Seton Hall M.S. in Data Science
Welcome to the February 19, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

ACM TechNews mobile apps are available for Android phones and tablets (click here) and for iPhones (click here) and iPads (click here).

To view "Headlines At A Glance," hit the link labeled "Click here to view this online" found at the top of the page in the html version. The online version now has a button at the top labeled "Show Headlines."

N95 filter mask Sensor Takes Guesswork Out of N95 Decontamination
University of Michigan
February 16, 2021

Researchers at the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, and the University of Florida have created a wireless sensor platform that monitors temperature, humidity, and time to ensure ideal conditions for sanitizing N95 facemasks using moist-heat decontamination. In both laboratory tests and real clinical settings, the VeriMask platform facilitated proper decontamination for hundreds of masks simultaneously via a Bluetooth Low Energy-enabled wireless sensor that collects temperature and humidity data. Users also were able to use a smartphone app to monitor the process in real time. Northwestern's Josiah Hester said, "We wanted to make a more scientific platform capable of verifying proper decontamination." VeriMask's designs and schematics have been shared with the N95DECON consortium. The research also received the "Best Poster Runner Up" award in a special session on COVID-19 Response Research at ACM's Conference on Embedded Networked Sensor Systems.

Full Article
New Approach to 3D Printing of Human Tissue Closer to Reality
Brian P. Dunleavy
February 16, 2021

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have developed a new approach to three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting that fixes problems caused by gravity in the bioinks. The Freefrom Reversible Embedding of Suspended Hydrogels approach involves 3D printing in a "support bath," which holds the bioinks in place until they are cured and provides an environment that maintains high cell viability. Use of the support bath overcomes the challenges of 3D printing soft materials in air, as gravity distorts soft and liquid bioinks that are deposited in a layer-by-layer manner using a syringe pump. Although the technology already has been used to bioprint functional heart valves and contractile cardiac ventricles, Carnegie Mellon's Daniel J. Shiwarski said clinical use of printed tissue is "still years away."

Full Article

Blockchain LLC’s proposed smart city In Nevada Desert, a Technology Firm Aims to Be a Government
Associated Press
Sam Metz
February 13, 2021

Blockchains LLC's Jeffrey Berns aims to create a futuristic "smart city" in Storey County, Nevada, where residents purchase goods and services with digital currency and record their financial statements, medical records, personal data, and more on blockchain. The company is seeking permission to break ground by next year to build 15,000 homes and 33 million square feet of commercial and industrial space within 75 years. Berns' idea is the basis of draft legislation that would allow tech companies with 50,000 acres of land that promise a $1 billion investment to create "innovation zones" governed by three people like county commissioners, two of whom initially would come from Blockchains. "For us to be able to take risks and be limber, nimble, and figure things out like you do when you're designing new products,” Berns said, "why not let us just create a government that lets us do those things?"

Full Article

American flag and roll of ‘I Voted Today’ stickers Experts Discuss Challenges of Voting in an Electronic Age
Government Technology
Katya Maruri
February 17, 2021

A recent webinar hosted by ACM's U.S. Technology and Policy Committee, "Technology & Trust: Voting in the Electronic Age," focused on the benefits and challenges posed by the use of online voting and biometrics and improvements that can be made for future elections. Panelists discussed the potential exposure of voters' information and their actual votes. The Brennan Center for Justice's Edgardo Cortés stressed the need for better frameworks at the state and federal government level to assess the security of voting machines and the overall voting process. Meanwhile, Andrew Grosso, a former assistant U.S. attorney, said biometrics could be used to replace or improve the slow process of verifying voters' identities via signatures, and recommended the proactive implementation of laws to address potential crises that could arise during an election. Grosso said the federal government "can produce model laws that the rest of the states can use."

Full Article
IBM and ExxonMobil Are Building Quantum Algorithms to Solve This Giant Computing Problem
Daphne Leprince-Ringuet
February 11, 2021

Research teams from ExxonMobil and IBM are using existing quantum devices to model maritime routing to optimize fleet management, with an aim of shortening the distance and time traveled by merchant ships. "We wanted to see whether quantum computers could transform how we solve such complex optimization problems and provide more accurate solutions in less computational times,” the researchers said Using a simulated quantum device, they found that models like the quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO) technique could be solved effectively by quantum algorithms, taking into account factors like routes traveled, potential movements between port locations, and the order in which locations are visited on a route. The researchers also found that some degree of inexactness is allowed, which "is a promising feature to handle the inherent noise affecting the quantum algorithms on real devices."

Full Article

medical professional at California hospital operated by Providence Major Hospitals Form Company to Capitalize on Their Troves of Health Data
The Wall Street Journal
Anna Wilde Mathews
February 11, 2021

Fourteen hospitals systems have joined forces to launch Truveta Inc., which will collect and sell access to anonymized data on millions of patients across 40 states. Said Providence's Rod Hochman, whose health system is part of the initiative, "Instead of just farming off all our data to a technology company somewhere, we've formed our own." The data held by Truveta, headed by former Microsoft executive Terry Myerson, will reflect around 13% of the clinical care provided in the U.S. Myerson said the company aims to make the data available for "all ethical research," and Hochman indicated that a focus will be on research related to health equity and improving medical treatment. Truveta's pricing plans are in the works, with Myerson noting that fees may vary based on the type of entity seeking the data.

