved gestures to pre-defined letters or patterns. Skoltech’s Dzmitry Tsetserukou said potential applications could include “DroneMessenger, when partners can not only exchange messages and emoji over the distance but also enjoy the light art during a starry night,” and “SwarmCanvas, where users located in remote places can draw a joint picture on the canvas of the night sky.”

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A trio of old toy robots. AI Devs Created a Lean, Mean, GPT-3-Beating Machine Using 99.9% Fewer Parameters
The Next Web
Tristan Greene
September 21, 2020

A text generator developed by researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) in Germany has been shown to outperform OpenAI's GPT-3 while using only a fraction of its parameters. GPT-3 is a state-of-the art artificial intelligence system that can answer nearly any text prompt with unique, cogent responses. LMU researchers demonstrated their system outperforms GPT-3 on the "superGLUE" benchmark with 32 training examples using only 223 million, or 99.9% fewer, model parameters. The system uses the pattern-exploiting training method in conjunction with a small pre-trained Albert model. Said the researchers, "This is achieved by converting textual inputs into cloze questions that contain some form of task description, combined with gradient-based optimization; additionally exploiting unlabeled data gives further improvements."

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An infographic showing leakage from a 5G cellular network affecting sensors on weather satellites. 5G Wireless May Lead to Inaccurate Weather Forecasts
Rutgers Today
September 24, 2020

A study by Rutgers University researchers found upcoming 5G wireless networks that expedite cellphone service may lead to inaccurate weather forecasts. Signals from 5G frequency bands could leak into the band used by weather sensors on satellites that quantify atmospheric water vapor. The Rutgers team used computer modeling to examine the impact of unintended 5G leakage into an adjacent frequency band in predicting the 2008 Super Tuesday Tornado Outbreak in the South and Midwestern regions of the U.S. The modeling found 5G leakage of -15 to -20 decibel Watts impacted the accuracy of rainfall forecasting by up to 0.9 millimeters during the tornado outbreak, and also affected forecasting of temperatures near ground level by up to 2.34 degrees Fahrenheit. Rutgers' Narayan B. Mandayam said, "If we want leakage to be at levels preferred by the 5G community, we need to work on more detailed models as well as antenna technology, dynamic reallocation of spectrum resources, and improved weather forecasting algorithms that can take into account 5G leakage."

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Frontiers of Multimedia Research
2020 ACM Transactions on Internet of Things (TIOT)

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