Welcome to the July 14, 2021 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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A cyclist riding at Marina Bay in Singapore, with a view of the city’s skyline. Singapore Launching $50 Million Program to Advance Research on AI, Cybersecurity
Saheli Roy Choudhury
July 13, 2021

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the city-state intends to invest $50 million in research on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity for next-generation communication infrastructures. The goals of Singapore's Future Communications Research & Development Program include establishing communications testbeds for 5G and beyond-5G, supporting the development of new technologies, and cultivating local talent. The island-nation also will launch the Singapore Trade Data Exchange, a venue that will enable multiple stakeholders (logistics players, shippers, and buyers) to share data that will reportedly be encrypted and transmitted, without being stored. The Singapore Financial Data Exchange launched last year lets users sign in with their national digital identity to access their consolidated financial data from enrolled banks and pertinent government agencies.

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Demonstration of World Record: 319 Tb/s Transmission Over 3,001 km with 4-Core Optical Fiber
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (Japan)
July 12, 2021

Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) successfully conducted the first S-, C-, and L-band transmission over a world-record 3,001 kilometers (1,864.7 miles) using a 4-core optical fiber. The combined 20-nanometer-plus transmission bandwidth supported 552 wavelength-division multiplexed channels by adopting two classes of doped-fiber amplifier in conjunction with distributed Raman amplification to facilitate the wideband signal's recirculating transmission. Standard cladding diameter allows the cabling of 4-core optical fiber to be integrated with existing gear. The NICT researchers hope this will yield practical high data-rate transmission, and help to realize a backbone communications infrastructure that supports data services beyond the capabilities of 5G.

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Faces Are the Next Target for Fraudsters
The Wall Street Journal
Parmy Olson
July 7, 2021

Facial recognition systems increasingly are a target for fraudsters. Identity verification company ID.me Inc. found more than 80,000 attempts to trick facial identification verification to claim fraudulent unemployment benefits between June 2020 and January 2021. ID.me's Blake Hall said these attempts involved people wearing masks, using deepfakes, or holding up images or videos of other people. Veridium LLC's John Spencer said fraudsters sometimes try to carry out "presentation attacks" by using a photo of someone's face, cutting out the eyes and using it as a mask. Adversa.ai's Alex Polyakov said the algorithms underpinning these systems need to be updated, or the models need to be trained with a large number of adversarial examples, to protect against such spoofing.

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The Royal Shakespeare Company's theatre complex seen from Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K. Technology Brings Interest, Crowds to 'Closed' Theaters
Learning English, Voice of America News
Alice Bryant
July 11, 2021

Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is an example of how theaters closed by the coronavirus pandemic have adopted technology to support new forms of performance art. The company said it is combining online media skills with traditional art to create mixed-reality productions, and inviting people to participate virtually in its digital events. The RSC's Sarah Ellis said the global nature of digital tools offers many possibilities. Public opinion research has shown people were willing to pay for digital performances during the pandemic, and would continue watching such productions online after theaters reopened. Cody Colvin with the Michigan-based Colvin Theater production group anticipates streaming will be essential to theaters that lose money on productions even when the economy is good.

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Data Science Platform Speeds Python Queries
News from Brown
Kevin Stacey
July 1, 2021

Researchers at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have crafted a new data science platform to run queries written in Python more efficiently. Python's simplicity makes it data scientists' preferred coding language for generating user-defined functions, but analytics platforms run into trouble in efficiently handling these bits of Python code. The Tuplex framework is designed to compile a highly specialized program for specific query and common-case input data, filtering out uncommon input data and referring it to an interpreter. Brown's Leonhard Spiegelberg said, "This allows us to simplify the compilation problem as we only need to care about a single set of data types and common-case assumptions."

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WHO Releases AI Guidelines for Health
Government Technology
July 12, 2021

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) offers guidance for the ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the health sector. The six primary principles for the use of AI as set forth in the report are to protect autonomy; promote human well-being, safety, and the public interest; ensure transparency, explainability, and intelligibility; foster responsibility and accountability; ensure inclusiveness and equity; and promote responsive and sustainable AI. These principles are intended as a foundation for AI stakeholders, including governments, developers, and society. The report, Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence for Health, finds public- and private-sector collaboration necessary to ensure AI’s accountability.

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A drive-through lane at Checkers in Atlanta uses voice recognition to take orders. Pandemic Wave of Automation May Be Bad News for Workers
The New York Times
Ben Casselman
July 3, 2021

Some economists are warning that an acceleration of the pandemic-driven adoption of automation could eliminate jobs and permanently erode bargaining power, especially for the lowest-paid workers. An Atlanta-based Checkers fast-food franchise, for example, contracted with Colorado startup Valyant AI to deploy automated voice ordering at its drive-through. The economic reopening has caused demand for service-industry workers to surge, and low-wage workers can negotiate higher pay and better benefits. However, a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers found that the pandemic has almost certainly exacerbated U.S. wage inequality, a trend that automation has been fueling over the last 40 years.

