Seton Hall M.S. in Data Science
Welcome to the February 5, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A line of people wearing masks. AI Predicts Asymptomatic Carriers of Covid-19
IEEE Spectrum
Emily Waltz
February 2, 2021

Researchers at technology company Synergies Intelligent Systems and Germany's Universität Hamburg have developed a machine learning algorithm that can identify which people in a moving crowd are most likely asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19. The continuous learning and inference of individual probability (CLIIP) algorithm bases its predictions on global positioning system (GPS)-tracked movement of people in a city, and known cases of infection. CLIIP's accuracy relies on people using a GPS-based smartphone application that tracks their location to within a meter (3.2 feet), and logging their positive viral test results. Synergies' Michael Chang said, "With this type of technology, we can quarantine a very small fraction of people—just 3% to 5%—and pretty effectively reduce the effect of the disease."

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Illustration of a vaccine passport. Denmark to Develop Digital Passport Proving Vaccinations
Associated Press
Jan M. Olsen
February 3, 2021

Denmark's government is partnering with businesses to create a digital passport that would indicate whether a person has received the coronavirus vaccine, in an effort to facilitate travel and ease pandemic restrictions. Finance Minister Morten Boedskov expects a digital corona passport to be available in three to four months. Said Boedskov, "It will be the extra passport that you will be able to have on your mobile phone that documents that you have been vaccinated. We can be among the first in the world to have it and can show it to the rest of the world." At least one digital passport product already in development to enable travelers to show compliance with Covid-19 testing requirements could track vaccinations as well.

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More Exploitable Flaws Found in SolarWinds Software, Says Cybersecurity Firm
NBC News
Ken Dilanian
February 3, 2021

Cybersecurity firm Trustwave has discovered three more "critical" flaws in software produced by SolarWinds, the company exploited in what U.S. officials last year called a massive breach of U.S. government and corporate sites by Russian intelligence. Trustwave said the bugs could have allowed hackers to compromise the networks of SolarWinds clients, and theoretically expose consumer data to corporate and government secrets. SolarWinds said it has issued patches for the vulnerabilities, while Trustwave's Ziv Mador said the incident supports the contention that vendors should continually run penetration testing on their products. Said Mador, "In nearly 100% of the applications we test, we find vulnerabilities. Some severe, some mild."

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Airway stent prototypes. 3D-Printed Bioresorbable Airway Stent
ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
Peter Ruegg
February 3, 2021

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), University Hospital Zurich, and the University of Zurich have developed a three-dimensionally (3D)-printed bioresorbable airway stent. The team generated a computer tomography image of a specific section of a patient's airways in order to create a digital 3D stent for it, then transferred the image data to a digital light processing printer, which produced the custom stent using resins that can be absorbed by the body over time. ETH Zurich's Jean-Christophe Leroux said, "This promising development opens up prospects for the rapid production of customized medical implants and devices that need to be very precise, elastic, and degradable in the body."

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An Amazon delivery vehicle. Amazon Plans AI-Powered Cameras in Delivery Vans to Improve Driver Safety
Vishwadha Chander
February 3, 2021

Online retail giant Amazon has been installing artificial intelligence (AI)-powered video cameras across its delivery fleet to improve the safety of drivers and communities. The cameras, from transportation technology company Netradyne, uses AI to provide real-time alerts to drivers about such things as excessive speed and distracted driving. In an instructional video, Amazon's Karolina Haraldsdottir said the cameras have been shown to reduce collisions and improve driver behavior. The cameras record video constantly, but upload footage only if triggered by hard breaking, driver drowsiness, tailgating, and other such actions. Said Haraldsdottir, “Our intention with this technology is to set up drivers for success and provide them with support for being safer on road and handling incidents if and when they happen.”

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A burst of light. Scientists Achieve 'Transformational' Breakthrough in Scaling Quantum Computers
Peter Dockrill
February 2, 2021

The Gooseberry cryogenic computer chip engineered by scientists at Australia's University of Sydney (USYD) and Microsoft's Quantum Laboratory can operate at ‘millikelvin’ temperatures approaching absolute zero. Gooseberry works inside a super-cold refrigerated environment to interface with quantum bits (qubits), passing signals from them to a secondary core that sits in another cold container immersed in liquid helium. This removes excess wiring and surplus heat, potentially eliminating qubit bottlenecks in quantum computing. USYD's David Reilly said, "This is the first time a mixed-signal chip with 100,000 transistors has operated at 0.1 kelvin, [the equivalent to] -459.49 degrees Fahrenheit, or -273.05 degrees Celsius." Gooseberry is expected to control thousands of qubits, a step which Andrew White at the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems said will be "transformational" for quantum computing.

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A busy street scene of faces being monitored. Here's a Way to Learn If Facial Recognition Systems Used Your Photos
The New York Times
Cade Metz; Kashmir Hill
January 31, 2021

The Exposing.AI online tool lets people search image collections for old photos of themselves, in order to learn if such images were used to train facial recognition systems. The tool matches images from the Flickr online photo-sharing service, locating photos if users already have a way of pointing to them online, for example via an Internet address. People can search only for images posted to Flickr, using a Flickr username, tag, or Internet address that can identify those pictures. The New York Times was able to use the tool to find photos that Exposing.AI indicated were used in facial recognition datasets.

