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Welcome to the June 7, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Quntao Zhuang (left) and Zheshen Zhang, both assistant professors in the University of Arizona College of Engineering. Engineers Demonstrate Quantum Advantage
University of Arizona News
Emily Dieckman
June 1, 2021

Engineers at the University of Arizona (UArizona) demonstrated an advantage of quantum computing over classical computing by combining classical and quantum approaches. The engineers utilized three entanglement-equipped sensors to classify the average amplitude and angle of radio frequency signals. Entanglement let the sensors share information with each other, enhancing their sensitivity while reducing error, and enabling them to assess global properties rather than collect data only about specific system elements. UArizona's Zheshen Zhang said, "A lot of algorithms consider data stored on a computer disk, and then convert that into a quantum system, which takes time and effort. Our system works on a different problem by evaluating physical processes that are happening in real time."

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ML Platform Mines Nature for New Drugs
Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science
Aaron Aupperle
June 2, 2021

Finding medications in nature could get a boost from machine learning algorithms that correlate the signals of a microbe's metabolites with its genomic signals and identify those that likely track with a natural product. The NRPminer algorithm, engineered by an international team led by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers, scanned the metabolomics and genomic data for roughly 200 microbe strains, identifying hundreds of expected non-ribosomal peptides (NRPs) and four novel NRPs that hold promise for future drug development. CMU's Bahar Behsaz said, "Natural products are still one of the most successful paths for drug discovery, and we think we're able to take it further with an algorithm like ours."

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The U.S. Supreme Court building. U.S. Supreme Court Narrows Scope of Sweeping Cybercrime Law
Eric Geller; Josh Gerstein
June 3, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) cannot be invoked to prosecute people who misuse databases they are otherwise entitled to access. The 6-3 ruling follows concerns raised by justices that the federal government's interpretation of the statute could penalize people for commonplace activities, such as checking social media on their work computers. Dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas called the majority's view contrived and unfounded, contending there are many areas of law where consent to do something for one purpose does not imply permission for an unconnected purpose.

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An E-bike loaded with sensors Smart Bike Predicts Cars' Trajectories, Honks to Warn of Impending Crash
IEEE Spectrum
Sandy Ong
June 3, 2021

Engineers at the University of Minnesota (U of M) have designed a prototype smart bicycle which they say can protect itself from collisions. A Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensor at the front of the e-bike scans for cars at approaching intersections, while rear and left-side lasers track vehicles behind and adjacent to the bike. U of M's Rajesh Rajamani said an onboard microprocessor reads this data and algorithmically forecasts a vehicle's trajectory by calculating its relative velocity to the bike. The system sounds a horn to warn the driver of the vehicle if a collision is imminent. Rajamani said the system is able to predict the most common types of bike-vehicle collisions from as far away as 30 meters (98 feet).

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Google Boosts Android Privacy Protections in Attempt to Rival Apple
Financial Times
Patrick McGee
June 3, 2021

Google will unveil additional safeguards for users of the Android mobile operating system so advertisers cannot track them when they switch between applications. Google said the extra protections will ensure any marketer trying to access Android users who have opted out of sharing their Advertising ID "will receive a string of zeros instead of the identifier." Although users can already restrict ad tracking or reset their Advertising IDs, developers can bypass those settings via alternative device identifiers. The Android OS revamp will let billions of users opt out of interest-based advertising, and sever marketers from the wealth of data they use to personalize messaging.

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Model More Accurately Predicts Power of Wind Farms
Johns Hopkins Hub
Catherine Graham
June 4, 2021

Johns Hopkins University (JHU) engineers say their new computational model provides more accurate forecasts of wind farm power output. The Area Localized Coupled (ALC) model merges turbine-level wake models for describing bottom-up wake interactions with large-scale top-down models that characterize interactions with the atmospheric boundary layer. The ALC model estimates total wind farm power output and atmospheric local flow conditions around individual turbines in a fraction of the time it takes to perform high-fidelity wind farm simulations. The researchers say the new model could help optimize wind farm operations, which JHU's Genevieve Starke said "can help the world move towards 100% electricity generation using renewable sources over the next several decades."

