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Welcome to the January 21, 2022, edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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The ACM Fellows label and logo. ACM Names 71 Fellows for Computing Advances That Drive Innovation
January 19, 2022

ACM has named 71 of its members 2021 ACM Fellows for advances underpinning innovations that influence a wide range of technologies that people use daily. Their contributions cover areas including cloud database systems, deep learning acceleration, high-performance computing, mobile and networked systems, computer science education, cryptography, robotics, and theoretical computer science. The 2021 Fellows are affiliated with universities, corporations, and research centers in Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, and the U.S. "Technological progress would not be possible without the essential building blocks of individual contributors," said ACM president Gabriele Kotsis. "In announcing a new class of Fellows each year, we celebrate the impact ACM Fellows make, as well as the many technical areas of computing in which they work.”

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Sofia Wright with her mother Sam, holding a smartphone showing the CamAPS FX app. Artificial Pancreas Is 'Life-Changing' for Children with Diabetes
New Scientist
Carissa Wong
January 19, 2022

Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Cambridge integrated a mobile phone app with an implanted glucose sensor and insulin pump to monitor and control blood sugar levels in children with diabetes. The researchers spent years formulating the CamAPS FX app, which uses an algorithm that estimates how much insulin should be delivered according to measured glucose levels. The team tested the “artificial pancreas” system against standard sensor-augmented pump therapy in 74 children. "Parents described the [artificial pancreas] as life-changing, as it meant they were able to relax and spend less time worrying about their child's blood sugar levels, particularly at nighttime," said Cambridge's Julia's Ware.

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Amazon Opening 30,000-Sq.-Ft. Store with QR Codes, Palm-Scanning Checkout
The Washington Post
Taylor Telford
January 20, 2022

Amazon will open a 30,000-sq.-ft. clothing store in Los Angeles later this year, leveraging its technological expertise to give shoppers "a seamless and elevated shopping experience." Customers at the Amazon Style outlet will use quick response codes to view products’ sizes, colors, and ratings, and will be able to place orders for other products via touchscreens in fitting rooms; palm-recognition scanners will expedite checkout. Neil Saunders at GlobalData Retail described Amazon Style as an "experiment" through which the etailer will attempt to widen its customer base, garner a piece of the physical retail market, and expand its knowledge of consumer buying habits.

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Illustration of a lunar rover built by Astrobotic sitting next to its lander on the Moon. First Lunar Rovers in Decades May Explore the Moon This Year
Paul Brinkmann
January 18, 2022

The return of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972 could happen this year, with the launch of robotic landers and rovers from two NASA-funded contractors, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines. Astrobotic attached the shoebox-sized Iris rover to its Peregrine lander, which could be sent to the Moon in the first half of this year; the Iris rover was built by students at Carnegie Mellon University. Intuitive's Nova-C lunar lander will carry a small rover for London-based Spacebit Technologies. Intuitive's IM-1 mission and Astrobotic's Peregrine Mission 1 aim to investigate landing sites and resources for NASA's planned Artemis crewed missions.

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Two surgeons in scrubs examine a tablet computer. 3D Robotic Spine 'Twin' Offers Way to Preview Surgical Procedures
Florida Atlantic University News Desk
Gisele Galoustian
January 19, 2022

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) and the University of Virginia have designed a robotic "twin" of a human spine so surgeons can predict how interventions play out before surgery. The three-dimensionally-printed cervical spine replica was modeled from a computed tomography scan, and features an artificial disc implant and a soft magnetic sensor array. A robotic arm flexes and extends the replica while the sensor array tracks intervertebral loads to classify spine posture with four machine learning algorithms. The algorithms were able to classify five distinct postures with 100% accuracy. FAU's Chi-Tay Tsai said use of the replica could "potentially reduce the rates of complication and failure of artificial disc implantation."

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More Than Half of Medical Devices Have Critical Vulnerabilities
Allison Murray
January 20, 2022

Medical cybersecurity platform Cynerio's 2022 State of Healthcare IoT Device Security Report estimates 53% of connected medical devices in hospitals have critical flaws, including a third of bedside devices. Cynerio analyzed more than 10 million medical devices at over 300 global hospitals and medical facilities and found, among other things, that 73% of infusion pumps, constituting 38% of hospital Internet of Things (IoT) inventory, possess some type of vulnerability. Cynerio warns hacked medical devices would affect hospital service availability, data confidentiality, and patient safety. Said Cynerio's Daniel Brodie, “Hospitals and health systems don't need more data—they need advanced solutions that mitigate risks and empower them to fight back against cyberattacks, and as medical device security providers, it's time for all of us to step up."

