Transforming, self-learning software could help save the planet

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Artificially intelligent computer software that can learn, adapt and rebuild itself in real-time could help combat climate change.

Researchers at Lancaster University’s Data Science Institute have developed a software system that can for the first time rapidly self-assemble into the most efficient form without needing humans to tell it what to do.

The system — called REx — is being developed with vast energy-hungry data centres in mind. By being able to rapidly adjust to optimally deal with a huge multitude of tasks, servers controlled by REx would need to do less processing, therefore consuming less energy.

REx works using ‘micro-variation’ — where a large library of building blocks of software components (such as memory caches, and different forms of search and sort algorithms) can be selected and assembled automatically in response to the task at hand.

“Everything is learned by the live system, assembling the required components and continually assessing their effectiveness in the situations to which the system is subjected,” said Dr Barry Porter, lecturer at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications. “Each component is sufficiently small that it is easy to create natural behavioural variation. By autonomously assembling systems from these micro-variations we then see REx create software designs that are automatically formed to deal with their task.

“As we use connected devices on a more frequent basis, and as we move into the era of the Internet of Things, the volume of data that needs to be processed and distributed is rapidly growing. This is causing a significant demand for energy through millions of servers at data centres. An automated system like REx, able to find the best performance in any conditions, could offer a way to significantly reduce this energy demand,” Dr Porter added.

In addition, as modern software systems are increasingly complex — consisting of millions of lines of code — they need to be maintained by large teams of software developers at significant cost. It is broadly acknowledged that this level of complexity and management is unsustainable. As well as saving energy in data centres, self-assembling software models could also have significant advantages by improving our ability to develop and maintain increasingly complex software systems for a wide range of domains, including operating systems and Internet infrastructure.

REx is built using three complementary layers. At the base level a novel component-based programming language called Dana enables the system to find, select and rapidly adapt the building blocks of software. A perception, assembly and learning framework (PAL) then configures and perceives the behaviour of the selected components, and an online learning process learns the best software compositions in real-time by taking advantage of statistical learning methods known as ‘linear bandit models’.

The work is presented in the paper ‘REx: A Development Platform and Online Learning Approach for Runtime Emergent Software Systems’ at the conference ‘OSDI ’16 12th USENIX Symposium on Operating Systems Design and Implementation’. The research has been partially supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and also a PhD scholarship of Brazil.

The next steps of this research will look at the automated creation of new software components for use by these systems and will also strive to increase automation even further to make software systems an active part of their own development teams, providing live feedback and suggestions to human programmers.

[Source:- SD]

Remote-controlled drone helps in designing future wireless networks

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Aerial photographs and photogrammetry together provide an accurate 3D model, which improves the prediction of the propagation of radio waves at millimetre-wave frequencies.

The development of mobile devices has set increasingly high requirements for wireless networks and the emission of radio frequencies. Researcher Vasilii Semkin together with a research group at Aalto University and Tampere University of Technology has recently tested in their research work how aerial photographs taken using a so-called drone could be used in designing radio links.

By using both the aerial photographs taken by the drone and photogrammetry software, they were able to create highly detailed 3D models of urban environments. These models can be used in designing radio links. Photogrammetry is a technique where 3D objects can be formed from two or more photographs.

‘The measurements and simulations we performed in urban environments show that highly accurate 3D models can be beneficial for network planning at millimetre-wave frequencies’, Semkin says.

Towards a more cost-efficient design process

The researchers compared the simple modelling technique that is currently popular to their photogrammetry-based modelling technique.

‘With the technique used by us, the resulting 3D model of the environment is much more detailed, and the technique also makes it possible to carry out the design process in a more cost-efficient way. It is then easier for designers to decide which objects in the environment to be taken into account, and where the base stations should be placed to get the optimum coverage’, Semkin explains.

