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CACM Reports: Your Phone as a Quake Detector

July 2014 Issue Reports on Realizing the Benefits of Big Data; Building Trust for Internet Services; and the Need for Responsible Programming

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

Contact: Virginia Gold

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Proliferating smartphones and other powerful sensor-equipped consumer devices now allow scientists to detect natural disasters afflicting the physical world, according to a group of computer scientists at Caltech and their partner at ETH Zurich. In the July cover story, they outline algorithmic and systems principles that facilitate detection of complex spatial signals using large numbers of low-cost community sensors. This approach relies on efficient sensor-level and cloud-level resources. It is applicable to a range of events, including fires, floods, radiation, epidemics, and traffic accidents as well as noise and pollution in urban environment.

  • Big Data is revolutionizing all aspects of our lives ranging from enterprises to consumers, from science to government, says a team of computer scientists from several US universities. Citing the multistep process for creating value from big data, they explore the many technical challenges that must be addressed to fully realize the potential benefits of this technology trend.
  • The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) conducted a robot competition last December in a series of disaster-themed tasks, reports writer Logan Kugler. Team SCHAFT from Japan, using a water-cooled, humanoid robot, led the trials. The group has been acquired by Google, and may be withdrawn from the competition. DARPA organizers plan to hold a final competition within the next year.
  • The concept of trust lies at the center of the Internet today, writes consultant Thomas Wadlow. He relates examples of the interconnectedness and vulnerability of today’s technology services. He also urges practitioners to undertake an evaluation of their services, and to create a comprehensive plan that builds a “web of trust” among the entities involved in their enterprise to protect against attacks and liabilities.
  • Outgoing ACM President Vint Cerf advocates for “responsible programming,” encouraging people who write software to have a clear sense of responsibility for its reliable operation and resistance to compromise. Cerf is cited by Penn State University’s Phillip Laplante in a related article, arguing for professional organizations to participate in the ongoing discussion about licensing professional software engineers.

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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.