Welcome to the March 6, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Amazon Gives AI to Harvard Hospital in Tech’s Latest Health Push
John Tozzi
March 4, 2019

The Amazon Web Services unit is working with the Harvard University-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to test how artificial intelligence (AI) can increase efficiency in medical care. The first projects launched by the collaborating organizations involve making day-to-day tasks like patient scheduling more cost-effective. For example, Amazon's tools are helping the medical center book operating room time more precisely, and can predict when patients are likely to miss appointments with its most in-demand specialists. In addition, the software can help find needed paperwork like patient-consent forms in a stack of scanned documents before surgery and alert staff if it is missing or incomplete. The approach has already helped the medical center expand the capacity of its 41 operating rooms, according to John Halamka, executive director of the Health Technology Exploration Center at Beth Israel Lahey Health.

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Alphabet’s X lab. Alphabet's Security Start-Up Wants to Offer History Lessons
The New York Times
Nicole Perlroth
March 4, 2019

In 2009, Google was hacked by the Chinese military. Now Chronicle, a security start-up owned by Google parent company Alphabet, plans to help other companies learn from that experience. The company’s new Backstory product will make Alphabet's storage, indexing, and search capabilities available to other companies so they can trace the origins of a malicious attack. Chronicle is one of dozens of companies currently promising big data threat intelligence and storage. While many customers of other firms can’t afford to pay to search through huge amounts of information, Chronicle says it will charge customer companies by their number of employees.

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Buyer Beware: Hollywood Special Effects Now Permeate Property Listings
The Wall Street Journal
Ryan Dezember
March 4, 2019

Computer-generated imagery traditionally reserved for Hollywood has now become so cheap and easy to use that home sellers are digitally removing walls, hiding ugly paneling, and even adding swimming pools to online listings. In addition, most home searches begin online, and deals are often reached without in-person showings, especially among investors who are putting photos through their own algorithms to price properties. The technology allows sellers to make brown lawns look green, and stage rooms with virtual furniture. However, these techniques could result in buyer disappointment when they arrive for in-person showings, or lead to miscalculations in renovation budgets. The ease and extent to which images can be altered has agents and the organizations that monitor real estate listings wondering how to create guidelines for the technology.

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Microscopic image of synthetic protocells used for DNA communication and computing. Protocells Use DNA Logic to Communicate, Compute
University of Bristol News
March 4, 2019

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K., Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, and Microsoft Research have created communities of artificial cells that can chemically communicate and perform molecular computations using entrapped DNA logic gates. The work marks progress towards chemical cognition in synthetic protocells, and could be useful in biosensing and therapeutic applications. The new approach, called BIO-PC (Biomolecular Implementation Of Protocell communication), is based on communities of semi-permeable capsules containing a diversity of DNA logic gates that together can be used for molecular sensing and computation. Said University of Bristol researcher Stephen Mann, "This should bring molecular control circuits closer to practical applications and provide new insights into how protocells capable of information processing might have operated at the origin of life."

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Sydney Physicists Use Code to Reduce Quantum Error in Logic Gates
University of Sydney
Marcus Strom
February 28, 2019

Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia have demonstrated improvement in quantum computers by using codes designed to detect and discard errors in the logic gates of those systems. The researchers used IBM's quantum computer to test their error detection codes, which showed an order-of-magnitude improvement in reducing error rates in quantum logic gates from 5.8% to 0.6%, meaning that rather than one in 20 quantum gates failing, only one in 200 would fail. Said University of Sydney researcher Robin Harper, "The next step is to synthesize and test these approaches on larger-scale devices of a few dozen qubits that enable the reuse and reinitialization of qubits."

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September 28, 2018 Georgia Tech vs Atlanta Falcon’s game. How Georgia Tech is Using GPS Technology to Improve Performance
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ken Sugiura
March 4, 2019

The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) football team is using wearable GPS devices to measure how fast each player runs, how often and how quickly he changes direction, his acceleration, deceleration, and a host of other actions. The devices are part of the Catapult system that the university athletic department purchased for the team, which captures more than 1,000 data points per second from each athlete. The team uses the data to monitor player workloads in real time and individualize practice plans to ensure players are not overloaded in practice. In addition, players can check their own data and get a sense of their performance compared to their past efforts, or the efforts of other players. The data allows coaches and players to more deeply understand what movements each position repeats most frequently, and can help design strength and conditioning programs accordingly.

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Hyundai's You Won't Need a Car Key Anymore with Hyundai's New 'Digital Key' Technology
USA Today
Nathan Bomey
March 4, 2019

Hyundai is rolling out a Digital Key with the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata that will allow drivers to unlock and start their vehicle via smartphone using near-field communication (NFC) technology. The automaker is part of a consortium, which also includes BMW and Volkswagen, that is developing standardized specifications for such digital key systems. Other automakers also are using smartphones as a key, including Tesla's Model 3, which uses Bluetooth to open the car and prepare it for use when the driver gets within about 30 feet of it. In comparison, the NFC technology used by Hyundai's phone key requires drivers to be within about 4 centimeters of the vehicle. Hyundai's system also enables the vehicle to automatically adjust personal settings like seat position, mirrors, and audio controls to the specific driver. Said Hyundai’s Ho Yoo, "We are studying other ways to harness this type of connected-car technology to greatly enhance the driving and ownership experience."