 

[Source:- SD]

Scientists unveil software that revolutionizes habitat connectivity modeling

A trio of Clemson University scientists has unveiled a groundbreaking computational software called “GFlow” that makes wildlife habitat connectivity modeling vastly faster, more efficient and superior in quality and scope.

After eight years of research and development, the revolutionary software was announced in the scientific journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Clemson University postdoctoral fellow Paul Leonard is the lead author of the article, “GFlow: software for modeling circuit theory-based connectivity at any scale.” Clemson’s co-authors are Rob Baldwin, the Margaret H. Lloyd-Smart State Endowed Chair in the forestry and environmental conservation department; and Edward Duffy, formerly a computational scientist in the cyberinfrastructure technology integration department who recently left the university to join BMW.

“Historically, landscape connectivity mapping has been limited in either extent or spatial resolution, largely because of the amount of time it took computers to solve the enormous equations necessary to create these models. Even using a supercomputer, it could take days, weeks or months,” said Leonard, who is in the forestry and environmental conservation department along with Baldwin. “But GFlow is more than 170 times faster than any previously existing software, removing limitations in resolution and scale and providing users with a level of quality that will be far more effective in presenting the complexities of landscape networks.”

Habitat connectivity maps are paired with satellite imagery to display the potential corridors used by animal populations to move between both large and small areas. Billions of bytes of data — including fine-grain satellite photographs and on-the-ground research — produce geospatial models of the movements of everything from black bears to white salamanders. These models help federal and state governments, non-governmental organizations and individual landowners redefine their conservation priorities by computationally illustrating the passageways that will need to be preserved and enhanced for animals to be able to continue to intermingle.

“The take-home from this is that you can quickly compute very complicated scenarios to show decision-makers the impacts of various outcomes,” said Baldwin, whose conservation career has spanned decades throughout the United States and Canada. “You want to put a road here? Here’s what happens to the map. You want to put the road over there? We’ll recalculate it and show you how the map changes. GFlow is dynamic, versatile and powerful. It’s a game-changer in a variety of ways.”

When Leonard began his initial work under Baldwin’s tutorship, the existing software used for habitat connectivity mapping was slow, inefficient and consumed enormous amounts of computer memory. Leonard soon realized he would need the expertise of a computational scientist to overcome these frustrating limitations. Thus, his collaboration with Duffy began — and both ended up spending countless hours in front of their computer screens, synthesizing Leonard’s ecological know-how with Duffy’s cyber skills. The end result? A large-scale map that once would have taken more than a year to generate now takes just a few days.

“Until GFlow, the software available for ecologists was poorly conceived in terms of speed and memory usage,” said Duffy, who was the lead developer of the new software. “So I rewrote the code from scratch and reduced individual calculations from about 30 minutes to three seconds. And I also significantly reduced the amount of memory generated by the program. In the old code, one project we worked on took up 90 gigabytes of memory. With GFlow, only about 20 gigabytes would be needed. It’s most efficient when used in conjunction with a supercomputer, but it even works in a more limited capacity on desktop computers.”

GFlow will enable scientists to solve ecological problems that span large landscapes. But in addition to helping animals survive and thrive, GFlow can also be used for human health and well-being. For instance, GFlow has the capacity to monitor the spread of the Zika virus by documenting the location of each new case and then predicting its potential spread to previously uninfected areas.

“This software can monitor the flow of any natural phenomenon across space where there is heterogeneous movement that is based on some resistance to this movement,” Leonard said. “Besides Zika, there are other health and disease patterns that can be modeled using GFlow. And also other natural phenomena, such as the spread of wildfire in the southeastern United States and other areas around the country. We can parameterize wind strength and shifts, how much fuel is on the ground and calculate the spread across really large areas. So we’re examining all these possibilities and are open to collaboration with other domain experts who might be interested in using GFlow.”

