Welcome to the March 27, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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ACM A.M. Turing Award recipients Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton, and Yoshua Bengio Three Pioneers in AI Win Turing Award
The New York Times
Cade Metz
March 27, 2019

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) on Wednesday announced that computer science researchers Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio won this year's ACM A.M. Turing Award for "conceptual and engineering breakthroughs that have made deep neural networks a critical component of computing." The award carries a $1 million prize, which the three researchers will share. Hinton, VP and Engineering Fellow of Google, and Chief Scientific Adviser of The Vector Institute, first embraced the idea of neural networks in the early 1970s, a time when most artificial intelligence researchers rejected it. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, LeCun worked for AT&T's Bell Labs where he designed a neural network with Bengio that could read handwritten letters and numbers. In 2004, Hinton used less than $400,000 in funding from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research to create a program dedicated to "neural computation and adaptive perception; he invited LeCun and Bengio to join him in his efforts. While these kinds of systems have accelerated the progress of artificial intelligence, they are still a long way from true intelligence. Said Bengio, a professor at the University of Montreal and Scientific Director at Mila, Quebec's Artificial Intelligence Institute, "We need fundamental additions to this toolbox we have created to reach machines that operate at the level of true human understanding."

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EU to Require Speed Limiters, Driver Monitors in New Cars From 2022
Jake Holmes
March 26, 2019

The European Commission (EC) has announced rules requiring new cars sold in Europe after May 2022 to come with new safety equipment, including speed limiters and systems to monitor drivers' attention levels. The speed limiters would use road-sign recognition or data from navigation maps to alert drivers of the current speed limit, and whether they are exceeding it. Also to become standard in new automobiles will be systems that determine whether a driver is distracted or drowsy, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, backup cameras, and an enhanced event data recorder to store information from before collisions. The EC said these safety technologies should prevent about 25,000 deaths and 140,000 injuries on the roads between 2022 and 2038. The commission suggested intelligent speed limiters alone could reduce fatalities on European roads by 20%.

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Operator prepares drone to carry medical specimens Hospital Using Drones to Fly Blood Samples Between Buildings
Associated Press
Jonathan Drew
March 26, 2019

United Parcel Service (UPS) and startup drone manufacturer Matternet this week launched the first continuing commercial drone delivery service in the U.S., with a short flight transporting a medical sample between North Carolina hospitals. UPS intends to make multiple daily drone flights for the state's WakeMed Health & Hospitals network, enhancing the ground service performed by another company, and eventually rolling out similar services to other U.S. hospitals. Matternet is operating the WakeMed drone as part of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration's Integration Pilot Program. The quadcopter drone is flown remotely by a pilot.

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After Boeing Crashes, New Attention on the Potential Flaws of Software
Martin Kaste
March 24, 2019

While the software issues associated with two recent Boeing 737 Max crashes have garnered international attention, software in general has helped improve such complex systems, and it would be nearly impossible to go back to purely mechanical designs, such as pre-digital automobiles. Software is simply quicker, lighter, cheaper, and much more flexible than mechanical systems. On the 737 Max, Boeing used software to compensate for a compromise in the physical design, when larger engines were added to an older airframe, changing its center of gravity. The software suspected of causing the crashes was there to correct for that and push the nose down when it rose too high. The lesson from the 737 Max crashes is the necessity for autonomous software systems to be fully transparent. Said Columbia Law School Professor Eben Moglen, "What we're looking at in the case of some aerodynamic software taking over from pilots without telling them, is an example of why, even if you didn't think any of this had anything to do with politics, it is still true that systems that don't explain themselves to the human beings that interact with them are dangerous."

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George Mason University student retrieves food from autonomous delivery robot How GMU Students' Eating Habits Changed When Delivery Robots Invaded Their Campus
The Washington Post
Peter Holley
March 25, 2019

Students eating habits have changed since the deployment of 25 semi-autonomous delivery robots from Starship Technologies on George Mason University (GMU)'s campus in January. According to Starship Technologies and Sodexo, which manages food services for GMU, an additional 1,500 breakfast orders have been delivered autonomously, whereas skipping breakfast was common among students before. The robots deliver food all over campus, often picking up orders at campus restaurants for transport to nearby dormitories, as well as to other buildings across campus. Starship Technologies said, "Our robots allow the breakfast to come to you, at a time you want. We've found this to be very popular with students to date at GMU." Sodexo officials noted college students are prolific users of food delivery apps, and highly value convenience and access to multiple dining options. Starship Technologies said GMU is the first U.S. campus to incorporate robots into its student dining plan.