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Programming Languages: PowerShell Nets more Linux, macOS, Windows Developers
Liam Tung
March 4, 2019

Microsoft's open-source, Windows-exclusive PowerShell programming language is now popping up in the top 50 of the Tiobe index of the world's most popular programming languages. Since Microsoft open-sourced its scripting language three years ago as part of its cloud-driven, agnostic approach to operating systems, the company brought SQL Server to Linux, open-sourced .NET, brought Bash to Windows, and made PowerShell an Ubuntu "snap" (a containerized software package). The emphasis on open source appears to be helping PowerShell become more popular among developers, showing up for the first time in 45th place in Tiobe's most popular programming languages, coming in just behind Haskell, Julia, and Kotlin.

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Sam’s Club scanning technology as viewed on a cellphone. Sam's Club to Test Scan & Go System that Uses Computer Vision Instead of Barcodes
Sarah Perez
March 4, 2019

Walmart-owned Sam's Club will begin testing a revamped Scan & Go service, which leverages computer vision and machine learning (ML) to make mobile scanning easier and faster. The current Scan & Go system requires shoppers to locate the barcode on the item they are buying and scan it using the Sam's Club mobile app, which can take several seconds for each item. The new scanning technology will recognize products without scanning the barcode, reducing the time it takes for the app to identify each product. In a demonstration, Sam's Club showed how it could take a typical shopper 9.3 seconds to scan a pack of water using the old system, compared to just 3.4 seconds using the newer technology.

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A crowded roadway during a snowstorm. Weather-Responsive Intersections Could Ease Traffic Congestion
University of Waterloo News
March 5, 2019

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, collected data and ran computer simulations and found that adjusting the signals at intersections during snowstorms could reduce traffic delays by as much as 20%. Signals in many cities are timed according to optimization models to safely get as many vehicles as possible through intersections based on a variety of factors. Explained the University of Waterloo’s Liping Fu, “The problem is that those parameters all assume normal weather conditions." Researchers analyzed video of a busy intersection to gauge how motorists alter their driving during snowstorms. The data was fed to computer simulations to optimize the timing of signals at a single intersection and on a stretch of road with four coordinated intersections. Changes were made to improve safety, such as increasing the yellow interval to account for vehicles traveling slower and requiring more time to stop. Next steps include the development of technology using video cameras and artificial intelligence to automatically tweak the timing of signals in response to traffic changes caused by a variety of factors.

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Animal-AI Olympics Will Test AI on Intelligence Tasks Designed for Crows, Chimps
IEEE Spectrum
Eliza Strickland
February 27, 2019

The U.K.'s University of Cambridge's Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence, and GoodAI, a research institution based in the Czech Republic, are partnering to launch the Animal-AI Olympics, which aims to benchmark the current level of various artificial intelligence (AI) systems against different animal species using a range of established animal cognition tests. The project marks a new way to evaluate the progress of AI systems toward what researchers call "artificial general intelligence." While AI systems have surpassed humans in a range of challenging competitions, including the board game Go, the poker game Texas Hold'em, and the video game StarCraft, these only demonstrate that AIs were very good at those specific tasks. AIs have yet to demonstrate the kind of flexible intelligence that enables humans to reason, plan, and act in many different situations.

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UC Researchers Protect Hardware From Attacks
UC News
Brandon Pytel
February 27, 2019

University of Cincinnati (UC) researchers have developed an algorithm to shield hardware from side-channel attacks, in which hackers attempt to detect and exploit variations of power and electromagnetic radiation to steal encrypted data. Explained UC's Ranga Vemuri, "You take [device] design specification and restructure it at an algorithmic level, so that the algorithm, no matter how it is implemented, draws the same amount of power in every cycle. We've basically equalized the amount of power consumed across all the cycles, whereby even if attackers have power measurements, they can't do anything with that information." In addition, devices designed with the algorithm consume only about 5% more power than insecure devices, making the addition of the algorithm commercially viable.

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A low-cost, button sized fireproof sensor. McMaster Engineers Create a Fireproof Sensor to Track Workers in High-Risk Situations
McMaster University (Canada)
March 1, 2019

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada have developed a motion-powered, fireproof sensor that can track the movements of firefighters, steelworkers, miners, and others who work in high-risk environments where they cannot always be seen. The low-cost sensor is about the size of a button-cell watch battery, and can easily be applied to the sole of a boot or under the arm of a jacket. The sensor uses triboelectric, or friction-generated, charging to harvest electricity from movement. The sensor can track the motion and location of a person in a burning building, mineshaft, or other hazardous environment, alerting someone outside if the movement stops.

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