Additional contributors to Friday’s journal article were Brad McRae, a senior landscape ecologist for The Nature Conservancy; and Viral Shah and Tanmay Mohapatra of Julia Computing, a privately held company. Ron Sutherland and the Wildlands Network provided valuable data that was used extensively during the development of GFlow

“Collaboration has played a huge role in this,” Baldwin said. “We’ve worked across departments. We’ve worked across boundaries. And without Clemson’s investment in the Palmetto Cluster supercomputer, none of this would have been possible. This collaboration has improved spatial modeling for ecological processes in time and space. And because it’s so computationally efficient, it can be done for extremely large areas — regions, nations, continents or possibly even the entire planet — in unprecedented detail.”

 

[Source:- SD]

Safer, less vulnerable software is the goal of new computer publication

We can create software with 100 times fewer vulnerabilities than we do today, according to computer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). To get there, they recommend that coders adopt the approaches they have compiled in a new publication.

The 60-page document, NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 8151: Dramatically Reducing Software Vulnerabilities (link is external), is a collection of the newest strategies gathered from across industry and other sources for reducing bugs in software. While the report is officially a response to a request for methods from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, NIST computer scientist Paul E. Black says its contents will help any organization that seeks to author high-quality, low-defect computer code.

“We want coders to know about it,” said Black, one of the publication’s coauthors. “We concentrated on including novel ideas that they may not have heard about already.”

Black and his NIST colleagues compiled these ideas while working with software assurance experts from many private companies in the computer industry as well as several government agencies that generate a good deal of code, including the Department of Defense and NASA. The resulting document reflects their cumulative input and experience.

Vulnerabilities are common in software. Even small applications have hundreds of bugs (link is external) by some estimates. Lowering these numbers would bring many advantages, such as reducing the number of computer crashes and reboots users need to deal with, not to mention decreasing the number of patch updates they need to download.

The heart of the document, Black said, is five sets of approaches, tools and concepts that can help, all of which can be found in the document’s second section. The approaches are organized under five subheadings that, despite their jargon-heavy titles, each possess a common-sense idea as an overarching principle (see downloadable infographic).

These approaches include: using math-based tools to verify the code will work properly; breaking up a computer’s programs into modular parts so that if one part fails, the whole program doesn’t crash; connecting analysis tools for code that currently operate in isolation; using appropriate programming languages for the task that the code attempts to carry out; and developing evolving and changing tactics for protecting code that is the target of cyberattacks.

In addition to the techniques themselves, the publication offers recommendations for how the programming community can educate itself about where and how to use them. It also suggests that customers should request the techniques be used in development. “You as a consumer should be able to write it into a contract that you want a vendor to develop software in accordance with these principles, so that it’s as secure as it can be,” Black said.

Security is, of course, a major concern for almost everyone who uses technology these days, and Black said that the White House’s original request for these approaches was part of its 2016 Federal Cybersecurity R&D Strategic Action Plan, intended to be implemented over the next three to seven years. But though ideas of security permeate the document, Black said the strategies have an even broader intent.

“Security tends to bubble to the surface because we’ve got adversaries who want to exploit weaknesses,” he said, “but we’d still want to avoid bugs even without this threat. The effort to stymie them brings up general principles. You’ll notice the title doesn’t have the word ‘security’ in it anywhere.”

 

[Source:- SD]

Toddler robots help solve how children learn

Children learn new words using the same method as robots, according to psychologists.

This suggests that early learning is based not on conscious thought but on an automatic ability to associate objects which enables babies to quickly make sense of their environment.

Dr Katie Twomey from Lancaster University, with Dr Jessica Horst from Sussex University, Dr Anthony Morse and Professor Angelo Cangelosi from Plymouth wanted to find out how young children learn new words for the first time. They programmed a humanoid robot called iCub designed to have similar proportions to a three year old child, using simple software which enabled the robot to hear words through a microphone and see with a camera. They trained it to point at new objects to identify them in order to solve the mystery of how young children learn new words.