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An image of a digital brain. Video Game Graphics Cards Can Simulate Monkey Brains on the Cheap
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
February 1, 2021

Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Sussex created a model of a macaque monkey's visual cortex using commercial video game graphics cards, which runs faster on those cards than it would on a supercomputer. The simulation used a random number generator in order to generate a synaptic state, which yielded results comparable to traditional models faster, as the computer just has to process data about the state of synapses it is currently modeling. The Sussex team previously simulated one second of activity inside the brain model on an IBM Blue Gene/Q supercomputer, which took 12 minutes, while a Nvidia Titan RTX graphics card completed the same task in less than eight minutes. Sussex's James Knight said, "This potentially means that researchers whose primary focus isn't dealing with supercomputers could explore things with this model."

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Ford's Spin Wants to Curb E-Scooter Dumping with Remote-Controlled Three-Wheelers
The Washington Post
Dalvin Brown
January 28, 2021

Ford Motor's Spin division announced a new service allowing electronic scooter (e-scooter) operators to remotely move their scooters if they wind up in public spaces. Ford worked with transporter developer Segway, which provided the e-scooters, and autonomous technology startup Tortoise, which provided the software. Computer vision and 4G connectivity capabilities will allow Tortoise teleoperators to repark scooters in higher-trafficked areas right after a trip ends. The initiative will launch a test in Boise, ID, where up to 250 three-wheeled e-scooters with machine learning capabilities will roam riderless in the spring. Spin's Ben Bear said, "This partnership marks a turning point ... to bring [remote-controlled e-scooters] to city streets."

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Scientists Develop Computational Approach to Understand How Infants Perceive Language
News-Medical Life Sciences
Emily Henderson
January 29, 2021

A multi-institutional team of cognitive scientists and computational linguists has developed a quantitative modeling framework based on large-scale simulation of infants' language learning process. The approach uses machine learning to enable the systematic linkage of learning mechanisms to testable predictions about infants' attunement to native language. The researchers trained a clustering algorithm on realistic speech input to model infants' language learning process; they fed the program spectrogram-like auditory features sampled at regular intervals obtained from naturalistic speech recordings in American English and Japanese. This resulted in a candidate model for infants' early phonetic knowledge, which the team queried about observed differences in how Japanese- and English-learning infants discriminate speech sounds, as well as vowel- and consonant-like phonetic categories. The model yielded positive and negative outcomes for these respective queries, suggesting current literature on early phonetic learning requires a dramatic rethink.

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An illustration of hands on a keyboard with cybergrid superimposed. NIST Offers Tools to Help Defend Against State-Sponsored Hackers
U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology
February 2, 2021

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a toolkit (SP 800-172) to shield controlled unclassified information (CUI) from advanced persistent threats by state-sponsored hackers. The recommendations cover elements of nonfederal systems that process, store, or transmit CUI, or that supply protection for such components. The safeguards apply only to CUI associated with a critical program or high-value asset. NIST's Ron Ross said, "Implementing the cyber safeguards in SP 800-172 will help system owners protect what state-level hackers have considered to be particularly high-value targets: sensitive information about people, technologies, innovation, and intellectual property, the revelation of which could compromise our economy and national security."

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A photo of electrons (in green) in a layered material called electride. Supercomputers Advance Longer-Lasting, Faster-Charging Batteries
UC San Diego News Center
Kimberly Mann Bruch
January 28, 2021

Academic researchers are using supercomputers funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, like the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)'s Comet and the Texas Advanced Computing Center's Stampede2, to improve battery design. UCSD's Shyue Ping Ong said, "Comet was crucial for performing the calculations to elucidate the unique lithium insertion and diffusion mechanisms responsible for the high-rate capability in a new anode material we are developing." Meanwhile, researchers at Washington University in Saint Louis and the University of Illinois, Chicago, used Comet and Stampede2 to help synthesize two-dimensional alloys that may yield lithium-air batteries, and potentially improve electric-vehicle energy efficiency.

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Gradient-based solar cell samples. ML to Predict Performance of Organic Solar Cells
Universitat Rovira i Virgili (Spain)
January 28, 2021

Researchers at Spain's Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB) developed a machine learning model that can predict the performance of organic solar cells. The researchers were able to train artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms on thousands of data points to predict various factors that determine an organic solar cell's efficiency. Said ICMAB's Mariano Campoy-Quiles, "When using a conventional method, a sample provides you with information about only one point. However, using our methodology we can obtain between 10 and 1,000 times more points." He added that as a result of this research, “We have seen that the most critical parameters that determine the optimum composition are the electronic gap of each material, as well as how balanced the charge transport is in each one.”

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Concurrency:  The Works of Leslie Lamport
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