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  • Smart Earplugs Make Noise on Kickstarter

    Hush, ironically, is making some loud noise with potential supporters. Hush Technology is a Moxie Center incubator startup founded by CSE senior Daniel Lee (below far left), who expects to graduate next spring, and two other students named Daniel: Daniel Synn, a senior in structural engineering; and a second Daniel Lee (same name, different person), getting his degree this year in mechanical and aerospace engineering. The three are making a splash with a Kickstarter launch to raise $100,000 in crowdfunding by the December 22 deadline. As of Nov. 24, the crowdfunding appeal had raised over $202,000 from over 1,650 supporters, and they still have 28 days left before the campaign ends. 

    What does Hush do? It is developing wireless noise-masking earplugs that let you block out the world while still letting you hear the things that matter most (as the Kickstarter appeal spells out). Hush combines sound eliminating foam with noise masking to isolate you from your surrounding environment. If you want to sleep you should be able to fall asleep and stay asleep regardless of the noise around you. Hush connects wirelessly with your smartphone so you can fully power off with the peace of mind knowing that you'll be awakened when you're needed. As a wireless miniature device that has to play sounds and stay connected to the phone for over 10 hours, battery life was one of the team's biggest concerns. To do this they designed everything with low power in mind. By using Bluetooth Low Energy and playing back locally stored audio files, Hush says its smart earplugs can surpass this requirement on a battery that other wireless in-ear products exhaust in two hours. The Hush Case is small and light, and has its own rechargeable batteries that can recharge Hush up to 10 times without plugging in. The developers also put an extra USB port on the case so that both the Hush earplugs and a smartphone can recharge at the same time.

    Learn more about the world's first smart earplug here on Kickstarter

  • Faculty-Affiliate Bioinformatics Expert Elected AAAS Fellow

    A bioinformatics expert affiliated with CSE is among three UC San Diego faculty newly awarded the distinction of Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Professor Trey Ideker has affiliated-adjunct status in CSE, and he is a Professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine. He was cited by AAAS for “distinguished contributions to the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology, particularly in pioneering network research.” Ideker and two faculty from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography will be among the 401 honorees to be officially listed as new Fellows in the November 28 issue of the journal Science.

    Prof. Ideker's research seeks to comprehensively map connections between the many genes and proteins in a cell and how these connections trigger or prevent disease. His current work focuses on DNA mutations that cause cancer. Although each person’s cancer tumor may be caused by a nearly unique set of mutations, Ideker has shown that different sets of mutations often alter and hijack the same gene networks. The long-term goal of his research is to build a whole working model of a cancer cell that can be used in the clinical setting to interpret patients’ genomic data — both their inherited DNA and the mutations associated with their particular malignancy — to refine and tailor cancer diagnoses and treatments. Such analyses are in the early stages of being used to screen people who are unlikely to respond to certain types of chemotherapy.

    AAAS members are considered for the rank of Fellow if nominated by the steering group of their respective sections, by three existing Fellows, or by AAAS’s chief executive officer. Prof. Ideker and the other new Fellows will be recognized on Saturday, February 14, at the AAAS annual meeting in San Jose, Calif. 

  • Four CSE Undergrads Win 'Best iOS Hack' at USC Hackathon

    Josh Anatalio, a third-year computer science major at UC San Diego, was among the members of more than 50 teams from UCSD who drove up to Los Angeles recently to participate in HackSC, organized by the University of Southern California. Project manager Anatalio entered the November 7-9 hackathon with three teammates, all fellow third-year CSE undergraduates: Noah Martin, a computer engineering major; as well as Lawrence Luk and Alvin Ho, both majoring in computer science. [Pictured (l-r) Anatalio, Martin, Luk and Ho.]

    HackSC aims to “empower hackers to learn and explore new technologies through hands-on development and experience.”

    The team arrived in Los Angeles with no preconceived notion about the type of application they wanted to develop. After a brainstorming session, Anatalio and his colleagues came up with idea.  

    “At HackSC, my teammates and I created a really cool application,” said Anatalio, the iOS software developer, after the hackathon. “It was especially great because we got the attention of Apple engineers and recruiters.”

    What attracted Apple was their application called ezTouch. “The app allows the user to lock and unlock one or more remote Mac computers using an iPhone’s fingerprint scanner,” says Anatalio. “We developed the iPhone remote application in Swift to let users scan their fingerprint, communicate with our server, and securely lock or unlock their computer.” 

