Welcome to the June 3, 2016 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.
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HEADLINES AT A GLANCE
All-Female Team to Lead Association for Computing Machinery
Network World (06/01/16) Bob Brown
ACM has announced its board of directors for the first time will be completely female, with former ACM vice president and Rochester Institute of Technology Distinguished Professor of Computing Vicki Hanson replacing Alexander Wolf as ACM president. Hanson also is a University of Dundee professor and Chair of Inclusive Technologies, and an IBM veteran. Succeeding Hanson as vice president of the association will be Cherri Pancake, professor emeritus and Intel Faculty Fellow at Oregon State University. Google user experience director Elizabeth Churchill will fill the seat of ACM secretary/treasurer. Each of the board members will serve two-year terms beginning on July 1. "This is an opportunity to highlight the contributions that women have made to computing and to inspire young women to view computing as a career," Hanson says. Her agenda includes reaching out to young information technology professionals to get them involved with the 100,000-member ACM via a special advisory board.
Report Says Computer Science Should Be Treated Like Core Science Subjects in K-12 Classrooms
Education World (06/01/16) Nicole Gorman
Only a fraction of U.S. schools offer computer science and most lack the ability to teach students the core principles of the subject, according to a new report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). The report says curriculum and standards focus on using, instead of understanding, technology. The study notes there should be significant changes to how computer science is taught in grades K-12, considering how in-demand computer science majors are and will be in the future. "In 2011, Code.org projected that the economy would add 1.4 million computing jobs by 2020, but educate just 400,000 computer science students by then," the study says. ITIF says a curriculum overhaul would optimize students' success. "To maintain the field's current momentum, the perception of computer science needs to shift from its being considered a fringe, elective offering or a skills-based course designed to teach basic computer literacy or coding alone," the report says. First and foremost, the report recommends the U.S. train and develop 10,000 additional teachers to teach computer science. There also needs to be a focus on creating innovative education policy that favors teaching computer science principles in both K-12 and university classrooms.
Texas Goes Big With 18-Petaflop Supercomputer
Computerworld (06/02/16) Patrick Thibodeau
The Stampede 2 supercomputer to be set up at the Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) is designed to replace and approximately double the performance of Stampede, its 9-petaflop predecessor. The new system, which is scheduled to be available for research by next June, is being funded by a $30-million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation. Stampede 2 will utilize Dell servers and Intel chips, and TACC also is upgrading Stampede with the addition of 500 Knights Landing-based Xeon Phi systems, which can support as many as 72 cores to raise its aggregate performance above 10 petaflops. The new supercomputer will incorporate 3D XPoint non-volatile memory technology, which is 1,000 times faster than NAND flash. "We anticipate [Stampede 2] will be the biggest machine in a U.S. university by next year," says TACC executive director Dan Stanzione. He notes although Stampede has managed 7 million jobs since its inception, TACC still gets five times as many requests for time on the system as it can deliver. Stanzione says Stampede 2 will help fulfill this backlog, while higher resolutions and more accurate modeling for large runs will be among its advantages, along with faster completion times for smaller jobs. TACC says Stampede and Stampede 2 will use about the same number of nodes, and it expects each of the 6,000 nodes to be capable of approximately 3 teraflops.
Tech Talent Gaps Hold Companies Back
The Wall Street Journal (06/02/16) Kim S. Nash
The percentage of CIOs reporting a technology skills shortage is at its highest level since the 2008 recession, and many technology officials think the gap is preventing them from keeping up with the pace of technological change, according to a Harvey Nash/KPMG survey of 3,352 CIOs and other technology leaders. The survey also found 65 percent of respondents said recruitment problems were hurting IT modernization efforts, up from 59 percent last year. This trend is leading to falling success rates in areas such as big data implementation. Demand is greatest for data analytics experts, followed by project managers and business analysts, according to the survey. The high demand for certain skills has introduced new pressures; for example, experts in blockchain are being offered up to $250,000 in salary. In addition, churn among technology professionals is rising with demand for certain skills, especially data analytics and project management. Even when CIOs find qualified employees, 90 percent say they are worried about retaining them. Disruption caused by nontraditional competitors also is a problem, and new products and services are the main source of business disruption, according to the survey.
