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Welcome to the November 11, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Row houses in Washington D.C. Census Overhaul Seeks to Avoid Outing Individual Respondent Data
The Wall Street Journal
Paul Overberg
November 10, 2019

U.S. Census Bureau officials said the agency is revamping its systems to prevent anyone from using published data to target individual respondents through the information they disclosed to the census. The bureau aims to use a mathematical process, called differential privacy, to modify census results sufficiently to reliably conceal respondents' identity. The agency will make small additions to and subtractions from each number, prior to almost every table's publication, and significantly cut the number of published statistics. Although data users are concerned these changes will disrupt their use of census data, not addressing the danger could allow information on individuals to be exposed, violating federal privacy law and elevating the risk of identity theft and other kinds of misuse.

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Quantum Data Classification Protocol Brings Us Nearer to Future 'Quantum Internet'
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (Spain)
November 8, 2019

Researchers at Spain’s Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona have developed a protocol that sorts and classifies quantum data by the state in which it was prepared, more efficiently than the comparable classical algorithm. The process identifies clusters of identically prepared quantum systems via a natural link to an archetypal form of classical machine learning: clustering data samples based on a common underlying probability distribution. The researchers also compared the performances of classical and quantum protocols, observing the new protocol significantly overtakes classical approaches, especially for large dimensional data. The protocol is envisioned as a step closer to realizing a quantum Internet, as it establishes a concrete theoretical framework on what is physically possible in the automated classification and distribution of quantum data.

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AI radio test bed for the spectrum collaboration challenge from DARPA is displayed during the Mobile World Congress Americas event Pentagon Advisory Board Releases Principles for Ethical Use of AI in Warfare
The Washington Post
Aaron Gregg
November 1, 2019

The U.S. Defense Innovation Board has published a set of ethical principles for how military agencies should design weapons enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and apply them on the battlefield. However, the board's recommendations are not legally binding, and it is now up to the Pentagon to determine how and whether to proceed with them. The recommendations pertained mostly to broadly defined goals such as "formalizing these principles" or "cultivating the field of AI engineering." Other recommendations included setting up a steering committee or a set of workforce training programs. The document specified that AI systems should be equitable, traceable, reliable, and governable.

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Autonomous System Improves Environmental Sampling at Sea
MIT News
Rob Matheson
November 4, 2019

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a system that enables autonomous mobile robots to find the most scientifically interesting locations, or "maxima," in an environment much faster and more efficiently than other technologies. The PLUMES system leverages probabilistic techniques to predict which paths are likely to lead to the maximum, while navigating obstacles, shifting currents, and other variables. As the system collects samples, it analyzes what it has learned to determine whether to continue down a promising path or search an unknown area. In 100 simulated trials in diverse underwater environments, a virtual PLUMES robot collected seven to eight times more samples of maxima than traditional coverage methods in the same amount of time. Said MIT researcher Genevieve Flaspohler, "PLUMES does the minimal amount of exploration necessary to find the maximum and then concentrates quickly on collecting valuable samples there."

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U.S. Companies Facing Huge Tech Talent Deficit in 2020
Eileen Brown
November 6, 2019

Talent acquisition platform iCIMS found a substantial shortage of professionals with technology skills, despite an upsurge of hiring across the U.S. tech sector. Analysis of applicants from January to May 2019 estimated 18% more net new tech hires versus 14% net new hires in 2017—yet only six positions were filled for every 10 open positions, compared to 12 hires per 10 openings in all other positions. Security analysts, data research scientists, and database administrators are the most difficult tech positions to fill, with software app developers the most desirable hires, followed by user support and network administrators. iCIMS reported there were 43 applicants for each tech hire last year, on average, compared to 21 applicants for each position filled among all job types.

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Bioacoustics identity authentication system The Bioacoustic Signatures of Our Bodies Can Reveal Our Identities
IEEE Spectrum
Michelle Hampson
November 4, 2019

Researchers at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) in South Korea have developed a biometric system that uses a transducer to generate vibrations and sound waves that can be used to identify individuals. After the sound has passed through the skin, bones, and other tissues, a sensor picks up the person’s unique bioacoustic signature. Analysis of the distinct signatures of individuals is boosted by modeling, which allowed the researchers to infer which structures of the human body actually differentiated people. The method, however, does not yet match the accuracy of fingerprints or iris scans for the identification of individuals.

