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 07.11


07.11

Tech News Digest

Compiled By IEEE-USA Staff

The following is a roundup of news and notable developments in electrical engineering and computer or information technology reported during June 2011. Items are excerpted from news releases generated by universities, government agencies and other research institutions. Highlighted topics include:

  1. White House Announces Advanced Manufacturing Partnership

  2. Administration Outlines Electric Grid Modernization Initiatives

  3. Calling for Comments on Cybersecurity, Innovations and the Internet Economy

  4. Researchers Share Useful Lessons Learned in Evaluating Emerging Technologies

  5. NIST Contests in China Put Next-Gen Robot Technologies to the Test

  6. Commerce Department Proposes New Policy Framework to Strengthen Cybersecurity Protections for Online Businesses

  7. New Alloy Allows Direct Conversion of Heat to Electricity

  8. DARPA Advances Video Analysis Tools

  9. SmartPhone App Helps Find Friends in A Crowd

  10. Penn Researchers Develop Biological Circuit Components and Microscopic Measurement Technique

  11. A New “Spin” on Computing

  12. New Techniques Offered for Computer-Vision Technology

  13. New Methods Keep Bugs Out of Software for Self-driving Cars

  14. Nanoscale Waveguide Demonstrated for Future Photonics

1. White House Announces Advanced Manufacturing Partnership

In a 24 June speech at Carnegie-Mellon University, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high quality manufacturing jobs and enhance U.S. global competitiveness. The announcement was timed to coincide with the release by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology of its Report to the President on Ensuring American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing.

For more information on the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/06/24/president-obama-launches-advanced-manufacturing-partnership

For more information on the PCAST Advanced Manufacturing report, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-advanced-manufacturing-june2011.pdf

2. Administration Outlines Electric Grid Modernization Initiatives

On 13 June, the White House announced a series of initiatives designed to accelerate the modernization of the Nation’s electric infrastructure, bolster electric-grid innovation, and advance a clean energy economy. The webcast event included release of a new report by the Cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) that delineates the Administration’s policy goals with respect to developing the Nation’s electric infrastructure, which is entitled “A Policy Framework for the21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future.”

Fore more information, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/smart-grid-press-release-6-13-2011.pdf

For the NSTC Report, see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/nstc-smart-grid-june2011.pdf

3. Calling for Comments on Cybersecurity, Innovations and the Internet Economy

The Department of Commerce's Internet Policy Task Force is requesting comments on a report that proposes voluntary codes of conduct to strengthen the cybersecurity of companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business, but are not part of the critical infrastructure sector.

The report, Cybersecurity, Innovations and the Internet Economy, focuses on the "Internet and Information Innovation Sector" (I3S)—businesses that range from small and medium enterprises and bricks-and-mortar firms with online services, to social networking sites and Internet-only business, to cloud computing firms that are increasingly subject to cyber attacks.

For more information, see: http://www.nist.gov/itl/csd/green-062111.cfm

4. Researchers Share Useful Lessons Learned in Evaluating Emerging Technologies

A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) team has shared critical "lessons learned" that can help businesses and others negotiate the promises and pitfalls encountered when pushing the technology envelope to enable new capabilities. Writing in the International Journal of Intelligent Control and Systems, the NIST researchers describe the evaluative framework they devised for judging the performance of a system and its components as well as the utility of the technology for the intended user. Called SCORE (System, Component, and Operationally Relevant Evaluations), the framework is a unified set of criteria and software tools for evaluating emerging technologies from different perspectives and levels of detail and at various stages of development.

For more information, see: http://www.nist.gov/el/isd/score-062111.cfm

5. NIST Contests in China Put Next-Gen Robot Technologies to the Test

On 9-13 May, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted three of the four robotics competitions at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Shanghai, China. The trio of contests was designed to prove the viability of advanced robotics and microrobotics technologies. In the first of two Virtual Manufacturing Automation Competition (VMAC) matches, contestants used open-source evaluation tools to judge a computer plan of a robot picking up boxes of various sizes and weights from a conveyor belt and arranging them on a pallet for shipping. The second half of the VMAC used off-the-shelf computer gaming engines to create simulations that “virtually road tested” a robot team’s ability to load trucks with pallets delivered from a warehouse.

