Association for Computing Machinery
Welcome to the January 30, 2012 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Technology That Translates Content to the Internet Protocol of the Future
Carlos III University of Madrid (Spain) (01/30/12)

Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) researchers working on the Trilogy project have developed technology that enables Internet protocol version 6 (IPv6) users to access Internet content that is currently only available to IPv4 users. "Machines that only have IPv6 cannot communicate with those that only have IPv4, which is the case with the majority of those being used to connect to the Internet today, and vice versa," says UC3M professor Marcelo Bagnulo. The researchers developed NAT64 and DNS64, translation tools that can understand both protocols. The Trilogy project aims to improve the quality of the information flow and the internal workings of the Web, which is characterized by the interrelation of routing systems and congestion control systems. "At present they function independently, because the mechanism that decides where the data will flow through does not take into consideration how much other data is flowing through that same path," Bagnulo says. Trilogy aims to help these systems work in a more coordinated way. For example, the UC3M researchers also have designed, implemented, and standardized the multipath transmission control protocol in the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Oxford, Harvard Scientists Lead Data-Sharing Effort
Harvard University (01/29/12)

More than 50 collaborators at over 30 scientific organizations worldwide, led by researchers at the University of Oxford and Harvard University, have developed a common standard that will enable scientists to share data from different databases in fields ranging from genetics to environmental studies. The new standard provides a way for researchers in different fields to coordinate each other's findings by combining the different data sets. "We are now working together to provide the means to manage enormous quantities of otherwise incompatible data," says Oxford's Susanna-Assunta Sansone. The data-sharing effort's online presence is known as the ISA Commons. "One of the things that I find most empowering about this effort is that now small research groups can begin to store laboratory data using this framework, complying with community standards, without their own dedicated bioinformatics support," says the University of Cambridge's Jules Griffin. Sansone says a common standard was necessary due to the deluge of data and technologies used by scientists. "There are hundreds of new technologies coming along but also many ways to describe the information produced," she says. "We can take a jigsaw puzzle of different sciences and now fit the many pieces together to form a complete picture."

Car Control Software Chaos Revealed in Major Safety Study
Computerworld UK (01/28/12) Leo King

While automated software control systems are increasingly being used in vehicles, safety authorities do not have enough expertise to measure or regulate them, according to a recent U.S. National Research Council (NRC) report. The report describes a situation in which car makers are producing vehicles controlled mostly by software, but industry regulators have very limited ability to judge their safety or ascertain the cause of incidents. "A standing advisory committee is one way the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can interact with industry and with technical experts in electronics to keep abreast of these technologies and oversee their safety," says NRC chair Louis Lanzerotti. NRC says the advisory committee needs a panel of individuals with backgrounds central to the design, development, and safety assurance of car electronics systems, including experts in software and systems engineering, in human factors, and in electronics hardware. In addition, the report says the NHTSA must become more proactive in technology development, including assessing how drivers interact with electronic systems. "In the future, the possibility of electronics leading to increasingly autonomous vehicles presents a new set of safety challenges and will demand even more agency planning and foresight," the report says.

Using Real-Time Road Traffic Data to Evaluate Congestion
University of Cambridge (01/26/12)

Cambridge University researchers are working on the Transport Information Monitoring Environment (TIME) project, which aims to provide data that enables businesses, government, and the public to make better use of roads. The TIME project has re-purposed data sources from Cambridgeshire County Council and Stagecoach, adding them to a system that can transport, collect, and analyze data. The researchers collected bus position data because the movement of buses gives a good idea of the traffic conditions in general. The researchers also collected real-time traffic light data using the Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique and demonstrated how that data can be combined with bus data to give buses priority at traffic lights. By archiving the data and analyzing it statistically, TIME researchers can determine the effects of exceptional circumstances, such as scheduled work by utilities, accidents in the city, or closure of the surrounding roads on vehicle speeds throughout the city. "Our approach has helped us both quantify the effects of congestion on urban road networks and visualize the consequences in a variety of formats," says Cambridge researcher Richard Gibbens.

FBI Seeks Data-Mining App for Social Media
InformationWeek (01/26/12) Elizabeth Montalbano

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wants to develop a data-mining application that will enable the agency to monitor social media network activity for intelligence purposes, according to a request for information (RFI) posted on The agency is interested in a "geospatial alert and analysis mapping application" that will allow its Strategic Information and Operations Center to "quickly vet, identify, and geo-locate breaking events, incidents, and emerging threats," the RFI says. The tool would be in the form of a "secure, lightweight Web application portal, using mashup technology" with unlimited flexibility to adapt to changing threats, and have the ability to automatically search and scrape social networking and open source news Web sites for information about breaking world events. The FBI plans to use the tool to share information with intelligence partners to coordinate and synchronize awareness of events. Users of the tool must have access to a common operating dashboard for viewing both unclassified open source information feeds and tools to analyze social media during a developing crisis. The tool also would enable users to conduct relevant keyword searches on popular information sites on the Internet.

Sensor Networks Could End Parking Rage
Technology Review (01/25/12) Kevin Bullis

The anger many drivers feel from having to search and wait for parking spaces to open up might be quelled by arrays of networked sensors embedded in city streets, a solution that also could help reduce traffic accidents, pollution, and congestion. "Most city parking is mismanaged or not managed at all, because you can't manage what you can't measure," says University of California, Los Angeles professor Donald Shoup. "Sensing networks, by revealing what's happening in parking spots, will change the way cities work." San Francisco has deployed SFPark, the most advanced U.S.-based smart parking system, with funding from a $19.8 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant. The system uses magnetic sensors installed into the asphalt under 8,200 street parking spaces, and collects data on thousands more parking spots in garages and from smart parking meters. The information is connected to a central management system, while motorists can employ a Web site or smartphone app to access data about where parking is available and how much it costs, in real time. A similar smart parking system is under construction in Los Angeles, with sensors to be deployed at approximately 7,000 street-side parking spots within the next several months.