Dr Twomey said: “We know that two-year-old children can work out the meaning of a new word based on words they already know. That is, our toddler can work out that the new word “giraffe” refers to a new toy, when they can also see two others, called “duck” and “rabbit.” ”

It is thought that toddlers achieve this through a strategy known as “mutual exclusivity” where they use a process of elimination to work out that because the brown toy is called “rabbit,” and the yellow toy is called “duck,” then the orange toy must be “giraffe.”

What the researchers found is that the robot learned in exactly the same way when shown several familiar toys and one brand new toy.

Dr Twomey said: “This new study shows that mutual exclusivity behaviour can be achieved with a very simple “brain” that just learns associations between words and objects. In fact, intelligent as iCub seems, it actually can’t say to itself “I know that the brown toy is a rabbit, and I know that that the yellow toy is a duck, so this new toy must be giraffe,” because its software is too simple.

“This suggests that at least some aspects of early learning are based on an astonishingly powerful association making ability which allows babies and toddlers to rapidly absorb information from the very complicated learning environment.”

 

[Source:- SD]

iOS 10 and iOS 10.1 features and updates

Image result for iOS 10 and iOS 10.1 features and updates

New iOS 10 features make your iPhone and iPad dramatically different, while iOS 10.1 introduces Portrait Mode for iPhone 7 Plus and iOS 10.2 beta’s TV app is introduced in the latest version. Here’s what’s changed.

Apple’s iOS 10 and iOS 10.1 updates for your iPhone and iPad live up to the milestone software version number, bringing major changes to your daily phone and tablet routine.

You won’t recognize portions of the interface; that’s how different things are. But don’t worry, almost all of the new iOS 10 features are for the best – and absolutely free to download today.

 

 

[Source:- Techradre]

Here are a few easy steps to setup UPI apps on your phone

There’s no denying that demonetization has affected the public in a significant way. Thankfully, the government has provided various options for the customers to continue banking as usual with the help of easy-to-use mobile wallets as well as the newly launched UPI services. UPI stands for Unified Payments Interface, and a number of financial institutions have aligned with the project.

What can you do with UPI apps?
Well, you can send snappy payments via IMPS and even request for payments from your contacts, provided they are also using a UPI app on their smartphone. This is pretty much like a mobile wallet, but something that is inked directly with the bank.

One advantage with UPI apps is that even if you download an app from another bank, you will still be able to enter account details from your source bank without much fuss.

How to get started?
The apps are Android only for the time being, but an iPhone app is apparently on its way. Once you get the app of your choice (Yes Bank, ICICI Bank etc) on the Play Store, you will simply have to enter your mobile number that you have registered with the bank. This step will also ask you to create a new 4-digit PIN number, which is basically a password and will have to be used when users log in each time.

Following this process, you will have to create a new and unique VPA or virtual payment address. This will be used by others to send you money or identity your account. The VPA can be anything ranging from your name to the phone number.

With the VPA process out of the way, it’s now time to connect to your bank so that all your details are made visible. The transaction limit on UPI is capped at Rs 1,00,000, with the minimum being Rs 50.

To receive money from someone, you merely have to pick out the VPA name/address from your list and then request or schedule a payment. Bear in mind that you can only receive money when the user on the other end also has a UPI app.

 

 

[Source:- Techradre]

Bored? You can now play ‘instant games’ on Fb Messenger

Facebook Messenger on Wednesday launched “Instant Games” in 30 countries to get users spend more time on its messaging app.

According to a report in Tech Crunch, the 17 “Instant Games” from classic developers like Bandai Namco, Konami and Taito, as well as newer studios like Zynga and King, are available on newer iOS and Android devices, and can be found by hitting the game controller icon in Facebook Messenger threads next to the photos and stickers buttons.

These games are built on the HTML5 mobile web standard and open instantly once screen is tapped.

Though its payment revenue has declined to $196 million in the latest quarter, 15 per cent of time on Facebook is still spent playing games.

