Welcome to the October 31, 2018 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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superconducting circuits  Europe's Billion-Euro Quantum Flagship Hands Out First Grants
Science Magazine
Edwin Cartlidge
October 29, 2018

The European Union says the first $150 million of its quantum flagship initiative, an effort to turn quantum technology research into commercial products, will be divided over the next three years between 20 continent-wide projects designed to develop new kinds of quantum sensors, communications, and computers. The initiative aims to help Europe keep pace with China, which is spending billions of dollars to commercialize quantum technology, and the U.S., which is considering a $1-billion initiative. Seven of the 20 grant recipients will pursue basic science while many others plan to develop commercial prototypes. Four recipients are in the quantum communication category, including a Dutch-led proposal to develop a quantum Internet template; two others will explore quantum supremacy, or executing a specific algorithm faster than the best classical computers.

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Alexa can walk a user through a breast examination New Technology Is Rapidly Improving Cancer Care, and Alexa Is at the Vanguard
The Guardian (United Kingdom)
Judith Potts
October 29, 2018

Amazon's cloud-based digital assistant Alexa is one of several new tools being used by the Breast Cancer Care charity in the U.K. to encourage women to check for breast cancer and find the information they need concerning diagnosis, therapy, and life after a breast cancer diagnosis. The voice service will walk users through a breast examination, analyze their answers to questions from Breast Cancer Care, and then advise whether a medical appointment might be necessary. In addition, the Breast Cancer Care App (BECCA) app provides informational flashcards, as well as daily peer-led advice answering questions about the side effects of treatment, healthier lifestyle choices, and making sense of breast cancer. Other innovations include Imperial College London's Smart Sensing for Surgery project, which uses a wireless bio-patch to monitor oxygen saturation in transferred tissue after breast reconstruction, to flag postoperative complications.

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Grocers Enlist Robots to Chase E-Commerce
The Wall Street Journal
Heather Haddon
October 29, 2018

Grocers are deploying robots and artificial intelligence (AI) to boost warehouse efficiency amid intensifying competition for consumer food spending. The Albertsons supermarket chain hired Takeoff Technologies to build a network of smaller warehouses where robots and AI help fill online orders, with Takeoff’s first grocery online order sorting system running at a Sedano's Supermarket in Miami, FL, where machines in the back of the store retrieve items from towers of products, then workers package the goods faster and more efficiently than a purely manual sorting process. Meanwhile, Commonsense Robotics says it is negotiating to set up similar warehouses with AI-driven robots for several U.S. supermarket chains next year; each warehouse would be capable of processing about 1,000 daily grocery orders for delivery.

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Mosquitos for Zika Puerto Rico Is Fighting Zika With Cloud Technology
Nick Leiber
October 26, 2018

A project to track Zika-carrying mosquitoes across Puerto Rico is developing solutions that could help other parts of the world cope with mosquito-borne diseases. The Puerto Rico Vector Control Unit collects data on females of the Aedes aegypti species, storing it on remote Microsoft Azure servers and using the cloud to exchange information quickly between field and laboratory researchers. Field workers collect mosquitoes from traps and localize them with an iPhone app; an atypically high number of A. aegypti in a specific locale prompts software to dispatch workers to identify breeding sites and gather samples. Mapping software pulls data from the cloud to determine which traps have attracted the most females and identify homes where larva-killing poisons have been deployed. The counting of mosquito eggs is accelerated by Wovenware algorithms that analyze photos uploaded to a program in the cloud; Wovenware's Carlos Melendez says the software will ultimately assess whether an egg has hatched, tallying and identifying adults by species and sex.

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Robot hand holding orb The Next Big One? Earthquake Scientists Look to AI
The New York Times
Thomas Fuller; Cade Metz
October 26, 2018

Scientists are using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve data analysis to better understand earthquakes, predict their behavior, and warn of seismic events faster and more accurately. This research largely relies on neural networks training computers to extract patterns from massive volumes of ground-motion measurements. Harvard University's Brendan Meade used a neural network to run an earthquake analysis 500 times faster than previously, and with Google researchers also demonstrated the networks' ability to forecast aftershocks. Dovetailing with this is the notion that smaller and more affordable sensors will enable scientists to collect larger amounts of seismic data, from which new insights could be derived using neural networks and similar AI methods. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology are employing such solutions to build systems that can more accurately identify earthquakes as they transpire, predicting the location of the epicenter and tremor propagation.