Web App Could Find Out If a Song Has the X Factor
University of Bristol News (01/25/12) Joanne Fryer

University of Bristol researchers have developed a Web application that enables amateur musicians to score their own songs to determine if they have hit potential. The application is based on research that suggests it is possible to predict hits in the United Kingdom's top 40 singles charts. "The hit potential equation is based on today’s music, so people scoring old songs will be estimating their hit potential today, not at the time they were released," says Bristol's Tijl de Bie. The application enables users to score many existing songs by title and band name, as well as their own songs. The researchers used musical features such as tempo, time signature, song duration, and loudness to program the application. The researchers note that an important qualitative difference with previous studies is the use of an adaptive machine-learning method to account for evolving musical tastes.

What Your Online Friends Reveal About Where You Are
New Scientist (01/25/12) Jacob Aron

Even if users take standard precautions on social media sites, they still unwittingly leak vital information through their friends. "You can actually infer a lot of things about people, even though they are pretty careful about how they manage their online behavior," says the University of Rochester's Adam Sadilek, who has developed a dynamic Bayesian network, a system for predicting a Twitter user's location by examining where their friends are. The system can correctly place a user within a 100-meter radius with up to 85 percent accuracy. The researchers tested the system on more than 4 million tweets from users in Los Angeles and New York City, who had location data enabled. The researchers found that two weeks of location data on an individual, combined with location data from their nine most sharing friends, is enough to place that person within a 100-meter radius with 85 percent accuracy. Meanwhile, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed Jeeves, a programming language that automatically enforces privacy policies. Jeeves lets a programmer delegate privacy responsibilities and concentrate on the actual function of their code, says MIT’s Jean Yang.

Sunderland University Boffins Study the Science of Sadness and Smiles
Sunderland Echo (UK) (01/24/12) Sue Kirby

University of Sunderland researchers are using Jacobs University-developed technology as part of a global project to better understand society's cultural differences. The technology involves the use of biosensors that can interpret subjects' states of mind as they respond to different activities. Software captures data from the sensors in the form of graphs, where peaks represent the various emotional responses, which can then be compared to the activity the person was involved in. The use of the Jacobs University technology was part of the Education in Cultural Understanding Technology Enhanced (eCUTE) project, a three-year research program to develop cultural awareness by engaging young people with characters in a virtual world. Eight research institutions across Europe are involved in the eCUTE project. "This is an incredibly prestigious project which will have real world impact," says Sunderland researcher Lynne Hall. She notes that the researchers "will be looking at eCUTE's user-experience evaluation. It's an area where Sunderland is incredibly strong and has proven experience in assessing computing projects of this scale."

New Model Shows How Often to Review Material for Flashcard Programs
Cornell Chronicle (01/24/12) Bill Steele

Cornell University graduate student Tim Novikoff has developed a mathematical model for educational software. "The model is based on what the psychologists have been finding out about the process of learning, and we're hoping it can provide a language for new kinds of educational software," says Cornell professor Jon Kleinberg. In a paper describing the model, the researchers say the goal is infinite perfect learning, in which new items can be added forever and every item is continually reviewed. An alternative is cramming, in which the students aims to learn a finite list of items in a specified period of time. The researchers suggest three ways of scheduling material for infinite perfect learning--the recap method, the slow flashcard method, and the hold-build method. The model is meant to be a framework that defines the spacing constraints of a theoretical student. Novikoff says a programmer needs the formal mathematical model to develop an educational program's algorithms. He says that eventually it could be possible to analyze data from students to develop an average set of constraints that educational software can use as a base from which it adjusts to fit different students.

Touchscreen Democracy for the Twitter Generation
Lancaster University (01/24/12)

Lancaster University researchers have developed an interactive touchscreen display to help give teenagers a more active voice in community life. The display has been installed at the Queen Elizabeth School (QES) by computing researchers from Lancaster’s InfoLab21 in collaboration with the University of Oulu. The display enables students to upload photos of themselves and give their views about their local area in an interactive way. Thus far, about 200 responses have been gathered, and they will be fed back to the town council as part of a broader community consultation. The project "looks at how we can leverage the potential of online social media to bring communities closer and help them work together in dealing with key local issues that affect them," says Lancaster professor Awais Rashid. The material will be recorded and displayed on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. "It’s appealing because it’s not just a piece of paper, the screens are a lot more fun which makes you want to use them," says QES student Michael Harkness. The display is part of the U.K.'s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council's YouDesignIt project, an 18-month effort to produce blueprints for next-generation online social networking mechanisms.

Researchers Devise New Means for Creating Elastic Conductors
NCSU News (01/24/12) Matt Shipman

North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers have developed a method for creating elastic conductors made of carbon nanotubes, which they say could lead to the large-scale production of a new generation of elastic electronic devices. "We’re optimistic that this new approach could lead to large-scale production of stretchable conductors, which would then expedite research and development of elastic electronic devices," says NCSU professor Yong Zhu. He says stretchable electronic devices would be both more resilient and able to conform to various shapes, with applications in clothing, implanted medical devices, and sensors. The researchers' method involves placing aligned carbon nanotubes on an elastic substrate using a transfer printing process. The substrate is then stretched, which separates the nanotubes while maintaining their parallel alignment. When the substrate relaxes, the nanotubes buckle, creating what looks like a collection of parallel lines on a flat surface. Zhu says this new method will make manufacturing elastic conductors much more efficient. "For example, roll-to-roll printing techniques could be adapted to take advantage of our new method," he says.

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