Welcome to the April 29, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Could Technology Protect Synagogues, Soft Targets from Mass Shootings?
Jerusalem Post
Eytan Halon
April 29, 2019

Activists and business leaders are focusing more on technological solutions that could prevent or limit the devastation caused by mass shootings, as political solutions have thus far been nonexistent. Private companies leading the push for safety solutions include Toronto-based Patriot One Technology, which has commercialized cognitive microwave technology to detect concealed weapons from McMaster University in Canada. The system uses low-power impulse radar systems for the detection of on-body concealed weapons, identifying concealed irregular object mass based on a database of known weapon profiles. Meanwhile Austin, TX-based Athena Security utilizes artificial intelligence and computer vision through existing surveillance cameras to recognize dangerous objects and suspicious motions, including an individual holding or pulling out a gun or knife.

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A customer pulling her shopping cart past an information clock at Walmart Experimenting With AI, Cameras to Monitor Stores in Real Time
Chicago Tribune
Anne D'Innocenzio
April 25, 2019

Walmart is experimenting with digitally monitoring its physical stores to manage them more efficiently, keep costs under control, and make the shopping experience more pleasant for customers. The retail giant last week launched its Intelligent Retail Lab inside a 50,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market grocery story in New York. The lab has thousands of cameras suspended from the ceiling, as well as other technology like sensors on the shelves, all of which will monitor the store in real time so workers can quickly replenish products or fix other problems. Walmart's embrace of artificial intelligence is designed to help the company keep pace with Amazon, which bought Whole Foods Market nearly two years ago. Said Walmart’s Mike Hanrahan, "We really like to think of this store as an artificial intelligence factory, a place where we are building these products, experiences, where we are testing and learning."

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People surrounding a computer, with one testing out the new video games during the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program Launch event Video Game Effort Could Help Regulate Future Drone Traffic
Associated Press
Lindsay Whitehurst
April 25, 2019

Researchers at the University of Utah have developed a video game simulation that uses a three-dimensional (3D) model of Salt Lake City and data about planned drone paths to determine potential problems. The researchers developed the game for the Utah Department of Transportation, which is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to prepare for the widespread use of commercial drones in the coming years. The game also includes simulations for drones that could potentially carry people. The U.S. government recently estimated that about 110,000 commercial drones are operating in the U.S., and expects that figure to grow to about 450,000 by 2022.

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A man on a VR machine, sitting in the middle of the air Far from Glitzy Tech Hubs, Chinese City Bets Big on VR
The Washington Post
Dake Kang
April 28, 2019

Government officials in the Chinese city of Nanchang are hoping to coax virtual reality (VR) entrepreneurs to invest in the region by educating students, subsidizing office space, and sponsoring conferences and competitions. Nanchang is located in the relatively impoverished province of Jiangxi that historically has relied on copper mining and rice farming, but officials hope that one day it will be a world-class hub for virtual reality. VR is part of the Chinese government's "Made in China 2025" initiative to develop world-class competitors in technologies such as electronic cars, solar and wind power, and robotics.

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Apple Cracks Down on Apps That Fight iPhone Addiction
The New York Times
Jack Nicas
April 27, 2019

Over the past year, Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps; the company has also clamped down on several lesser-known apps. In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children's devices or that blocked children's access to certain apps and adult content, while other apps were simply pulled from the App Store. Apple said it removed or required changes to the apps because they could gain too much information from user's devices; the timing of the removals was unrelated to Apple's introduction of similar tools, according to a company spokesperson. However, the app makers believe they are being targeted because their products could hurt Apple's business; they say the company's tools are not as aggressive about limiting screen time as theirs, and do not provide as many options for users.

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A man holding a tub of fish How to Make Sure the Fish We Eat is Safe
BBC News
Justin Calderon
April 26, 2019

New technology is helping consumers understand the global network that brings fish from all over the world to consumers' plates as safely as possible. By cataloging supply chain data on encrypted ledgers, shoppers will soon be able to follow the "story of the fish" from where, when, and how it was caught to how it reached the market. The first marine products to be transparently caught and traced from ocean to point of sale through these blockchain-enabled ledgers will be sold in New Zealand and the European Union later this year. The system follows a pilot that started in June 2017 aimed to enforce transparency in the supply chain that would prevent fish caught through slave labor from ending up in markets and restaurants.

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IBM Expands Universities in Its Quantum Computing Research Network
Larry Dignan
April 25, 2019

IBM is expanding its commercial quantum computing program, the IBM Q Network, to include the University of Notre Dame, Florida State University, Virginia Polytechnic and State University, Stony Brook University, and the University of Tokyo in Japan. These institutions will join Duke University, Harvard University, and the University of Waterloo in Canada, which were already part of the network. The research collaboration network for the IBM Q Network also will include the University Colorado Boulder, the University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois. Each university will have a different research focus: Stony Brook will focus on preparing students to work in the quantum technologies field, while Notre Dame will examine quantum technologies in chemistry, physics, and engineering, and Virginia Tech will look at new algorithms for quantum chemistry.

