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Welcome to the December 23, 2020 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

Please note: In observance of the Christmas holiday, TechNews will not be published on Friday, December 25. Publication will resume Monday, December 28.

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NIST Software Tool Improves Your Doctor's Vaccination Advice
National Institute of Standards and Technology
December 21, 2020

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)'s Forecasting for Immunization Test Suite (FITS) can help ensure doctors correctly recommend which vaccinations patients should receive, and when. The software tool lets state healthcare systems test computerized Immunization Information Systems (IIS) to determine if they are supplying valid answers for a patient???s situation. FITS, developed with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quantifies alignment between recommendations and medical community standards, and automates testing while allowing development, maintenance, and sharing of test cases nationwide. NIST's Mike Indovina said, "FITS testing has led to the discovery of a number of deficiencies in IIS forecasts. This discovery has already led to software corrections and improvements in state IIS immunization services."

Full Article
Say Again? AI Provides the Latest Word in Clearer Audio
Princeton University
Molly Sharlach
December 17, 2020

Princeton University researchers contributed to the development of a new approach that could improve audio quality at a time when more people are conducting phone or video chats due to the pandemic. HiFi-GAN uses artificial neural networks to make low-quality recordings of human speech as crisp and clear as studio-recorded voices. The system utilizes two separate networks competing to improve audio quality: a generator, which produces cleaned-up speech recordings, and a discriminator, which analyzes recordings to determine whether they are studio-quality recordings or generator-cleaned audio. The researchers found HiFi-GAN scored higher than five other methods of improving audio quality, based on 28,000 listener ratings of recordings on Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Full Article

Student Amrit Baveja, who created the app. Students Find Creating Covid-19 Tracing App for School Was Easy. Navigating Fault Lines of the Teenage Pull to Socializing Was More Treacherous.
The Washington Post
Ronnie Cohen
December 20, 2020

Marin County, CA, students Amrit Baveja and Beck Lorsch built iOS applications to help local private high schools contain the spread of Covid-19, hoping to encourage in-person attendance while maintaining pandemic safety. Each day before school, the MarinTrace app queries students and teachers about their health, travel, and whether any close contacts have tested positive for the virus, instructing users who answer yes to any question to stay home, and alerting school administrators. About 50 students and 15 faculty tested MarinTrace at The Branson School in Ross, CA. Baveja and Lorsch assumed participants would be honest in self-reporting their interactions, as the student body signed a code of conduct to avoid large gatherings or parties. Yet some Branson students did not comply, and attended Halloween parties without masks. Silicon Valley computer scientist Pierce Freeman said, "At the end of the day, the tension is between privacy and the need for contact tracing, and each community has to make the decision about the trade-offs for themselves."

Full Article
The ALBA Synchrotron, site of the research. Wi-Fi Technology With Fiber Optic-Like Performance for Industry 4.0
Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Spain)
Agustín López
December 22, 2020

Researchers at Spain's Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and Internet Interdisciplinary Institute have developed a wireless technology comparable to fiber optics that has the potential to replace cabled connections. Their project is the first parameterization of a millimeter-band signal propagation model in an industrial environment. UOC's Cristina Cano explained, "This study is aimed at making communication less expensive and more flexible by incorporating mobile devices into the manufacturing process, something that could be very useful in moving towards Industry 4.0." The researchers measured the behavior of this signal type at the ALBA synchrotron in Barcelona, which resembles an industrial setting. The researchers found that reflective pipes and other surfaces typically found in industrial plants allow the signal to travel along numerous paths and reinforce reception, resulting in greater coverage. Said Cano, "We were able to establish a 110-meter link, the largest communication link achieved with the IEEE 802.11ad standard to date."

Full Article

Reliable Anti-Counterfeit Checks Under Extreme Conditions
National University of Singapore
December 22, 2020

A new anti-counterfeiting method developed by National University of Singapore (NUS) researchers uses two-dimensional (2D) material tags and artificial intelligence-enabled authentication software. DeepKey's secure identification tags are durable and exhibit Physically Unclonable Function (PUF) Patterns, which can be classified and validated by a deep learning model that enables 100% accurate authentication in under 3.5 minutes. The secure tags are created by brushing viscous 2-D material ink over an inflated balloon, then deflating the balloon after air-drying overnight. The PUF patterns are randomly generated during the contraction and can be cut to the required size. An image of the PUF tag taken with an electronic microscope is then synched with the software for classification and validation. NUS's Wang Xiaonan said, "We are breaking this long-lasting trade-off between high encoding capacity and long authentication time by using classifiable 2D-material PUF tags and deep learning algorithms."

