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Welcome to the December 13, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Logo 2019 ACM Fellows Recognized for Far-Reaching Accomplishments that Define the Digital Age
Jim Ormond
December 11, 2019

ACM has recognized 58 members by naming them 2019 ACM Fellows for their contributions to areas that underpin the defining technologies of the digital age. ACM president Cherri M. Pancake said the technologies for which ACM Fellows were recognized stem from diligent collaborative and/or individual research, creative inspiration, and sometimes informed risk-taking. Said Pancake, "In highlighting the accomplishments of the ACM Fellows, we hope to give credit where it is due, while also educating the public about the extraordinary array of areas in which computing professionals work." This year's Fellows come from academia, industry, and research centers in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, and Switzerland. The Fellows' achievements include advancements in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, computer graphics, computational biology, data science, security and privacy, software engineering, quantum computing, and Web science.

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Researchers Criticize AI Software That Predicts Emotions
Joseph Menn; Jeffrey Dastin
December 12, 2019

The AI Now Institute at New York University has urged a ban on artificial intelligence (AI) that automatically analyzes facial expressions to influence hiring and other decisions. The Institute cited an academic review of studies on how people interpret moods from facial expressions, which concluded that such perceptions are unreliable, given that emotional communication widely varies across cultures, scenarios, and individuals in a single situation. The Institute said action against such software-driven “affect recognition” was its top priority because science does not justify the technology's use. Institute founders Kate Crawford and Meredith Whittaker warn of the spread of damaging applications of AI despite broad consensus on underlying ethical principles, due to a lack of consequences for violating those principles.

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Data Science Dominates LinkedIn's Emerging Jobs Ranking
Larry Dignan
December 10, 2019

A study by online employment site LinkedIn found employers increasingly prize data science and related skills among workers. The top-ranked emerging job in the study was artificial intelligence (AI) specialist, which requires proficiency in machine learning, deep learning, TensorFlow, Python coding language, and natural language processing. LinkedIn said hiring of AI specialists grew 74% from 2015 to this year, with industries seeking such skills including computer software, Internet, information technology, higher education, and consumer electronics. Robotics engineer and data scientist ranked second and third among emerging job titles identified in the study, while full stack engineer and site reliability engineer held fourth and fifth places, respectively.

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A woman riding a motorized scooter Testing Tech Ideas in Public? San Francisco Says: Get a Permit
Associated Press
Janie Har
December 10, 2019

The city of San Francisco, CA, will require businesses to obtain a permit before testing their high-tech ideas on the city’s streets. Supporters of the legislation, which the city's Board of Supervisors approved unanimously, say it is long overdue in a city that has served as a hub for major tech companies and which has grown accustomed to reacting to the sudden arrival of new technologies. Said Board president Norman Yee, “I support innovation and technology, but our residents are not guinea pigs, and our public infrastructure is not a free-for-all.” The new law mandates the city’s Office of Emerging Technology to serve as gatekeeper for entrepreneurs who want to test their products in San Francisco's public spaces; companies will not be allowed to run tests in public spaces until the office declares the tech in question a "net public good."

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The U.S. Cities Where Robots Impact Jobs Most
Jennifer Liu
December 5, 2019

A report from nonpartisan think tank the Century Foundation found that Midwestern states saw the sharpest growth in robots used in the workplace from 2009 to 2017. These areas now have the highest levels of "robot intensity" (the number of industrial robots per 1,000 human workers) in the country, according to the report. Nationwide, the study found, there are about 0.34 robots per 1,000 human workers. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA, metropolitan area was found to have the highest robot intensity in the country, with 6.91 robots per 1,000 human workers. Rutgers University professor William Rodgers, a co-author of the report, said, “Our evidence does not mean an individual will lose their job. Our estimates identify the odds or risk of a robot potentially displacing or having a positive impact on employment and wages.”

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Underground Fiber-Optic Cables Help Scientists Record Thunderquakes
Brooks Hays
December 11, 2019

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) have found that underground fiber-optic cables can be used to track thunderstorms. The researchers used a distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) array to track the tiny seismic events caused by thunder. The device fires a laser down one of the glass fibers in a fiber-optic cable, registering tiny changes in pressure and recording measurements every six feet; a few miles of underground cables can create a network featuring thousands of sensors. When the researchers compared the measurements recorded by the DAS array, the data matched the distribution of lightning recorded by the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network. Said Penn State’s David Stensrud, "This research is an example of taking an existing technology and using it to serve another purpose."