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Paris Welcomes First Pizzeria Operated by Robots
Aisling Ní Chúláin
July 8, 2021

Pazzi, the first fully robotic pizzeria, has opened in Paris' Beaubourg neighborhood after eight years of development and refinement. Pazzi's robot staff oversees all aspects of pizza preparation, from taking orders to prepping the dough to boxing the pizzas. Pazzi’s Thierry Graffagnino said because pizza dough is particularly challenging to handle, "We had to give the robot the means to make these corrections on its own, and some pizza makers can't even manage that themselves." Said Pazzi robot co-inventor Sebastien Roverso, "We are in a very fast process, with a perfect control of time, a control of quality since we have a constancy offered by robotics, and then an environment that is quite cool and relaxed. The idea is also to spend a few pleasant minutes watching the robot while you wait for your pizza to be made."

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Algorithms Give Digital Images More Realistic Color
The Optical Society
July 1, 2021

New algorithms can facilitate the capture and display of digital images with more realistic color, thanks to engineers at the Laboratory of Photonics and Instrumentation for Nano Technology (PAINT) at China's Westlake University. The algorithms eliminate color space conversions by directly correlating digital signals with the colors in a standard International Commission on Illumination color space. One program renders the digital pulsed signals for each primary color as unique coordinates for the color space; another algorithm decodes the colors by extracting the digital signals from an expected color in the color space. Said PAINT's Jiyong Wang, "Our algorithms also allow other important properties of color, such as brightness and chromaticity, to be treated independently and precisely."

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Tech Workers Are Preparing to Quit. Persuading Them to Stay Won't Be Easy
Owen Hughes
July 6, 2021

A survey of 1,000 technology workers and 500 IT decision makers by U.K. IT jobs board CWJobs found that only 29% of employees surveyed plan to remain at their current jobs for the next 12 months. When asked about their plans, 14% of tech workers said they would seek a new role at a different company, 11% planned to start their own business, 11% planned to go part-time, 11% planned to change locations, 10% planned to become a contractor, and 8% are considering a departure from the tech industry. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of tech workers surveyed said they desire flexible working arrangements, while another third (31%) would be seeking a pay raise in the coming year. To address the impending skills shortage, Accenture's Adrian Love said, "Businesses must work together with their hiring teams, committing to a solid plan, leaning into the end-to-end process, and together thinking about how to attract, engage, assess, and onboard broader pools of potential talent than ever before."

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The ePOCT+ machine learning tool helped doctors prescribe fewer antibiotics. Antibiotics Use in Africa: ML vs. Magic Medicine
Deutsche Welle (Germany)
Zulfikar Abbany
June 30, 2021

Swiss scientists and African doctors are using a machine learning algorithm to help physicians prescribe fewer antibiotics to children in Africa, or only when necessary. Researchers participating in the Swiss-based DYNAMIC project designed the ePOCT+ artificial intelligence tool to help healthcare workers make accurate diagnoses and prescribe the right drugs or other treatment. Its developers say ePOCT+ is designed to learn from local communities to help local communities. Rainer Tan at Switzerland's Center for Primary Care and Public Health said, "This tool is collecting data continuously—data on the children and their illnesses, seasonality information—so we can learn a lot about a specific population." The researchers have been testing ePOCT+ at 140 healthcare facilities in Tanzania and Rwanda. Godfrey Kavishe at Tanzania's National Institute for Medical Research hopes the tool will stop unnecessary overuse of antibiotics, which some parents in Africa mistake for "magic medicine."

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Zvi Galil, founding director of the Georgia Institute of Technology Online masters' degree program in Computer Science. Georgia Tech's Online MS in Computer Science Continues to Thrive. Why That's Important for the Future of MOOCs
Michael T. Nietzel
July 1, 2021

The Georgia Institute of Technology's Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS), now in its eighth year, is critical to massive open online courses (MOOCs) fulfilling their promise. High learner attrition has undermined faith in MOOCs, but OMSCS avoided this by combining quality faculty, high academic expectations, modest cost, and robust student support services. The program’s affordability is its chief incentive, costing little more than $7,000 in all, or about 10% of the cost of the average on-campus master’s degree in computer science at private universities. Zvi Galil, who designed the program, said MOOCs "provide access to high-quality education to a wider student population unserved by the current system of exclusion and escalating tuition."

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