    In addition to Swift, the developers used other tools, including Sketch and TouchID. Noah Martin designed and implemented the Mac application for OSX in Objective-C; Lawrence Luk managed and created the server using Ruby on Rails to handle communication between the iOS and the Mac app; and Alvin Ho created the design for the iOS and Mac app, while also implementing the user interface for the iOS app and designing the artwork for both applications. Luk also created ezTouch’s website at

    The CSE team was one of only 13 teams entered to compete on Apple platforms. Most other teams competed on Android. The UC San Diego were also among the teams that were able to complete their apps before the deadline. By the end of the hackathon, Apple awarded Anatalio and his teammates with the “Best iOS Hack” award.

    Instead of cash prizes, HackSC gave out tech prizes to help participants develop bigger and better hacks going forward. The Apple Hack award included support from Apple staff.

    The CSE team members all had experiences with hackathons prior to HackSC, but it was still an intense experience. “It involved roughly 12 to 15 hours of actual coding, plus time for breaks and sleep because the 36-hour challenge ended at 9am on Sunday,” explained Anatalio. “But having entered previous hackathons definitely gave us an edge. It was a lot of fun, but the most fun was winning.”

  • CSE's Griswold Makes 'Sense' at Founders Day Symposium

    CSE Prof. Bill Griswold wowed the audience when he was asked to deliver a TED-style talk during the university's Founders Day Symposium. The symposium kicked off a three-day celebration, Nov. 13-15, to celebrate "the curiosity and passion that have allowed our campus to transform the world."

    Griswold was one of six "extraordinary minds" and faculty experts who "illuminate the collaborative approach used to understand and address complex issues within the broad research themes of understanding and protecting the planet, and enriching human life and society." In the Price Center East Ballroom, the CSE professor was the first speaker on the latter subject, and he focused on "Pervasive Air-Quality Monitoring for the Crowd."

    "Recent revelations about the impact of air pollution on human health are troubling, yet air pollution and the risks it poses to us are largely invisible because federally mandated monitoring stations are sparse," says Griswold (at right), who thinks one answer to the problem is a project called CitiSense. Developed by computer scientists and population-health experts from the School of Medicine, CitiSense leverages the proliferation of smartphones and the advent of cheap, compact sensors to enable real-time monitoring of air quality. By sharing all users’ data through the cloud, CitiSense can create a regional air-quality map and even predict air pollution for those who are not carrying a sensor.

    Griswold began his presentation with a series of alarming numbers, including: 30%, the proportion of public schools that are near highways (hence, sending asthmatic kids to school potentially puts them in harm's way); and 50%, the increase in asthma events near highways in the United States.

    He called CitiSense "a computing approach" to the problem of not-enough air pollution sensors, especially given the fact that pollution levels fluctuate between nearby locations. "Pollution levels vary widely by locale," said Griswold, pointing to a map, who went on to point out that "individual exposres vary widely compared to the reported EPA Air-Quality Index."  Historically, air-quality sensors were also placed on rooftops, rather than at ground level where most people are likely to be affected by pollution. CitiSense components include sensors built into a board inside a smart phone, which can display real-time air-quality readings, and pass the data on to servers that map the air quality levels throughout the San Diego region. Consumers can then access the county-wide pollution maps over the Internet, either from a computer or from a smartphone to get not only nearby data, but information on air quality anywhere else in San Diego. The maps also use advanced scientific visualization to make it very clear the areas facing the worst pollution levels in real time.

  • CSE Professor, Research Affiliate Accept HPCwire Awards for WIFIRE Project

    The WIFIRE project led by the University of California, San Diego has triumphed with three top 2014 HPCwire Awards. All the awards were announced on Nov. 17 at Supercomputing ’14 in New Orleans.

    With a multi-year $2.65 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the WIFIRE project is a partnership led by San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) researcher Ilkay Altintas, a CSE academic-instructor. Altintas and WIFIRE co-PI and CSE Prof. Larry Smarr received the three awards in New Orleans.  All three awards cited WIFIRE “for building a cyberinfrastructure to better monitor, predict and mitigate future wildfires.”

    “These awards are truly wonderful news for the entire WIFIRE team,” said Altintas, director of SDSC’s Workflows for Data Science Center of Excellence. “We all are very grateful to HPCwire’s editors and readers for recognizing this project and the impact that it can have not only here in California but anywhere where wildfires can be a threat to the local populace and environment.”

    In the category of Best Application of Big Data in High Performance Computing (HPC), the San Diego Supercomputer Center, UC San Diego and the University of Maryland tied for the #1 spot for Readers’ Choice with a PayPal deployment to improve customer shopping experiences.  In the separate category of Editors’ Choice for the best application of big data in HPC, the same project, WIFIRE, took top honors as selected by a panel of HPCwire editors.

    In the broader category of Best Data-Intensive System (End-User Focused), the WIFIRE project also came in #1 as the Editors’ Choice.  (The Readers’ Choice in this category went to NASA’s Earth Exchange platform, which supports dozens of data-intensive projects in Earth sciences.)

