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CACM Reports: Tools and Techniques to Survive the Data Deluge

December Issue Reports on New Web Searching Procedures and Mobile Phone Applications that are Bridging the Digital Divide

The Association for Computing Machinery
Advancing Computing as a Science & Profession

Contact: Virginia Gold

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NEW YORK, NY, December 17, 2008 – Today’s information age has produced volumes of digital data for listening, viewing, recording, manipulating, browsing, shopping, and learning.  This flood of data has created a cyberinfrastructure as critical to our society as the roads, bridges, power grids, telephone systems, and public works were to the industrial era.  The December 2008 issue of Communications of the ACM (CACM) explores new methods to access, display, manage, mine, and preserve this valuable but fragile digital resource.  The issue also reports on new Web searching techniques that transcend keyword queries, and applications of mobile phones that are transforming life in developing countries.  CACM, the flagship publication of ACM, offers readers access to this generation’s most significant leaders and innovators in computing and information technology.  It is available online in the new digital format at

            In the cover article, Francine Berman, director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, cites the many ways that society has become dependent on digital data.  She identifies key trends in technology, economics, policy, and law that are buffeting this delicate cyberinfrastructure, and that demand a coordinated environment to manage digital data from creation to preservation. 

            A review article by four University of Washington computer scientists traces the impact of Web searching techniques that rely on information extraction (EI), a technology that maps natural-language text into structured relational data.  The EI approach is transforming open-ended techniques, producing systems that overlook irrelevant words and phrases, and instead fuse relevant pieces of information into a coherent overview, drastically reducing the time required to perform complex tasks.  

            A news article by technology writer Samuel Greengard surveys emerging applications of the mobile phone, which have produced social changes that are rendering irrelevant both social class and geography in some developing countries.  He reports that people are using these wireless devices to track crop prices in Kenya, manage micropayments in the Philippines, handle healthcare information in Nicaragua, and oversee bakery orders in Nigeria, among many other inventive applications.  He also cites MIT’s Next Billion Network, which is exploring the use of mobile phones to push viable technology solutions from the lab to real life.

            In another news article, Ted Selker, best known as the creator of IBM’s distinctive TrackPoint keyboard device, details multitouch technology that uses finger and hand gestures to manipulate and display information on iPhones, election maps seen on recent news programs, ATMs and airline kiosks.  He envisions many great advances such as 3D multitouch interfaces to search for and display images, which may drive faster use of information. 

            Other December CACM articles:

·   A Viewpoints essay by Alok Aggarwal of Evaluserve Inc. on the labor supply in the Indian IT industry and its connection to India’s educational system.

·   A Practice section article by Google’s Steve Souders on how to create high-performance Web sites by focusing on front-end performance.

·   A Research paper by computer scientists from CW&I, a research institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on how research around the MonetDB database system, which introduced vertical storage of data, has led to a redesign of database architecture to avoid hitting the “memory wall.”  This concept captures the growing disparity of speed between CPU and memory outside the CPU chip, due largely to the limited communication bandwidth beyond chip boundaries. 

·   An accompanying Technical Perspective by MIT’s Michael Stonebraker evaluates the MonetDB database system research and concludes that specialized architectures will become dominant in several database management systems applications for performance-conscious users.

            For more information on CACM, click on


About ACM

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.  


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