Welcome to the March 1, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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FedEx’s autonomous delivery robot Your Next FedEx Delivery Could Be a Pizza
The Washington Post
Hamza Shaban
February 27, 2019

FedEx has unveiled an early model of an autonomous delivery robot, as part of a delivery program it is developing with Pizza Hut, Walmart, Walgreens, and other retailers. Designed by FedEx in partnership with Dean Kamen’s DEKA Research and Development, the delivery bot will traverse sidewalks and streets, using technology originally developed for DEKA's iBot powered wheelchair, and will feature radar, laser-based LiDAR mapping tools, and several cameras. FedEx said the bot will be tested in multiple cities, pending approval, where it will complement the company’s existing same-day delivery service, which relies on uniformed employees. FedEx's Brie Carere said, "The bot represents a milestone in our ongoing mission to solve the complexities and expense of same-day, last-mile delivery for the growing e-commerce market in a manner that is safe and environmentally friendly."

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Doctor Uses 5G to Direct Surgery Live From Mobile World Congress
Ivana Kottasova
February 27, 2019

A surgical team at Hospital Clinic Barcelona in Spain excised a tumor from a patient's colon under the remote direction of a surgeon three miles away via a 5G-enabled live video link from Mobile World Congress 2019. According to the hospital, the procedure marked the first time doctors had used a 5G connection to communicate during surgery. Dr. Antonio Maria de Lacy said a super-fast 5G connection was the only option for providing the team real-time assistance. The technology of 5G can support a 100-fold speed upgrade over 4G, potentially enabling mobile networks to power driverless cars, virtual reality, smart cities, and networked robots. The 5G technology virtually eliminated latency between devices and servers, so the surgeon could draw instructions on-screen in real time.

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A system made by Yingzi Techology scanning a barn to recognize pig faces. China’s Tech Firms Are Mapping Pig Faces
The New York Times
Sui-Lee Wee; Elsie Chen
February 24, 2019

Chinese technology companies are developing facial and voice recognition and other advanced systems as ways to make certain the country's pigs are in good health. For example, e-commerce giant Alibaba and rival JD.com are using cameras to track pigs' faces; Alibaba also uses voice recognition software to monitor the pigs’ coughs. City University of Hong Kong’s Dirk Pfeiffer said, however, that the facial recognition technology will not be useful unless China creates a comprehensive database of pig faces. China is in the midst of closing and consolidating many of its small pig farms, blaming them for polluting the environment, but there are still 26 million small pig farms across the country. In general, the Chinese government has endorsed implementing new technologies on the country's farms, and has called for increased use of robotics and network technology.

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Supercomputers Can Spot Cyber Threats
MIT News
Anne McGovern
February 26, 2019

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory have developed a technique to compress hours of Internet traffic into a bundle that can be examined for suspicious behavior. The amount of Internet traffic generated in a 48-hour period is too massive for even 100 laptops to process into something useful for human analysts, so humans have relied on sampling to search for potential cybersecurity threats, selecting small segments of data to study in depth. The Lincoln Lab researchers' new supercomputing method grants analysts access to all pertinent data at once by condensing as much as 96 hours of raw, 1-gigabit network link Internet traffic data into a query-ready bundle. The team created the bundle by running 30,000 processing cores at the Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center in Holyoke, MA; it is stored in the MIT SuperCloud, and can be accessed by anyone with an account.

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Alphabet's DeepMind Uses Machine Learning to Predict Wind Power Output
Anmar Frangoul
February 27, 2019

Researchers at Alphabet's artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind used machine learning to boost the productivity of wind energy, by applying AI algorithms to 700 megawatts of wind power capacity in the central U.S. The researchers trained a neural network on weather forecasts and historical turbine data, and the DeepMind system was configured to predict wind power output 36 hours ahead of actual generation. The resulting model can be used to make recommendations on how to make optimal hourly delivery commitments to the power grid a full day in advance. The DeepMind researchers said adding machine learning at wind farms boosted the value of wind energy by roughly 20%.

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Kids in a classroom Amazon to Fund Computer Science Classes at 1,000 U.S. High Schools Through Future Engineer Program
Nat Levy
February 21, 2019

Amazon’s Future Engineer program will fund computer science (CS) classes at more than 1,000 high schools in all 50 states by this fall, the company says. The goal of the program is to eventually reach more than 10 million students with coding activities and lessons annually, and to provide access to introductory or advanced CS courses to more than 100,000 students in more than 2,000 high schools. The world’s largest e-commerce marketplace and cloud computing platform, Amazon also will grant four-year, $10,000 scholarships and paid internships to 100 students, so they can acquire work experience. Future Engineer is part of the company’s $50-million investment in CS and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Said Amazon’s Jeff Wilke, "We want to ensure that every child, especially those from underprivileged communities, has an opportunity to study computer science."