Why Autocorrect for Passwords Is a Great Idea
Technology Review (06/01/16) Tom Simonite
Researchers at Cornell Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shown that frustration over having to reenter mistyped passwords could be avoided using traditional autocorrect systems. The researchers analyzed logins to the data-storage service Dropbox to demonstrate allowing access even when users get a few characters wrong can reduce headaches without significantly harming security. The team collected data on typos by analyzing 24 hours of logins to Dropbox, which has hundreds of millions of users. The data showed nearly 10 percent of login attempts that failed did so because of a few easily correctable typos. In addition, 3 percent of users who did not get access to their accounts could have if autocorrect had adjusted the three most common typos--leaving caps lock on, using the wrong case for the first character, or deleting the last character. Comparing that data with patterns on passwords revealed by data breaches suggests correcting common errors does not give an attacker trying to guess passwords much of an advantage. To guard against cases in which accepting common typos could give an attacker an edge, the researchers created two typo-tolerant password checkers that would not accept typos for certain passwords in situations in which it would be risky.
Pittsburgh Roads Wired With 'Talking' Traffic Signals
Pittsburgh Tribune (05/27/16) Aaron Aupperlee
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), has installed dedicated short-range communication radios at 35 intersections in Bloomfield and Marshall, PA, and will add 11 new radios at other intersections this year. The work is based on a study PennDOT commissioned and CMU completed in 2014, which examined how the state agency can prepare for transportation needs in 2040, including connected and autonomous vehicles. Connected-vehicle technology and dedicated short-range communication radios could transform every vehicle, traffic signal, or control device into a beacon broadcasting essential information. For example, a vehicle could broadcast its speed, location, route, and size. Meanwhile, traffic lights could tell cars what color they are and when they will change, and could warn other cars when someone runs a red light. The signals, which are sent 10 times a second in a radius of about 300 meters, are transmitted and received almost instantaneously, according to CMU professor Stan Caldwell. The U.S. Department of Transportation currently is developing rules to govern the technology, and it could be just two years before the technology is mandatory in new cars. The agency set a goal of 90 percent of vehicles and 80 percent of traffic signals having dedicated short-range communication radios by 2040.
How to Build a Moral Robot
IEEE Spectrum (05/31/16) Kristen Clark
With robots expected to play an increasingly critical role in making judgment calls where human lives are at stake, it is imperative to model moral reasoning in machines. "Right now the major challenge for even thinking about how robots might be able to understand moral norms is that we don't understand on the human side how humans represent and reason if possible with moral norms," notes Tufts University researcher Matthias Scheutz. Social psychologists at Brown University have started accumulating a list of words, concepts, and rules people use to discuss morality, and then they must determine how to quantify this vocabulary. The hypothesis of Brown's Bertram Malle is the human moral landscape might resemble a semantic network, in which a subset of norms is triggered in a specific context and becomes available to direct action, identify violations, and enable humans to make judgments. By gleaning data from enough different situations, Malle believes he will be able to build an approximate map of a human norm network that could be incorporated into a robot so it could summon the correct moral framework for whatever situation is at hand. The Tufts team is trying to build into a robot a way to communicate why it makes certain decisions, if they entail avoiding scenarios that may violate that framework.
Google Plans to Replace Smartphone Passwords With Trust Scores
New Scientist (05/31/16) Sally Adee
Google wants to phase out password access to its Android mobile platform in favor of a trust score by 2017. The trust score would be based on a suite of identifiers, including the Wi-Fi network and Bluetooth devices connected to the phone, and biometrics such as typing speed, voice, and face. The phone's sensors will harvest this data continuously to keep a running count of how much it trusts that the person holding the phone is the registered user. A low score will be enough to open gaming apps, but a banking app will require a higher score. The technologies are part of a trend attempting to build more security and privacy into design, instead of making it the responsibility of the user. Authentication tasks can be arduous and time-consuming, leading many users to stick with common passwords such as "12345" or "password." Google hints it will be collaborating with major banks, but some institutions have begun to look into trust technology independently. University College London researcher Angela Sasse says one of the most interesting behavioral biometrics is keystroke recognition, and notes "behavioral biometrics have higher recognition rates and are more accurate than classic biological markers."