    According to CSE’s Smarr, WIFIRE is a logical progression in the fight against wildfires. “We are all based in southern California and wildfires represent one of the most intractable environmental threats we face on a regular basis,” said the Calit2 director. “The technology we deploy for WIFIRE will make a substantial difference in our ability to detect, track, and respond to wildfires going forward.”  

    In recent years, the number and scale of wildfires in the U.S. has risen, threatening cities and forests, and at times forcing large-scale evacuations. The NSF grant allowed WIFIRE participants to begin cataloguing and integrating large, data-intensive sets related to dynamic wildfire models from a variety of resources, including sensors, satellites, and scientific models, and creating visual programming interfaces for using that data in scalable wildfire models.

  • Building a Better Baby Monitor

    A team led by a CSE graduate student is joining the ranks of new startups accepted into the Moxie Center incubator. The Moxie Center announced three new startup teams this quarter, bringing its total number of startups to 36. The latest CSE-based startup is called Cocoon Cam, led by CSE grad student Pavan Kumar Pavagada Nagaraja, who also leads software development for the startup. Pavan expects to earn his M.S. in computer science next spring, and he met his current teammates through earlier hackathons: Sivakumar Nattamai (hardware and firmware engineer), Rubi Sanchez (product manager), and Alexander Leung (business development). CSE Research Scientist (Research Assistant Professor) and Lecturer Nadir Weibel is advising the team. [Pictured at right (l-r): Pavan, Siva and Rubi]

    Prior to enrolling in CSE in 2013, Pavan was a software engineer with NetApp, where he worked on storage systems monitoring software. He did his undergraduate work at M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology in Bangalore, India. His interests include data-center infrastructure, computer vision, machine learning and entrepreneurship.

    The big idea behind Cocoon Cam is to create a camera that uses computer vision and other capabilities to monitor the health and activity of a baby, but without requiring that the baby wear an activity tracker.  "Wearables are a thing of the past," notes the startup's website. "We're hard at work on the next-generation baby monitor." Using the latest advances in wireless hardware, computer vision, and video analytics technology, Cocoon Cam transmits and records live respiration rate, heart rate, temperature, sound and video, allowing parents to ensure that their baby is safe, day or night. The team built a proof-of-concept of the Cocoon Cam at MedHack 2014 in San Francisco, and the judges voted it the winner in the "most practical solution" category. So what's next? "Going forward, we are going to complete a functional prototype by the end of December and begin initial testing in January," says Pavan. "We plan to approach investors to raise funding to begin manufacturing our product at a larger scale. We also want to establish contracts with hospitals and negotiate software licensing deals with companies."

  • Ph.D. Student Explains Plans for Future of CodeSpells Game

    Now that the team of CSE Ph.D. student Stephen Foster and recent CSE alumna Sarah Esper have over $15,000 in the bank from a successful crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter platform, the video game industry media are starting to take an interest in the team's CodeSpells game. According to a Nov. 10 article in the e-magazine, Games+Learning, "CodeSpells is a 3D RPG [role playing game] that teaches coding by using magic spells to solve problems." The magazine spoke with Foster about his plans for taking the game to the next level.  "Minecraft is our model in terms of the way the game functions – not the art or mechanics per se – but it does some things that are really cool, in that it's all procedurally generated and the multiplayer is very grassroots," explained Foster. He went on to say that the next version of CodeSpells will allow more complex spells to explore in game play, as well as multiplayer options. It will also include a simpler coding language to make the games more accessible.

    According to Foster (at left), the magic in the early system was rudimentary, but the cash infusion through Kickstarter is allowing the team to build out the game. "You had the power to lift things up and catch things on fire, but now you can do a lot more," Foster is quoted as saying. "Our programmer is very interested in physical systems and simulating physics and there are lots of ways to apply forces to things to get objects to do interesting things."  The  CodeSpells team also decided to switch the programming language from Java, which was more difficult for beginners, to Blockly, a drag-and-drop programming language. As for the future, Foster tells Games+Learning that the team will continue to keep development costs down. Explains Foster: "One thing that won't be in the game is a storyline, for example, or characters that talk to you, at least not yet, because those require a high level of design effort." CodeSpells will be multiplayer, but it won't be a centralized multplayer game like World of Warcraft. Again, he and his co-developers hope to continue following the Minecraft model. The alpha version is expected to be released this December.

  • Global TIES That Bind

    Software engineer and CSE computer engineering alumna Debbie Lu (BS ’06) took a few minutes out of a busy day to talk about her time as a student at UC San Diego. The project that made the biggest impact during her time at UC San Diego was working on the team that created a digital health record system for St Paul’s Senior Homes & Services. The project, and the class that initially drew her into the project, were part of the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Team in Engineering Services (TIES). TIES, which has since gone international and is now known as Global TIES, marks its ten year anniversary this academic year. Lu worked on one of the early projects before graduating and taking a job at CareFusion, where she worked for eight years. Lu is currently a software engineer at Cogent Road in San Diego.