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Police to Use Facial Recognition Drones to Help Find the Missing
BBC News (U.K.)
Ken Macdonald
November 4, 2019

Police Scotland has launched a new aerial drone system to help search for missing people. The remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) employs advanced cameras and neural networks to identify individuals it is seeking, from up to 150 meters (492 feet) away. RPAS incorporates facial recognition software that learns as it goes and is able to differentiate between persons, animals, or vehicles, from a handful of pixels in a moving color image. Two policemen are required to operate the drone; one to fly it, the other to operate the facial recognition software. Police Scotland developed the system with colleagues from the multinational Thales Group and the University of the West of Scotland.

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Smartphone Device Detects Harmful Algae in 15 Minutes
National University of Singapore
November 6, 2019

A highly sensitive system developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) uses a smartphone to quickly detect the presence of toxin-producing algae in water. The system can generate test results on-site in about 15 minutes, and findings can be reported in real time. The toxic algae detection system is made up of a microfluidic chip, a smartphone, and a customizable three-dimensionally-printed platform that holds optical and electrical components, such as a portable power source and an LED light. The system costs less than S$300 (US$220), excluding the smartphone, and weighs less than 600 grams (under 1.5lbs.). Said NUS’ Bae Sung Woo, “This device will be particularly useful for fish farmers who need to monitor the water quality of their fish ponds on a daily basis.”

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Two tags attached to a swordfish Satellite Tags Allow Research of Ocean's 'Twilight Zone' Off Florida
UW News
Hannah Hickey
November 4, 2019

University of Washington (UW) researchers are using satellite tags to track swordfish migration patterns, in order to better understand their behavior and the little-explored "twilight zone" they inhabit off Florida. The researchers tagged five swordfish to observe their movements in real time, with paired tags recording temperature, light, and depth as the fish swim, and location when the fish surface. The researchers compare these recordings with computer reconstructions of oceanic conditions, replicating in three dimensions an individual fish's precise travel path, and showing their feeding ground. In January, the researchers plan to tag more swordfish in the Red Sea, off the coast of Saudi Arabia. UW's Peter Gaube said, “This will provide the baseline data we need to understand this ecosystem before it is exploited any further.”

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Robot Arm Lets You Remotely Lend Friends Helping Hand with Repairs
New Scientist
Donna Lu
November 6, 2019

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. have developed a handheld robot for remote assistance with repairs. The system includes a camera-equipped robot arm/finger combination attached to a rigid pole. Remote users can view the robot's surroundings and control actions via two modes—either manually steering the arm and manipulating the finger, or choosing an object to interact with, and the robot executes a pre-programmed task. Bristol's Janis Stolzenwald and Walterio Mayol-Cuevas tested the system in a pipe maintenance task, and learned the second mode was 24% faster than the first. Said Stolzenwald, "The arm cannot only manipulate things in the physical world, but can also be used to direct people."

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A brown dome with two people at the base A 3D Print-Out You Could Call Home
The New York Times
Julie Lasky
November 8, 2019

The TERA project, which is taking place in Garrison, NY, is one of the latest experiments in constructing homes with the aid of three-dimensional (3D) printing technology. Researchers in the field are seeking to reduce the cost, environmental impact, and hazards of construction methods. TERA team members are adapting 3D-printing techniques in which a computer-controlled dispenser emits a malleable material that hardens into a predetermined shape. In TERA’s case, the exterior shell of a home will be printed on site, after which a birch plywood interior shell will be inserted. TERA evolved from a prototype Martian habitat called MARSHA that won a U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) competition in May.

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Human Protein Co-Regulation Map Reveals New Insights into Protein Functions
University of Exeter (U.K.)
November 5, 2019

Researchers at the universities of Exeter (UE) and Edinburgh in the U.K., and Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) in Germany, have applied large-scale quantitative proteomics (the large-scale study of proteins) and machine learning to generate a protein covariation dataset of the human proteome. The dataset forms the foundation of a co-regulation map that can be used to predict the potential function of uncharacterized human proteins. The researchers explored the map and found unexpected co-regulation partners, specifically the peroxisomal membrane protein PEX11ß with mitochondrial respiration factors. They then were able to identify a novel interaction between two crucial cellular organelles. Said UE's Georg Kustatscher, "In a time when 'big data' becomes more and more relevant for life science, a key lesson we learned from this project is: never throw away your data; they can be re-purposed, recycled, and with the right tools there is plenty more information and knowledge that can be extracted from them."

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Microsoft 2020 Imagine Cup
Northeastern University Institute for Experiential AI

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