For more information, see: http://www.nist.gov/el/isd/robots-060711.cfm

6. Department Proposes New Policy Framework to Strengthen Cybersecurity Protections for Online Businesses

On 8 June, the U.S. Department of Commerce released a report proposing voluntary codes of conduct to strengthen the cybersecurity of companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business, but are not part of the critical infrastructure sector. The report, Cybersecurity, Innovation and the Internet Economy, focuses on the "Internet and Information Innovation Sector" (I3S) — these are businesses that range from small and medium enterprises and bricks-and-mortar firms with online services, to social networking sites and Internet-only business, to cloud computing firms that are increasingly subject to cyber attacks. The Commerce Department is seeking public comment on the report and associated questions.

For more information, see: http://www.nist.gov/itl/csd/cybersecurity-060811.cfm

7. New Alloy Allows Direct Conversion of Heat to Electricity

University of Minnesota engineering researchers have recently discovered a new alloy material that converts heat directly into electricity. This revolutionary energy conversion method is in the early stages of development, but it could have wide-sweeping impact on creating environmentally friendly electricity from waste heat sources. The material could potentially be used to capture waste heat from a car's exhaust that would heat the material and produce electricity for charging the battery in a hybrid car. Other possible future uses include capturing rejected heat from industrial and power plants or temperature differences in the ocean to create electricity

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/uom-uom062211.php

8. DARPA Advances Video Analysis Tools

A massive amount of data from video sensors is collected by military forces in their operational theaters, and there aren’t enough analysts or time available to review. Reducing the amount of data or the number of sensors isn’t the answer, and there will never be enough analysts. The solution lies in better automated capabilities that can identify areas and activities that require human analyst attention. DARPA’s Video and Image Retrieval and Analysis Tool (VIRAT) and Persistent Stare Exploitation and Analysis System (PerSEAS) programs may soon enable better warfighter analysis of huge amounts of data generated from multiple types of sensors.

For more information, see: http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2011/
2011/06/23_DARPA_advances_video_analysis_tools.aspx

9. SmartPhone App Helps Find Friends in A Crowd

Can a smartphone app enable meaningful, face-to-face conversation? Engineers are trying to find out, with software that helps people locate their friends in a crowd — and make new friends who share similar interests. The software, called eShadow, makes its debut at the IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS) on Thursday, June 23 in Minneapolis.

For more information, see: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/eshadow.htm

10. Penn Researchers Develop Biological Circuit Components and Microscopic Measurement Technique

Electrical engineers have long been toying with the idea of designing biological molecules that can be directly integrated into electronic circuits. University of Pennsylvania researchers have developed a way to form these structures so they can operate in open-air environments, and, more important, have developed a new microscope technique that can measure the electrical properties of these and similar devices.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/uop-prd060811.php

11. A New “Spin” on Computing

Physicists at the University of Arizona have proposed a way to translate the elusive magnetic spin of electrons into easily measurable electric signals. The finding is a key step in the development of computing based on spintronics, which doesn't rely on electron charge to digitize information. Unlike conventional computing devices, which require electric charges to flow along a circuit, spintronics harnesses the magnetic properties of electrons rather than their electric charge to process and store information.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/uoa-pan062111.php

12. New Techniques Offered for Computer-Vision Technology

Researchers at Purdue University have outlined two new techniques for computer-vision technology mimic how humans perceive three-dimensional shapes by instantly recognizing objects no matter how they are twisted or bent, an advance that could help machines see more like people.

For more information, see: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2011/110620RamaniHeat.html

13. New Methods Keep Bugs Out of Software for Self-driving Cars

Driver assistance technologies, such as adaptive cruise control and automatic braking, promise to someday ease traffic on crowded routes and prevent accidents. Proving that these automated systems will work as intended is a daunting task, but computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have demonstrated it is possible to verify the safety of these highly complex systems. To do so, the researchers first developed a model of a distributed car control system in which computers and sensors in each car combine to control acceleration, braking and lane changes, as well as entering and exiting the highway. They then used mathematical methods to formally verify that the system design would keep cars from crashing into each other.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/cmu-cmm062111.php

14. Nanoscale Waveguide Demonstrated for Future Photonics

The creation of a new quasiparticle called the "hybrid plasmon polariton" may throw open the doors to integrated photonic circuits and optical computing for the 21st century. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have demonstrated the first true nanoscale waveguides for next generation on-chip optical communication systems.

For more information, see: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-05/dbnl-nwf052511.php

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