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TikTok Gave Itself Permission to Collect Biometric Information on U.S. Users
Sarah Perez
June 3, 2021

Chinese video-sharing social networking service TikTok has revised its U.S. privacy policy to say it is permitted it to "collect biometric identifiers and biometric information" from users' content, including "faceprints and voiceprints." A newly-added Image and Audio Information section on TikTok about information it collects automatically says the app may collect data about images and audio in users' content "such as identifying the objects and scenery that appear, the existence and location within an image of face and body features and attributes, the nature of the audio, and the text of the words spoken in your User Content." The disclosure of the service’s biometric data collection followed the $92-million settlement of a class action lawsuit against TikTok over its violation of Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act.

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NIST firefighters douse flames as a flashover occurs during an experiment. How AI Could Alert Firefighters of Imminent Danger
U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology
June 1, 2021

The artificial intelligence-driven Prediction Model for Flashover (P-Flash) tool is designed to warn firefighters of flashover, the near-simultaneous ignition of flammable materials in a room. Developed by researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), P-Flash makes predictions based on temperature data from a building's heat detectors, and is engineered to function even after those detectors fail. The investigators developed the tool by feeding a machine learning algorithm temperature data from heat detectors in 5,041 simulations of a burning three-bedroom, one-story ranch-style home using NIST's Consolidated Model of Fire and Smoke Transport fire modeling program. In tests of the tool's ability to anticipate imminent flashovers in more than 1,000 simulated fires and over a dozen actual fires, it correctly predicted flashovers one minute in advance for about 86% of the simulated fires.

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Researchers Design Simulation Tool to Predict Disease, Pest Spread
NC State University News
Laura Oleniacz
June 3, 2021

A new computer simulator can forecast pest and blight outbreaks on crops or forests, and test containment strategies. North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers developed the Pest or Pathogen Spread Forecasting Platform (PoPS) to predict any type of disease or pathogen, regardless of location. PoPS integrates data on climate conditions conducive to spreading a specific disease or pest with information on where such outbreaks have been documented, along with the pathogen or pest's reproductive rate and environmental movements. Adding data gathered in the field improves the model and its predictive ability over time. NC State's Chris Jones said the tool "can be put into the hands of a non-technical user to learn about disease dynamics and management, and how management decisions will affect spread in the future."

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A smartwatch that can control an insulin-producing gene network. Controlling Insulin Production with a Smartwatch
ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
Peter Ruegg
June 7, 2021

A commercial smartwatch's green light-emitting diode (LED) can trigger an implanted molecular switch to regulate insulin production, thanks to researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. The prototype switch connects to a gene network implanted in HEK 293 cells, which can produce insulin or other substances in response to green light, depending on the network's configuration. The system uses standard smartwatch software, making the development of dedicated programs unnecessary. ETH Zurich's Martin Fussenegger said, "It's the first time that an implant of this kind has been operated using commercially available, smart electronic devices."

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PNNL's Shadow Figment Technology Foils Cyberattacks
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Tom Rickey
June 2, 2021

Shadow Figment technology is designed to contain cyberattacks by luring hackers into artificial environments and feeding them false indicators of success. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) developed Shadow Figment to extend beyond typical honeypot technology, employing artificial intelligence to keep attackers decoyed in an imaginary world that mimics the real world. Shadow Figment adds credibility to its false-success signals through an algorithm that learns from observing the real-world system where it is deployed, and responds to attacks in a seemingly plausible manner by using an interactive clone of the system. NNL's Thomas Edgar said, "Our intention is to make interactions seem realistic, so that if someone is interacting with our decoy, we keep them involved, giving our defenders extra time to respond."

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Amazon's Ring Will Ask Police to Publicly Request User Videos
Matt Day
June 3, 2021

Amazon subsidiary and Internet-connected doorbell maker Ring said police departments that require help in investigations must publicly request home security video from doorbells and cameras. Law enforcement agencies now must post such Requests for Assistance on Neighbors, Ring's video-sharing and safety-related community discussion portal; nearby users with potentially helpful videos can click a link within the post and select which videos they wish to submit. Ring, which has been accused of having a too-cozy relationship with law enforcement, explained on its blog that it has been working with independent third-party experts to help give people greater insight into law enforcement's use of its technology.

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