Welcome to the July 18, 2011 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
Old Dominion U. Professor Is Trying to Save Internet History
Washington Post (07/17/11) Daniel de Vise
Researchers at Old Dominion University and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have developed Memento, browser-based software that can find a Web site as it appeared on a specific date in the past. The program is part of an effort to study how much of the Internet is being saved. The average life span of an Internet page is about 100 days, meaning that much of what has been published in the approximately 20-year history of the Internet has been disposed of. The Internet "was conceived without the notion of time and without the notion of archiving at its core," says LANL computer scientist Herbert Van de Sompel. In 1996, Brewster Kahle launched the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library that conducts bi-monthly crawls through the Web, storing every site it finds. Today, the archive contains three petabytes of information, and is one in a network of archives around the world. The Old Dominion team, led by professor Michael Nelson, found that about 19 percent of Web pages have been archived, and most of those pages taken from the Open Directory Project, a public index of Web sites, had been saved for posterity. "We're sort of stuck in this perpetual now," Nelson says. "Figuring out what was on the Web an hour ago, a day ago, a week ago, we're really bad at that."
Internet's Memory Effects Quantified in Computer Study
BBC News (07/16/11) Jason Palmer
Recent experiments have shown that computers and the Internet are changing the nature of human memory, as people presented with difficult questions began to think of computers. If the participants knew that the facts would be available on a computer later, they had poor recall of the answers but enhanced recall of where they were stored, according to the study, which described the Internet as serving as a transactive memory. Transactive memory "is an idea that there are external memory sources--really storage places that exist in other people," says Columbia University's Betsy Sparrow. The researchers used a modified Stroop test to study how people thought about difficult questions and whether they relied on computers for the answers. The researchers provided a stream of facts to participants, and half were told to file them away on a computer, and the other half were told the facts would be erased. Those who knew the information would not be available later performed significantly better than those who filed the information away. However, those who expected the information to be available were very good at remembering in which folder they had stored it.
10 Technologies That Will Change the World in the Next 10 Years
Network World (07/15/11) Julie Bort
Cisco chief futurist Dave Evans recently outlined what he believes will be the top 10 technologies that will change the world in the next 10 years. The transition to IPv6 will support an Internet of connected things that includes more than 50 billion devices by 2020, which will support new sensor networks that collect, transmit, analyze, and distribute data on a massive scale, according to Evans. Meanwhile, people currently generate about 1.2 zettabytes of information annually, but Evans says that number will increase as streaming high-definition video becomes even more common among users. By 2015, 91 percent of Internet data will be video, according to Cisco, which also predicts that by 2020, 33 percent of all data will be involved with the cloud. Also in the coming decade, new networks will be developed, such as an interplanetary network, a multiterabit network using lasers, and a quantum network. Meanwhile, the capture, dissemination, and consumption of events are getting closer to real time, which Evans says will make the world seem like a much smaller place. Three-dimensional printing, virtual humans, and robotics are other technologies that are expected to have a major impact on society in the next 10 years.
U.S. Hails Progress With Russia on Cybersecurity
IDG News Service (07/14/11) Jeremy Kirk
The United States and Russia are collaborating to lower the chances of a cybersecurity incident that could potentially harm relations between the two nations, according to White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt. He says the U.S. and Russian officials recently agreed to share technical information on problems such as botnets and deploy crisis prevention communications links by year's end. Computer security experts are concerned about the negative aspects of Russia's strength in computer science, such as hackers crafting and selling malware designed to steal money from online bank accounts, and the country's lack of straightforwardness in cooperating on cross-border cybercrime probes. However, Kaspsersky Lab researcher Roel Schouwenberg says that recent developments in Russia have been encouraging. Nevertheless, Russia has yet to sign the Council of Europe's Convention on Cybercrime, an international pact that promotes harmonized computer crime legislation across different nations and continuous contact points for law enforcement.
Soft Memory Device Opens Door to New Biocompatible Electronics
NCSU News (07/14/11) Matt Shipman
North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a memory device that it is soft, pliable, and works well in wet environments. The researchers used a liquid alloy of gallium and indium metals set in water-based gels, similar to gels used in biological research, to make the device. The researchers say the technology has the potential to be used to interface electronics with biological systems, such as cells, enzymes, or tissue. "These properties may be used for biological sensors or for medical monitoring," says NCSU professor Michael Dickey. The device has a state that conducts electricity and another that does not, using charged molecules called ions. In each of the memory device's circuits, the metal alloy is the electrode and sits on either side of a conductive piece of gel. When the alloy electrode is exposed to a positive charge it creates an oxidized skin that makes it resistive to electricity, which would be the 0 used in binary language, and exposure to a negative charge leads the oxidized skin to disappear and become conducive to electricity, which would be the 1. To ensure one electrode is always conducive, the team doped one side of the gel slab with a polymer that prevents the formation of a stable oxidized skin.
Understanding Terror Attacks in India
UMD Newsdesk (07/14/11) Lee Tune
University of Maryland researchers have developed several mathematical models, including stochastic opponent modeling agents and multi-player game theoretic models, to understand how terrorism in India can be reduced. The researchers looked for Nash equilibria, which specify situations in which no entity involved in the game theoretic model can do better without upsetting one of five entities: the United States, India, the Pakistani military, the Pakistani civilian government, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist group. "We did not find a single Nash equilibrium in which LeT exhibits good behavior in which the U.S. expands financial aid to Pakistan," says Maryland professor V.S. Subrahmanian. The researchers also used their algorithms to learn about the behavior of other terrorist groups in India, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Indian Mujahideen. "Computational models and algorithms can help decision-makers shape improved counter-terrorism strategies and policies for threat reduction," Subrahmanian says.