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Computer Science Has Genuine Rock Star: Xia Zhou
Dartmouth News
Joseph Blumberg
March 25, 2019

Dartmouth College's Xia Zhou has been awarded the ACM SIGMOBILE's RockStar Award. Edward Knightly, RockStar Award Committee Chair, said Zhou was recognized for "her outstanding early-career contributions and impact on our field: for multidisciplinary research examining unconventional wireless spectrum frequencies to build next-generation wireless systems, and spearheading the field of 'visible light sensing,' which turns the ubiquitous light around us into a powerful medium that integrates data communication and human behavioral sensing." Zhou also won a Sloan Research Fellowship in computer science in 2017. Her co-authored paper on a new wireless communication technology, called "DarkLight," won the best video award at the 22nd Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom 2016). DarkLight uses short, nearly imperceptible light pulses to send information.

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Boxes of tuna with QR-coded labels. Blockchain Is Better Than a Database for Tracking Tuna
Lucas Mearian
March 26, 2019

Bumble Bee Foods has partnered with enterprise software producer SAP to launch a blockchain ledger that tracks yellowfin tuna across the complete processing cycle, offering all participants and consumers real-time viewing of that information. Bumble Bee is the first company to use SAP's Cloud Platform Blockchain, deploying the tracking system in about three months, so it could store shipment data and support a tamper-proof supply chain history. Consumers also can use the platform to scan quick response (QR) codes and view data on where the tuna was caught, and its journey en route to the store. Said Bumble Bee chief information officer Tony Costa, "We're talking about best-in-class blockchain technology, [in that SAP] helped us create the interfaces, create the standards, and work with third-party partners to help define the integration."

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A Tesla Model 3 Two Young Hackers Won $375,000 and a Model 3 for Finding Tesla Bug
Tom Huddleston Jr.
March 25, 2019

Two young computer hackers have won $35,000 and a Tesla Model 3 electric car for finding a bug that let them infiltrate the vehicle's internal Web browser. Richard Zhu and Amat Cama spotted a just-in-time bug in the browser that allowed them to hack into the car's system, and write a message on the vehicle's dashboard display screen, as part of the annual Pwn2Own hacker contest. Zhu and Cama also scored victories in other hacking events, including exploiting bugs in products like Apple's Safari browser and Microsoft Windows, earning a total of $350,000 in prize money. Tesla promised to release a software patch in response to Zhu and Cama's discovery. Said Tesla, "We understand that this demonstration took an extraordinary amount of effort and skill, and we thank these researchers for their work to help us continue to ensure our cars are the most secure on the road today."

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Future Shock: Inside Google's Smart City
Financial Times
Anna Nicolaou
March 22, 2019

Google is using a 12-acre plot on the outskirts of Toronto to build a city of the future. One of the project's main goals is to address common urban problems, such as congestion, inefficient services, and unaffordable housing. For example, Google has created a prototype of a "raincoat," which is a transparent, domed plastic awning that would attach to buildings and cover the areas in front. The raincoat is equipped with climate-regulating technology that would make residents feel warm in winter and cool in summer for at least 50 days a year. In Google's proposed future city, every move would be recorded, raising significant privacy concerns. Small hidden cameras would take low-resolution images of people and cars as the move through the streets. In February, Google subsidiary Sidewalk Labs previewed technology prototypes to reporters. In an early-stage proposal document, Sidewalk reported: “Cities will only meet their growth challenges if they support innovation ... To do so requires designing for radical flexibility, enabling the best ideas to be refined in real time and creating a cycle of ongoing improvement."