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U.S. Companies Put Record Number of Robots to Work in 2018
February 28, 2019

U.S. companies installed more robots last year, thanks to more affordable and flexible machines that opened up their use in industries beyond traditional car assembly plants. The Association for Advancing Automation estimated an almost 16% year-over-year gain in robot shipments in 2018, for a total of 28,478. All tracked sectors saw more shipments, apart from automotive, as automakers cut back after completing a major round of upgrades for new truck models. Robot shipments to food and consumer goods companies climbed 60% compared to 2017, while shipments to semiconductor and electronics plants rose more than 50%, and shipments to metal producers increased 13%. The association said last year marked the first time since 2010 that auto and auto-parts manufacturers failed to comprise more than half of annual robot shipments.

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A model of Boeing drone Boeing Unveils Australian-Developed Unmanned Jet
The Guardian
February 26, 2019

Boeing has announced an unmanned, fighter-like jet developed and designed to fly alongside crewed aircraft in combat. Australia is investing $40 million in the prototype program, marking Boeing's biggest investment in unmanned systems outside the U.S. Other defense contractors are also putting more funding toward autonomous technology, as defense forces around the world look for cheaper, safer ways to maximize their resources. The Boeing system includes electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance functions, in addition to operating like a traditional fighter jet. The aircraft’s first flight is expected next year.

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Bardin Helps Google Design Low-Power Controller to Be Used With Quantum Computers
UMass Amherst News
February 25, 2019

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst's Joseph C. Bardin has helped Google researchers design and build a small, low-power controller to be used with quantum computers. Bardin and Erik Lucero with Google's AI (artificial intelligence) Quantum team said the cryogenic controller demonstrates substantial progress toward an efficient, reliable, and scalable means of controlling quantum systems' electronics, which hopefully will solve computationally complex problems beyond the capability of classical computers. The controller, which delivers an instruction set for single-quantum-bit (qubit) operations, operates at 3 degrees Kelvin (about -454.27 degrees Fahrenheit) and uses less than 2 milliwatts of power. Bardin envisions the controller as the first step in simplifying the technology network needed to connect the quantum computing element to traditional systems operating at room temperature.

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Self-Syncing Stoplight Technology Can Be Used in Any City That Deploys Programmable Traffic Controllers With Internet Access
UT Dallas News Center
Dave Moore
February 27, 2019

University of Texas, Dallas (UTD) researchers have developed new technology that allows direct communication and cooperation between traffic-control devices to improve traffic flow. The university deployed the Distributed, Agent-based traffic Lights (DALI) system last summer, then measured its effectiveness in the fall along a mile-long stretch of road near campus. DALI facilitated a 40% reduction in delays on average, and a 43% reduction in delays specifically during weekday peak hours. DALI-outfitted traffic-control agents monitor and analyze traffic flow at their respective intersections, with each device receiving commands from an autonomous individual agent in the nearby UTD laboratory. Congestion in an intersection causes a DALI agent to readjust timing and determine which nearby DALI-operated intersections might be affected; it then communicates with agents in those intersections, which collaborate to ensure optimized traffic flow.

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A view from the drones, looking out for buried bodies Police Drones with Lasers Could Help Find a Murder Victim in Australia
New Scientist
Donna Lu
February 26, 2019

Australian police want to use drones equipped with laser scanners to help solve a murder case. The police suspect a missing person is buried in a densely forested area; by using drones and LiDAR technology, the authorities hope to search a larger area more quickly than they would be able to on foot. To test the technique, researchers at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne buried bodies donated for research purposes in a 20,000-square-meter area of dense forest. The researchers used an algorithm to digitally remove the vegetation from the resulting images and reveal the ground beneath, allowing the team to successfully identify the locations of five of the six “test” graves.

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Security Technology Detects Cyberattacks on Drones, Cars, Robots
IEEE Spectrum
John Boyd
February 26, 2019

Researchers at Mitsubishi Electric have developed sensor-security technology for detecting inconsistencies in sensor measurements when a system is under attack. The technology was designed to counter the danger posed by sensor-based automatic control technology that is now used in hundreds of applications, such as vehicle accident prevention, agricultural monitoring, and self-balancing robots. Said Mitsubishi Electric’s Takeshi Yoneda, “Until now, it was thought that sensor fusion algorithms were robust and could not easily be attacked because they integrate data from several sensors.” Yoneda added the detector algorithm is compact (just a few dozen lines of code), which means “We can implement it at low cost, because there is no need to modify the hardware.”

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