Full Article
*May Require Paid Registration

A photo of robotic worm blobs Researchers Develop Alien-Inspired Robotic 'Worm Blob' Swarms
Interesting Engineering
Chris Young
February 15, 2021

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) researchers developed robots that mimic blackworms and could pave the way for the creation of swarm robots that function as a team. The process by which the worms braid themselves together in a "blob" state, which enables them to move together and protect the individual worms from threats like drying out, was applied to simple robots. Small robotic blobs were created using six three-dimensionally printed robots with two arms and two light sensors, with a mesh enclosure and pins allowing the "smart active particles" to entangle like worms. The researchers tested the robot blob's collective behavior and movements. Georgia Tech's Yasemin Ozkan-Aydin said, "Each robot is doing its own thing in a decentralized way. Using just the mechanical interaction and the attraction each robot had for light intensity, we could control the robot blob."

Full Article

Two toy robots looking like a couple Computer Love
University of California, Santa Barbara
Sonia Fernandez
February 12, 2021

A computer simulation developed by the University of California, Santa Barbara's Dan Conroy-Beam aims to understand how people choose a mate, testing models of mate selection against the attributes and priorities of a sample of real-life couples. Simulated copies of each person, known as "avatar agents," are single in the simulated world. Conroy-Beam said, "We break them up and throw all these little agents into the market. Then we run various algorithms and see which ones do the best job at putting them back together with the agent representing their real-world partner." The new Resource Allocation Model—which allows for gradients of attraction and factors in reciprocity—was shown to be the most accurate of the models studied, correctly matching about 45% of the couples in the simulated market.

Full Article

Shafi Goldwasser Shafi Goldwasser Wins L'Oréal-UNESCO Award
MIT News
Jane Halpern
February 12, 2021

Shafi Goldwasser, the RSA Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and winner of the ACM A.M. Turing Award in 2012, has been named the laureate for North America in the 2021 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Awards. Goldwasser was recognized for her work in cryptography, facilitating secure communication and verification over the Internet and collaborative computation on private data. The award's organizers said Goldwasser's research "has a significant impact on our understanding of large classes of problems for which computers cannot efficiently find approximate solutions."

Full Article

image of a virtual clone giving a speech Men Who Are Bad at Public Speaking Can Get Help From Virtual Clone
New Scientist
Matthew Sparkes
February 10, 2021

Marianne Schmid Mast and colleagues at Switzerland's University of Lausanne determined that virtual avatars can help men improve their public speaking skills. The team had 76 subjects deliver a three-minute speech to a virtual audience; the participants then observed a virtual talk given confidently by either an avatar that resembled themselves or an unfamiliar avatar of the same gender, before giving a second three-minute address. Men who described themselves as poor public speakers and who viewed a lookalike avatar were on average 22% more persuasive in the second speech than those who watched the unfamiliar avatar, according to an outside observer's assessment of body language. Schmid Mast suggested men who lack confidence benefit more from seeing the confident virtual clone, because it lets them visualize behavior that needs improvement. This method could be utilized to develop training tools for those who dislike public speaking.

Full Article
Blockchain-Based Copyright Protection Systems
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain)
Agustín López
February 17, 2021

Researchers at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute at Spain's Universidad Oberta de Catalunya have developed a taxonomy to classify existing blockchain-based multimedia content protection systems. They analyzed and compared 18 blockchain-based multimedia content protection systems, taking into account such factors as whether they were public or private networks, which digital protection techniques were used, their potential to resist cyberattacks, and their digital storage capacity. The researchers said they "propose a taxonomy that integrates technical aspects and application knowledge and can guide the researchers towards the development of blockchain-based multimedia copyright protection systems." They cited areas that need to be addressed to improve the usability of blockchain technology, such as the lack of universal standards and the lack of models for proof of concept validation or conflict resolution.

Full Article

Photo of dime-sized, 3D-printed electrospray thruster for CubeSat 3D-Printed Thruster Boosts Range of CubeSat Applications
IEEE Spectrum
Charles Q. Choi
February 11, 2021

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers suggest a new three-dimensionally (3D)-printed electric thruster could ease the construction and boost the range of miniature satellites (CubeSats). The electrospray thruster is about the size of a dime, with miniature cones and reactor-grown zinc oxide nanowires inside; the nanowires draw liquid from a reservoir onto the cones, which spray ions from microscopic nozzles when electrically charged. The small amount of force generated by the thruster should be sufficient to help CubeSats perform orbital maneuvers. The MIT team believes it could be much more affordable and faster to 3D-print the thrusters than to use subtractive manufacturing techniques like laser machining. MIT's Luis Fernando Velásquez-García said the new engines could help extend the lifespan of satellites in Earth orbit by preventing orbital decay, or find applications for probes on deep-space missions.

Full Article
UMass Amherst Team Helps Demonstrate Spontaneous Quantum Error Correction
University of Massachusetts Amherst
February 11, 2021

University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers have devised a novel form of quantum error correction (QEC) featuring spontaneous, or passive, correction. The passive QEC method specifically designs the friction or dissipation experienced by a quantum bit (qubit). UMass Amherst's Chen Wang said, "Although our experiment is still a rather rudimentary demonstration, we have finally fulfilled this counterintuitive theoretical possibility of dissipative QEC. Looking forward, the implication is that there may be more avenues to protect our qubits from errors and do so less expensively. Therefore, this experiment raises the outlook of potentially building a useful fault-tolerant quantum computer in the mid to long run."

Full Article
Advertise with ACM
ACM Queue Case Studies

Association for Computing Machinery

1601 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10019-7434

ACM Media Sales

If you are interested in advertising in ACM TechNews or other ACM publications, please contact ACM Media Sales or (212) 626-0686, or visit ACM Media for more information.

To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: [email protected]