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A computer chip Scientists Just Created Quantum States in Everyday Electronics
David Nield
December 11, 2019

Two studies involving scientists from the University of Chicago (UChicago) demonstrated how quantum technologies can work with everyday electronics by transmitting quantum data with devices built from silicon carbide. Researchers created quantum states that emitted single photons, with a wavelength near the telecommunications band. One technique generated a "quantum FM radio" for transmitting quantum data across long distances with a high degree of control; another method employed a diode to eliminate noise and almost perfectly stabilize a quantum signal by extracting laser-excited electrons. UChicago's David Awschalom said these advances represent a step toward developing systems for storage and distribution of quantum information across fiber-optic networks. "Such quantum networks would bring about a novel class of technologies allowing for the creation of unhackable communication channels, the teleportation of single electron states, and the realization of a quantum Internet."

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A researcher's hand hovers over the water's surface in the Intelligent Towing Tank Intelligent Towing Tank Propels Human-Robot-Computer Research
MIT News
December 9, 2019

Researchers in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sea Grant Hydrodynamics Laboratory developed an automated experimental facility that conducted about 100,000 experiments, the equivalent of a Ph.D. student’s five years’ worth of experiments, in a matter of weeks. The Intelligent Towing Tank (ITT) automatically and adaptively performs, analyzes, and designs experiments exploring vortex-induced vibrations (VIVs). The ITT, guided by active learning, conducts a series of experiments in which the parameters of successive experiments are selected by a computer. The system uses an "explore-and-exploit" methodology to dramatically reduce the number of experiments required to explore and map the complex forces governing VIVs. The MIT researchers envision applying the approach to a range of experimental research disciplines, potentially resulting in new insights and models in multi-input/multi-output nonlinear systems.

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Typhoon Mangkhut Hong Kong Government Says Technology Is Protecting City Against Extreme Weather
South China Morning Post
Kathleen Magramo
December 10, 2019

Hong Kong has started using an integrated system scanner to monitor its extensive shoreline. The scanner uses laser imaging to capture the state of facilities above the water and sonar waves to detect the state of underwater structures, producing a high-quality three-dimensional model for examination. Hong Kong's Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) expects the new system to help complete a full inspection of the city's 127 kilometers (nearly 80 miles) of sea wall and breakwaters every five years. Previously, said CEDD’s Alan Tang Kai-yan, “Many factors such as water traffic, tidal waves, and poor water quality made the operations very difficult and produced unclear images. These new devices can reduce the working condition risks faced by divers.”

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Intelligent Camera Automatically Detects Roadside Bombs
Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands)
Henk van Appeven
December 10, 2019

Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the Ministry of Defense in the Netherlands have developed an early-warning system that detects roadside bombs in real time. The system can be mounted on a military vehicle, and automatically detects improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by perceiving suspicious environmental changes. TU/e's Dennis van de Wouw outfitted a vehicle with an intelligent video system by combining a stereo camera, a global positioning system, and an image-analysis platform. The device automatically records and compares the environment with previously captured images, then analyzes changes; any changes suggesting a potential IED are forwarded to the military operator via a graphical user interface. The Ministry of Defense's Silvester de Bruin said, "So far, all the results look very promising.”

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Rainforest Preservation Through Machine Learning
ETH Zurich
Florian Meyer
December 5, 2019

David Dao at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich's Institute for Computing Platforms has developed intelligent machine learning algorithms to predict likely areas of rainforest deforestation based on satellite and drone images. The algorithms interpret individual image sequences to order to identify forested regions and their possible shrinkage. Comparison of chronologically sequential aerial views enables the algorithms to map out changes in road systems and forest coverage over time. The algorithms do not require labels to produce images that indicate rainforest contraction, and they also can forecast where the worst deforestation will next appear. Dao's work will be utilized for a pilot project starting next month in Chile.

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World's Most Detailed Database Maps Characteristics of Earth's Rivers, Catchments
McGill Newsroom
December 9, 2019

Researchers at McGill University in Canada and Griffith University in Australia have developed the first high-spatial resolution atlas to map the environmental properties of all the world's rivers and catchments. HydroATLAS helps scientists, practitioners, and intergovernmental entities fill in gaps in river or catchment protection strategies, and understand how human activity affects freshwater ecosystems. The HydroATLAS database compiles more than 50 environmental factors accounting for over 280 individual attributes into a centralized resource, to enable detailed analysis of variables that shape the hydrology and ecology of rivers and their catchments. Griffith University's Simon Linke said the atlas and database can especially help non-specialists. Said Linke, "The user does not need any special expertise in computer mapping, but can click on a river or area and the readily available information will be pulled from the database."

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