Full Article

Building Machines That Better Understand Human Goals
MIT News
Rachel Gordon
December 14, 2020

An algorithm that infers goals and plans, even when those plans might fail, has been developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers. The team used MIT's Gen artificial intelligence (AI) programing platform to integrate symbolic artificial intelligence (AI) planning with Bayesian inference, into the Sequential Inverse Plan Search (SIPS) algorithm. SIPS produced a model that outperformed the baseline Bayesian Inverse Reinforcement Learning model up to 150-fold, and the algorithm inferred goals with 75% accuracy, MIT's Tan Zhi-Xuan said, "This ability to account for mistakes could be crucial for building machines that robustly infer and act in our interests."

Full Article
A person trying on Dior shoes. Does the Shoe Fit? Try It On with Augmented Reality
The New York Times
Kate Conger
December 22, 2020

Retailers are increasingly reliant on augmented reality (AR) technology to help consumers try on products virtually, hoping to recreate the real-world shopping experience during the current pandemic. Many retailers are using AR offerings from Snapchat parent company Snap, which started adding shopping filters in January, and currently offers AR try-ons for luxury brands. Some companies have developed AR applications exclusively for trying on their own products, like sneaker firm Wanna Kicks; others have teamed with retailers to help create AR experiences focused on their items. Snap in June released a technical library of tools to help developers recognize and classify objects, in order to generate AR filters for Snapchat. Retailers using AR hope virtual try-ons can make product exchanges and returns less likely.

Full Article

Farmers Get Their Own Security Advice as Cyberattacks Increase
Liam Tung
December 22, 2020

The U.K. National Cyber Security Center has published guidance to help guard farmers against cyberattacks, noting that key systems in the agricultural industry use email, online payments, Internet-linked farming equipment, and other products that could be hacked. The guidance advises farmers to patch and update their devices and software, and to set their operating systems to install updates automatically, warning that older operating systems eventually will not receive security updates. The guidance also urges regular backups to shield against ransomware, as well as password-protecting each device and encrypting data. Other recommendations include enabling antivirus and activating firewalls to partition the local network from the Internet, and using two-factor authentication for online accounts.

Full Article

The CageReporter robot. Underwater Robot to Keep Tabs on Fish Farms
New Atlas
Ben Coxworth
December 14, 2020

An underwater robot under development by researchers at Norway's SINTEF institute is designed to autonomously inspect fish farms. CageReporter uses a proprietary underwater positioning system and a three-dimensional computer-vision system to determine the conditions of netting and fish in fish farms. The robot also employs artificial intelligence-based algorithms to monitor fish behavior, tweaking its movements to avoid disturbing them. CageReporter utilizes onboard sensors to measure water temperature, along with oxygen and light levels; if it detects any problems, the robot communicates its location to a base station via ultrasound pulses. SINTEF's Eleni Kelasidi said, "The technology gives us incredibly precise and important information on, for example, the fish???s health and the quality of the water in real time. In the future, we might even be looking at completely unmanned aquaculture facilities."

Full Article

A virtual 'AI guard' displayed on an electric panel welcomes visitors at Ogikubo Hospital in Tokyo. AI, Drones, 4K Cameras: New Tech Boosts Security Systems in Japan
The Japan Times

December 20, 2020

Shortages of security personnel in Japan have prompted adoption of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), drones, and 4K video cameras. One example is a virtual "AI guard" from security firm Secom, tested at Tokyo's Ogikubo Hospital in October; an animated character displayed on a panel at the hospital???s entrance screens visitors' temperatures and admits only those who are fever-free. Meanwhile, Sohgo Security Services (Alsok) has been installing 4K cameras at locations like the Tokyo Skytree tower to test their ability to monitor the surrounding environment. Moreover, a prison in Yamaguchi Prefecture is using Secom's camera-equipped drones on patrols, flying designated routes via global-positioning systems. Said an Alsok official, "4K, AI, and 5G will become the three sacred treasures of security from now on."

Full Article
The Continuing Arms Race: Code-Reuse Attacks and Defenses
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