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Nils Nilsson, Pioneer in Robotics and AI, Dies at 86
Stanford News
Andrew Myers
April 24, 2019

Stanford University's Nils J. Nilsson, former editor of the Journal of the ACM, died April 23 at his home in Medford, OR. Nilsson was best known for his foundational work in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. He joined the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in 1961, where he worked on neural networks and statistical approaches to robotic problem solving. In 1985, Nilsson left SRI to join Stanford University as chair of the Department of Computer Science, a role he held until 1990. Nilsson received a number of industry awards, including a Neural-Network Pioneer Award from the IEEE, the Research Excellence Award from the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, and the Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement from the AAAI.

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Immigrants arriving to Ellis Island in 1902 How Technology Could Revolutionize Refugee Resettlement
The Atlantic
Krishnadev Calamur
April 26, 2019

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Lund University in Sweden, and the University of Oxford in the U.K. have developed a software program that uses a matching algorithm to allocate refugees with no ties to the U.S. to their new homes. The Annie software's algorithm is based on a model that uses massive amounts of data from past refugee placements to make future recommendations. The system analyzes variables such as physical ailments, age, education level, and language spoken, for each individual recommendation. The system is mainly used by HIAS, a refugee-assistance nonprofit with offices across the country. Every city where HIAS has an office or an affiliate is given a score for each refugee; the higher the score, the better the match. The software drastically speeds up the refugee resettlement process from half a day to about an hour.

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Filling in the Gaps of Connected Car Data Helps Transportation Planners
Michigan Tech News
Jen A. Miller
April 25, 2019

A researcher at Michigan Technological University has developed a computational model that provides a more accurate representation of traffic in cities, which transportation planners can use for more efficient and cost-effective urban planning. Kuilin Zhang, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and affiliated assistant professor of computer science, used two months of connected vehicle data from 2,800 cars to create a data-driven optimization approach to reconstruct the location-duration-path choices those cars make. The reconstructed choices can be used to improve the validation and calibration of the models, which will in turn produce better estimates of travel demand, reduce congestion, decrease emissions, and save energy.

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Snake-Inspired Robot Slithers Even Better Than Predecessor
Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Leah Burrows
April 18, 2019

Researchers at Harvard University's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a snake-inspired soft robot that is faster and more precise than its predecessor. The robot was made using kirigami, a Japanese paper craft that relies on cuts to change the properties of the material. A previous robot was created using a flat kirigami sheet, which transformed uniformly when stretched; the new version has a programmable shell, so kirigami cuts can pop up as desired, improving speed and accuracy. Said SEAS' Katia Bertoldi, "By borrowing ideas from phase-transforming materials and applying them to kirigami-inspired architected materials, we demonstrated that both popped and unpopped phases can coexist at the same time on the cylinder."

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Qualcomm Chip Bug Poses Risk to App Account Security
PC Magazine
Michael Kan
April 24, 2019

Keegan Ryan with cybersecurity firm NCC Group discovered a security bug in dozens of Qualcomm chipsets that could allow Android malware to steal access to users' online accounts. The bug was found in the Qualcomm Secure Execution Environment (QSEE), which is designed to store private cryptographic keys by placing them in an isolated area of the chip, separate from the main processor. Ryan found it is possible to manipulate the system to leak the private keys by analyzing the Qualcomm chip's memory cache for clues on how to put together those keys. He demonstrated this by extracting a 256-bit ECDSA key from a Nexus 5X phone, after collecting memory cache samples over 14 hours; hackers could use the bug to exploit how mobile apps let users sign in on a mobile device. Qualcomm has patched the bug, which affects several Snapdragon chipsets.

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U.S. Airports Will Use AI To Scan 97% Of Passengers' Faces Within 4 Years
Nicole Martin
April 24, 2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plans to expand its Biometric Exit program to cover 97% of outbound air passengers within four years, according to a recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security report. While the current imaging system can only look up photos based on flight manifests, a new Artificial Intelligence (AI) system will use an algorithm to scan the faces of those boarding international flights and compare them to millions of photos on file to find a match. The images in the database are pulled from visa and passport applications; if the image is not recognized, it can be looked up manually. The AI system has been implemented in 15 U.S. airports, and tested on more than 15,000 flights; it was able to identify more than 7,000 travelers who overstayed their visas.

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May 2019 Issue of Communications of the ACM
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