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Extremely Accurate Measurements of Atom States Developed for Quantum Computing
Penn State News
Sam Sholtis
March 25, 2019

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) researchers have developed a new technique to enable extremely accurate measurements of the quantum state of atomic quantum bits (qubits), with 20 times fewer errors than previously achieved, without any atomic attrition. Penn State's David Weiss said, "We are working to develop a quantum computer that uses a three-dimensional array of laser-cooled and trapped cesium atoms as qubits." Atoms are initially sorted via laser into two 5x5 planes, and after the first images are captured, microwaves are used to induce equal superpositions of two spin states in the atoms. A shift to the left or right in the final images corresponds to detection in one spin state or the other, and associated square patterns denote atom locations. Said Weiss, "we also map the internal quantum states of atoms onto positions...on an atom-by-atom basis."

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Walmart Builds a Secret Weapon to Battle Amazon for Retail's Future
The Wall Street Journal
Sarah Nassauer
March 21, 2019

Last summer, Walmart launched Jetblack, a personal-shopping company targeted at mothers and designed to compete with Amazon. Users pay $600 a year to order anything by text message except for fresh food. The orders go to Jetblack headquarters where dozens of agents field the requests. Then, couriers fetch the items and bring them back to a delivery hub, where they are packaged and hand delivered, usually the same day. Walmart is using Jetblack's human agents to train an artificial intelligence system that could someday power an automated personal-shopping service. In addition, Jetblack's software is learning to make agents more efficient, suggesting language to use for text interaction. Over time, the company aims to use these interactions to train the computer algorithms to learn to respond to requests with human-like nuance but with machine efficiency.

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Protesters in Berlin. Resistance to Killer Robots Growing
Deutsche Welle (Germany)
Nina Werkhauser
March 24, 2019

Activists from 35 countries met in Germany in March to urge a ban on lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs), ahead of new talks on such weapons in Switzerland. The International Committee of the Red Cross calls LAWs a clear violation of international law, with British researcher Noel Sharkey warning machines cannot differentiate between combatants and civilians. Also favoring a ban are United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the European Parliament. Europe conducts much of the research into artificial intelligence (AI), which means European voices wield considerable influence in the LAWs debate. However, Sharkey warns non-binding political declarations provide "perfect cover" for countries that are against a ban.

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The system that was fed by bottles of chemicals to encode date in custom-designed DNA molecules. Microsoft and University of Washington Demonstrate Automated DNA Data Storage
Alan Boyle
March 21, 2019

Researchers at Microsoft and the University of Washington are developing a completely automated system that can turn digital bits into coded DNA molecules for storage, and turn those molecules back into bits when needed. The researchers used the proof-of-concept system to encode the word "hello" in strands of DNA and then read it out. Rather than using electronic ones and zeros, the encoding system translates data into DNA base pairs, using the chemical "letters" for adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine (A, C, G, T). For example, "hello" could be coded into the chemical string TCAACATGATGAGTA. The new method dramatically increases the density of data storage, allowing for the theoretical storage of an exabyte of data in a cubic inch of fluid. The researchers also created a programmable system that can move droplets of fluid around on a digital microfluidic device called PurpleDrop. The operating system, known as Puddle, can be used to issue commands for a microfluidic system, similar to the way a conventional operating system like Linux can issue commands for an electronic computing system.

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Thousands of Security Flaws Found on U.K. Government Websites
New Scientist
Chris Stokel-Walker
March 23, 2019

Hundreds of U.K. government websites have significant security vulnerabilities, putting them at risk of being hijacked by hackers, according to a team of security researchers working for technology companies in the private sector. The researchers scanned all 3,220 domain names registered under the .gov.uk domain ending, and found 524 of them have about 7,200 unpatched vulnerabilities. The vulnerable domains each had at least one unresolved problem from the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) system, a list of publicly known software issues. The CVE system rates vulnerabilities on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the most dangerous, based on how easy they are to exploit and the consequences of such an attack. The most commonly found vulnerability, CVE-2018-17199, is rated a 7.5 of the CVE scale. Web servers with this vulnerability sometimes store cookies longer than they should, meaning that if an attacker steals someone's cookie, they can access their account without needed to know the login credentials.

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