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Hand holding trufflebot Meet the E-Nose That Actually Sniffs
IEEE Spectrum
Megan Scudellari
October 26, 2018

Brown University researchers have developed an electronic sniffer that siphons vapors through four pathways, and shunts those vapors across chemical and mechanical sensors to determine the makeup of those vapors. The TruffleBot also quantifies small pressure and temperature changes that can be used to help classify an odor. Said Brown's Jacob Rosenstein, "It felt like a natural thing, to make an extension of an electronic nose that adds more contextual information." Most "e-noses" depend solely on chemical sensors, while the TruffleBot features a 3.5-inch-by-2-inch circuit board atop a Raspberry Pi with eight pairs of sensors in four two-sensor rows. Each chemical-mechanical sensor pair detects the appropriate smell properties; analysis of nine odors determined the chemical sensors were about 80% accurate in identifying smells correctly, which increased to 90% with sniffing added, and to 95% with pressure and temperature readings.

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VeriPol Computer Tool Studies Text to Identify False Police Statements
The Engineer (United Kingdom)
October 26, 2018

Researchers at Cardiff University in the U.K. and Charles III University of Madrid in Spain have developed a tool that can identify someone who has filed a fake police statement based on the text in the document. The VeriPol tool uses automatic text analysis and advanced machine learning techniques to identify false robbery reports with 83% accuracy. The Cardiff team said VeriPol employs algorithms to identify and measure text features. The tool, designed specifically for robbery reports, can recognize patterns that are more common with false claims, such as the types of items reported stolen, finer details of incidents, and descriptions of perpetrators. Said Cardiff's Jose Camacho-Collados, "As an example, our model began to identify false statements where it was reported that incidents happened from behind or where the aggressors were wearing helmets."

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Need to Fix an iPhone or Android Device? You Can Now Break DRM Under New U.S. Rules
Liam Tung
October 26, 2018

Under the newly adopted exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits circumventing digital rights management (DRM) protections used to safeguard copyrighted works, it is now legal for consumers and repair companies to break an electronic device's DRM protections to repair it. Security researchers also are exempt from the rules when hacking computer programs, such as electronic voting systems, as long as the activity is carried out in good faith and does not violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The ruling, which went into effect on Oct. 28, affects the legality of owners and professional repairers bypassing access controls on devices for specific purposes. Said blogger Corey Doctorow, "You're allowed to jailbreak your iPhone, but no one is allowed to give you an iPhone jailbreaking tool, and if you make a tool for your own use you can't share it or even tell people how it works."

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NATO Military Exercise Will Test Robots, Autonomous Vehicles
New Scientist
Chris Baraniuk
October 25, 2018

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is conducting a month-long military exercise using autonomous boats and land vehicles, robotic inventory retrieval, and three-dimensional (3D) printers to manufacture spare parts. For the Trident Juncture 18 exercise, the Odin autonomous boat will tow a minesweeper that beams acoustic and magnetic signals into the water to detonate nearby mines. Also to be deployed is a driverless land vehicle outfitted with a remote-controlled weapon, while a 3D-printing facility will fabricate spare vehicle parts on demand, with design-sharing facilitated via linking with a similar system used by the U.S. Marines. Frost & Sullivan analyst Michael Blades noted that the military sector is now driving the development of autonomous technologies more than the commercial sector, because “the highest cost in the military is personnel.”

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Belgian Research Could Replace USB Sticks with Data Stored in Powder
The Telegraph (United Kingdom)
James Crisp
October 30, 2018

Researchers at the University of Ghent in Belgium have developed a process for storing data in powder as a potential replacement for USB sticks. The chemical process can store information like quick response (QR) codes or short texts in powder, which can be read via biochemical analysis connecting the powder molecules to a website, map, or app. The process is expedited by two programs, one of which ensures analysis lasts only seconds, while the other translates the data between QR code and date. Said Ghent's Steven Martens, "The possibility of using DNA has been explored by scientists as an alternative for storing data, but practical limitations have popped up in the process. To counter these disadvantages, chemists have been trying in recent years to store data on synthetic sequence-defined macromolecules."

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TechWomen From Africa Experience Supercomputing Up Close
Inside HPC
October 28, 2018

Two Zimbabwe-based scientists are among seven foreign women scientists spending five weeks in the U.S. as part of the TechWomen program, a U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs initiative that unites emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East with American colleagues, and gives them access to networks, resources, and industry contacts. The scientists from Zimbabwe, Edith Mugehu and Ijeoma Ezika, worked with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)'s Mike MacNeil to develop tools to make better sense of their agricultural data from Zimbabwe and have greater confidence in analyses of the data. After two weeks at Berkeley Lab, the TechWomen will go to Washington, D.C., for meetings with leaders in the field and government officials.

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