Smart Inspection System Aids Plane Safety
Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) (07/14/11) Lea Kivivali
Swinburne University of Technology researchers have developed an inspection system based on artificial intelligence (AI) that can detect and characterize internal flaws in an aircraft's composite materials. The project is being led by Swinburne, the Defense Materials Technology Center, industry partner GKN Aerospace, and the Defense Science Technology Organization. Inspecting aircraft is normally a very time-consuming process, and the researchers are trying to automate the approach using data processing and scanning composite materials with AI. "The AI inspection system developed at Swinburne mimics human intelligence to examine a sensor signal and draw out valuable information," says Swinburne professor Romesh Nagarajah. There are many benefits to AI inspection, including being able to look for new types of defects and storing data from each scan for future use. The researchers say the next step is developing software for coding engineers to refine the system for commercial use.
Early Quake Alerts
UDaily (DE) (07/15/11) Karen B. Roberts
University of Delaware researchers, in collaboration with Stanford University and the U.S. Geological Survey, are developing a network of seismic sensors that could provide communities with an early earthquake detection and warning system. The sensors are part of a new phase of the Quake-Catcher Network (QCN), a project aimed at gathering data to help scientists understand the earthquake process. The Delaware researchers, led by professor Michela Taufer, developed EmBOINC, simulation software that the researchers use to determine the necessary architectural changes needed to increase the speed and robustness of the network. They currently are working to overcome current limitations to improve the software's data processing capabilities, which would enable the system to accommodate as many as 10,000 sensors. The sensors are mounted on the floor of volunteer host locations and relay seismic data back to the researchers, who analyze the data to develop an advanced warning system. "The hope is that our EmBOINC simulation modeling will improve QCN's earthquake detection algorithms, enhance the seismic sensor capabilities, and lead to improvements that will enable the real network to react faster in a true emergency," Taufer says.
Robots Get Kinect's 'Eyes and Ears'
EE Times (07/13/11) R. Colin Johnson
Microsoft has added Kinect's software development kit (SDK) to its free Robotics Developer Studio. Microsoft says that access to raw data as well as Kinect's pattern-recognition algorithms will enable roboticists to control their robots with gestures. "Kinect's SDK can now be used with our free Robotics Developer Studio to create natural user interfaces for robots with full access to Kinect smart routines like skeletal recognition," says Microsoft Robotics' Stathis Papaefstathiou. "In addition, we know from our user base that Kinect can also be useful for autonomous navigation scenarios." In the fall, Microsoft plans to add new routines for directly supporting autonomous navigation tasks. Although roboticists developers will not be able to use the Kinect SDK to develop commercial products, nonprofit organizations will be able to add navigational algorithms for maneuvering robots in ways search-and-rescue robots can now only move by remote control.
Greener Disaster Alerts: Low-Energy Wireless Sensor Networks Warn of Hurricanes, Earthquakes
Kean University researchers have developed software that enables wireless sensor networks (WSNs) to operate using much less energy, which could improve the efficiency of natural disaster warning systems. The researchers, led by Kean's Patricia Morreale, developed a mesh network of wireless sensors that reports data to a central site while consuming much less energy than conventional WSNs. The system obtains and communicates environmental information through periodic updates instead of the timestamp synchronization approach used by most WSNs. "The sensor network applications provide an outstanding representation of green networking as sparse but sufficient environmental monitoring, accompanied by real-time data analysis, and historical pattern identification permits risk identification in support of public safety and protection," according to the researchers. The new software can monitor and check incoming sensor data against existing databases, identifying patterns that could set off alarms if potential natural disasters are approaching, according to the researchers. The team is currently working to enable the system to estimate future readings for any date and time.
Wigdog Just One Form of Technology Under Development at IHMC
Ocala Star-Banner (FL) (07/12/11) Andy Fillmore
One of the technologies under development by researchers at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) is Wigdog, a companion technology involving artificial avatars that aims to make personal and business dialogue between people and computers more casual. The avatar agent can scan pictures supplied by the operator and can browse the Internet and respond to the operator's questions with new information. IHMC researcher Yorick Wilks sees computer interaction evolving to the point where a pocket-sized device could be a personalized organizer, a companion for those who are home bound, a medication reminder, and a life history documenter. Applications for the new system could include a car driver warning system and a personal attendant that can remind users to take medications and go to appointments, according to Wilks. "We are developing artificial intelligence applications for the kitchen, health, and family histories, and advising patients on the risk and consequences of medical procedures," Wilks says.
Safer Robots Will Improve Manufacturing
Technology Review (07/12/11) Kristina Grifantini
U.S. President Obama recently announced a $500 million federal investment in manufacturing technology, with $70 million of that designated for research to develop robots that can assist with repetitious or physically stressful assembly-line tasks without posing a safety risk. The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Robonaut2 (R2) is a prime example of a new generation of robots that can work safely alongside humans. R2 uses a popular robotics technology called series elastic actuators in the joints, which help it detect and control the force of its own movements. "The use of series elastic actuators changes the whole approach to manufacturing robots," says Heartland Robotics founder Rodney Brooks. R2 is covered in soft material in case of accidental collisions, and the head is equipped with several cameras, which are used to track its human co-workers. R2's fingers can hold up to five pounds each, and the arm can hold about 20 pounds in a variety of positions. The versatility of R2's grip allows the robot to manipulate several different objects with the same hand, enabling it to easily adapt to new tasks.
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