Tech Turns to Biology as Data Storage Needs Explode
Scientific American (05/31/16) Prachi Patel
Several technology companies are investigating DNA data storage, including Microsoft Research, which announced in May it would commission Twist Bioscience to manufacture 10 million DNA strands designed by Microsoft researchers to store data. "We're producing a lot more data than the storage industry is producing devices for, and projections show that this gap is expected to widen," says Microsoft's Karin Strauss. Theoretically, DNA can store billions of gigabytes of data in the volume of a sugar crystal, which can last centuries if kept cold and dry. Data can be written by synthesizing designer DNA strands, while sequencing them reads the data, according to researchers. At the ACM conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS 2016) in April, Strauss and University of Washington scientists Georg Seelig and Luis Ceze presented research detailing how they wrote three image files, each a few tens of kilobytes in size, in 40,000 DNA strands using their own encoding scheme, and then read them individually with no errors. The Twist Bioscience project is an attempt to prove DNA data storage can work on a bigger scale. Meanwhile, Micron Technology is investigating DNA as a post-silicon data storage material that is error-free, but most experts agree the cost of writing data to DNA is still prohibitive.
Finding Relevant Data in a Sea of Languages
MIT News (05/27/16) Ariana Tantillo; Dorothy Ryan
Researchers in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory's Human Language Technology (HLT) Group seek to address the challenge of providing multilingual content analysis amid a shortage of analysts with the necessary skills. Their work could potentially benefit law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence communities. The HLT team is exploiting innovations in language recognition, speaker recognition, speech recognition, machine translation, and information retrieval to automate language-processing tasks so the available linguists who analyze text and spoken foreign languages are more efficiently utilized. The team is concentrating on cross-language information retrieval (CLIR) using the Cross-LAnguage Search Engine (CLASE), which enables English monolingual analysts to help look for and filter foreign language documents. The researchers use probabilistic CLIR based on machine-translation lattices. The method entails documents being machine-translated into English as a lattice containing all possible translations with their respective probabilities of accuracy. Documents containing the most likely translations are extracted from the collection for analysis, based on an analyst's query of a document collection; CLIR results are assessed according to precision, recall, and their harmonic average or F-measure. Meanwhile, HLT's Jennifer Williams is developing algorithms to identify languages in text data so CLASE can select the appropriate machine translation models, and others are working on automatic multilingual text-translation systems.
From Mobile Phone Photo to Virtual Reality
Vienna University of Technology (05/30/16) Florian Aigner
Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wein) are working on the Harvest4D project and developing algorithms that can be used to generate three-dimensional (3D) models more easily, using image data not necessarily collected for this purpose. Previous 3D images of reality have been created using extremely complicated methods such as laser scanners. "Experts have to plan a scan campaign carefully, take high-resolution images, and painstakingly edit the data at the end," says TU Wein researcher Michael Wimmer. The researchers envision a radical paradigm shift involving a range of comprehensive data that has never been available before, and new algorithms that enable researchers to process the data. The appropriate calculation methods can be used to generate 3D worlds from large collections of data. "The images are not just pieced together on the computer; we use them to compute a complete 3D model," says TU Wein's Reinhold Preiner, who notes this is accomplished by developing programs that tolerate errors, a necessary capability because the data is never perfect. The calculation methods developed in the Harvest4D project make it possible to process image data automatically. TU Wein's Stefan Ohrhallinger notes, "Our algorithms have the potential to be applied almost everywhere, and the opportunities to apply them keep on increasing."
Bill Gates Claims 'AI Dream Is Finally Arriving'--and Says Machines Will Outsmart Humans in Some Areas Within a Decade
The Daily Mail (06/01/16) Mark Prigg
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Wednesday said the dream of artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived, and its progress ensures machines will be able to outclass humans in certain knowledge areas within 10 years. Gates predicts "alter-ego software" will help manage various aspects of people's daily lives such as email and other correspondence. Still, he and others, such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, are concerned about super-intelligent machines becoming a threat to humanity. A new survey from the British Science Association (BSA) found 18 percent of respondents expect robots will become part of everyday life within the next decade, while slightly fewer than half are against emotions and personalities being incorporated into robots. Moreover, the public has strong doubts that machines will ever be trusted to perform tasks in which human lives are at stake. However, they would be satisfied to have intelligent domestic robots, with about 50 percent of respondents willing to accept machines that cook and clean for elderly people. Women are more concerned and less optimistic than men about the advent of AI, and young people between 18 and 24 years of age are the most open-minded about the technology, according to the BSA survey.
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