 

 

[Source:- Techrader]

Uber takes its app down new road with redesign

Uber takes its app down new road with redesign

Uber is taking its ride-hailing app down a new road in an effort to make it smarter, simpler and more fun to use.

The redesigned app also will seek to mine personal information stored on smartphones in a change that could raise privacy concerns, even though it will be up to individual users to let Uber peer into their calendars and address books.

The change represents the biggest overhaul in four years to Uber’s popular app, which is used by millions of people to summon cars in more than 450 cities around the world for rides that are usually cheaper than traditional taxis.

But as Uber has grown, the app has been adding features that have made it more difficult to navigate. The new design and features are designed to save passengers time and money. The new app will begin to roll out Wednesday, though it could take a couple weeks before all users get the update.

As part of the new look, Uber will spell out more clearly how long it will take and how much it will cost to reach a destination in different types of available cars. The app will also recommend the best places to be picked up in congested areas.

The reprogrammed app also will study a rider’s traveling history and list frequently ordered destinations as “shortcuts.”

In another time-saving move that will test how much users trust the San Francisco company with their personal information, users will be able to give the app access to their calendars so addresses listed in an entry can automatically appear in the Uber app near the time of the appointment. Uber plans to introduce this option by next month.

Starting in December, Uber will also seek access to users’ personal contacts so they can ask for a ride to where a friend currently is, even if the friend isn’t home. If this feature is activated, Uber’s app will contact the friend to ask if he or she is willing to share the current location. If the friend doesn’t have the Uber app, the request will be sent through a text message to the mobile number listed in the address book.

Uber says it doesn’t expect privacy objections because users will have to agree to allow the app to scan their calendars and address books. And people whose locations are being sought through the new address-book feature will be able to decide if they want to share the information.

The redesigned app also will offer other features from other services that Uber riders might enjoy during the trip to their destination. The additions include the ability to check out restaurant reviews through Yelp, send messages through Snapchat and listen to music on Pandora.

[Source:- Phys.org]

Microsoft adds new chat-based service for workers

Microsoft adds new chat-based service for workers

Taking a cue from competing online services like Slack, which let workers chat and share information on the job, Microsoft is adding a new program called “Teams” to its Office 365 suite of internet productivity software.

Analysts say Microsoft is catching up to a trend in which a host of tech companies—even Facebook—are competing to offer specialized online networks for organizations, as workers increasingly find that email and simple document-sharing services are too limited for communicating and collaborating.

Like competing services, Microsoft’s new “Teams” product provides a central place online for workplace groups to chat, share files and perform other tasks. But unlike competitors, Microsoft is offering the ability to easily transition into other widely used Microsoft programs, such as Outlook for email and calendars and Skype for voice and video conferences. “Teams” can also incorporate artificially intelligent “bots” and other software programs created by outside developers.

Workplace software is a big business for Microsoft. While the giant tech company is best known for making the Windows operating system for PCs, it racked up more than $26.4 billion in revenue last year from workplace “productivity” programs like Office, which includes software for email, calendars, word-processing and other functions. Although other divisions bring in more revenue, Microsoft’s “productivity” division is its most lucrative, with $12.4 billion in operating profit.

But the company has been threatened by new offerings from big competitors like Google, as well as upstarts like Slack, which provide a central meeting place online where teams of workers can hold running conversations and share files that are easily accessible.

Microsoft bought the workplace social networking service Yammer for more than $1 billion in 2012 and will continue that service, which some companies use as an interactive bulletin board. Analysts say newer, competing services have more functions. And new companies like Slack have entered the market by making their services easily available to individual departments or groups.

But Microsoft has the advantage that its email and other programs are already widely used by companies, which could make it easier to add Teams. It’s also touting that Teams offers encryption and other security measures, along with the ability to integrate with software from outside developers.

“Yes they are late to the market, but they have recognized that and they have done a lot of work to circumvent that problem,” said Vanessa Thompson, an analyst with IDC.

[Source:- Phys.org]