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A quantum computer crystal. A Language for Quantum Computing
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Rachel Gordon
January 14, 2022

The Twist programming language created by researchers in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is designed to codify quantum computing. Twist can characterize and verify which pieces of data are entangled in a quantum algorithm, and applies the concept of purity, which enforces the absence of quantum entanglement, to produce intuitive programs with fewer flaws. MIT's Charles Yuan said, "Because understanding quantum programs requires understanding entanglement, we hope that Twist paves the way to languages that make the unique challenges of quantum computing more accessible to programmers."

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A sign warns of the threat of avalanche on a mountainside. Simulations Can Improve Avalanche Forecasting
Simon Fraser University (Canada)
January 19, 2022

Researchers at Canada's Simon Fraser University (SFU) have demonstrated that computer simulations of snow cover can be used to make accurate avalanche hazard forecasts. The models developed by the researchers can detect and track weak layers of snow. The researchers ran simulations using 16 years of daily meteorological, snow cover, and avalanche data from Canada's Whistler and Rogers Pass and Switzerland's Weissfluhjoch. The simulations determined avalanche risk, for either natural or artificial release, for problem types such as new snow, wind slab, persistent weak layers, and wet snow conditions. The models were consistent with real observed frequencies of avalanches over the study period.

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A person typing on a smartphone. Researchers Use AI to Analyze Tweets Debating Vaccination, Climate Change
University of Waterloo News (Canada)
January 17, 2022

Researchers at Canada's universities of Waterloo and Guelph used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze tweets about climate change and vaccination, and found uniformity of online opinion on the first topic but broad disagreement on the second. About 87 million tweets posted between 2007 and 2016 were analyzed, with the AI ranking each as pro, anti, or neutral on the issues before classifying users in those same categories. Said Waterloo’s Chris Bauch, “We expected to find that user sentiment and how users formed networks and communities to be more or less the same for both issues. But actually, we found that the way climate change discourse and vaccine discourse worked on Twitter were quite different.” Analysis indicated individuals and online communities holding diverse sentiments toward vaccination interacted less than those involved in the climate change debate.

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Bundles of used cardboard. Tool to Help Solid-Waste Systems Reach Cost, Environmental Goals
NC State University News
Matt Shipman
January 20, 2022

North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers have developed the open-source Solid Waste Optimization Life-cycle in Python (SwolfPy) framework, which leverages computational models to help solid waste systems meet environmental goals cost-efficiently. The tool's process models and interface let users plug in data applicable to their circumstances. SwolfPy provides a visualization of current operations, along with their costs and environmental ramifications, then offers the best combination of processes for meeting various target objectives. Users also can opt to develop process models customized to specific projects and link them to SwolfPy, or to combine the default and customized models. "What SwolfPy does is identify the range of best possible options for users, depending on how they prioritize their goals," said NC State's Mojtaba Sardarmehni.

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Recording a test subject’s brain activity. Device Developed for Easier Link Between Brain, Computer, Body
Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Russia)
January 19, 2022

A customizable brain activity recording device developed by Russian and U.S. researchers is more compact and affordable than current commercial solutions, and generates high-quality signals. The 150-gram (5-ounce) electroencephalographer costs just $350 to build, less than half the cost of commercial counterparts, and is roughly a half-centimeter (about 0.2 inches) in diameter. The researchers have made the instructions for building the device, along with accompanying documentation and software, openly available on GitHub. Said Mikhail Lebedev at Russia's Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, "The more convenient and affordable such devices become, the more chances there are this would drive the home lab movement, with some of the research on brain-computer interfaces migrating from large science centers to small-scale amateur projects."

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An illustration depicting a Log4J computer breach. Hackers Exploit Log4Shell to Infect VMware Horizon Servers
PC Magazine (U.K.)
Nathaniel Mott
January 17, 2022

Researchers at security software company Huntress Labs have found hackers are exploiting the Log4Shell vulnerabilities disclosed last month on servers running VMware Horizon to deploy the Cobalt Strike command and control framework. Hackers can access networks through the Log4Shell vulnerabilities, and Cobalt Strike can help them maintain access in order to poach more information, penetrate additional machines, and potentially avoid detection. VMware recommends Horizon users update their systems to new versions with patches for the Log4Shell flaws. Huntress advised companies with compromised servers to restore their systems from a backup produced before Dec. 25, 2021.

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