    Lu (at left) was part of a UC San Diego student team tasked with creating an electronic version of the 24-hour nurse’s log for St. Paul’s Senior Homes & Services. The goal of the log was to enable nurses to manage patient information via an easy-to-use computer interface. The existing log was a hand-written document shared among all the nurses and used to track changes in the condition of St. Paul’s assisted living facility residents. Read more about the project here.

    Computer science was hard. It was very discouraging sometimes. TIES let me see that I had skills that made me stand out; and TIES also built my confidence in my core software engineering and coding skills. Ten years later, I’m still a programmer. TIES helped me find my niche in the software programming world. While still in school, getting a taste of ‘Oh I can do this’…that really helped me a lot…it made a big difference. I think programs like Global TIES are a good way to confirm your career decisions. I can see them encouraging a lot of people to stay on track and not give up on engineering so quickly.

  • Computer Scientists Find Wireless Devices Used by Casual Pilots Vulnerable to Hacking

    A new class of apps and wireless devices used by private pilots during flights for everything from GPS information to data about nearby aircraft is vulnerable to a wide range of security attacks, which in some scenarios could lead to catastrophic outcomes, according to computer scientists at the UC San Diego and a CSE alumnus now teaching at Johns Hopkins University. They presented their findings Nov. 5 at the 21st ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security in Scottsdale, Ariz.

    Researchers examined three combinations of devices and apps most commonly used by private pilots: the Appareo Stratus 2 receiver with the ForeFlight app; the Garmin GDL 39 receiver with the Garmin Pilot app; and the SageTech Clarity CL01 with the WingX Pro7 app. The devices and apps allow casual pilots to access the same information available to the pilot of a private jet--at a fraction of the cost. All the instruments in a high-end cockpit can be valued at more than $20,000. By contrast, the systems the researchers examined are available for $1,000. All have to be paired with tablet computers, most often an iPad, to display information.

    The devices researchers examined receive information about the aircraft’s location, the weather, the location of nearby aircraft the and airspace restrictions, which they display on the tablet computers via an app. “When you attack these devices, you don’t have control over the aircraft, but you have control over the information the pilot sees,” said Kirill Levchenko, a computer scientist at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, who led the study.

    In addition to Levchenko, co-authors on the paper are UC San Diego computer science Ph.D. students Devin Lundberg, Brown Farinholt, Edward Sullivan and Ryan Mast, UC San Diego computer science professors Stefan Savage and Alex C. Snoeren, as well as Johns Hopkins computer science professor and UCSD CSE alumnus Stephen Checkoway (Ph.D. '12). Lundberg is the first author on the paper.

    ForeFlight, which pairs with the Appareo Stratus 2, is one of the top 50 grossing apps in the entire Apple App Store—ahead of Apple’s own Pages app, among others.

    The team hoped that exposing the systems’ vulnerabilities would increase awareness among users and lead to demands for change. Researchers include several recommendations at the end of their study for safety improvements.

    The FAA has the authority to regulate these systems but chooses not to because they are not an integral part of the aircraft, the researchers said. In commercial aircraft the FAA only allows static information, such as maps, to be displayed on tablet computers, cautioning pilots to rely on instruments to fly.

  • Wireless Center at UC San Diego Organizes Forum on Future of 5G

    Wireless technologies have revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives: the way we work, interact, and socialize. Global adoption and emerging applications are fueling expectations and debate about so-called fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless technologies, and the expectations, needs, and directions for 5G are not as clear as those for the previous digital generations (3G and 4G). The Center for Wireless Communications (CWC) at the University of California, San Diego is organizing and hosting the 5G Forum on Next-Generation Wireless Systems and Applications, bringing together key experts from industry, government and academia to present and discuss their vision and research roadmaps for 5G.

    The 5G Forum will take place over two days, Thursday, November 20 and Friday, November 21, in the Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall on the UC San Diego campus.

    “Over the next five to 10 years, the communication industry will conceive, design and implement 5G wireless systems,” said CWC incoming director Sujit Dey, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering. “The fundamental overhaul of the communication technology and infrastructure will enable orders-of-magnitude increases in connectivity, capacity and speed.”

    [Pictured at left: Timeline for 5G research, development and rollout]

    “As early as 2020, 5G will play a powerful role in health care, education, energy and transportation,” said CWC’s outgoing director, Alon Orlitsky, who has joint appointments in the ECE and Computer Science and Engineering departments. “As an industry-supported research center, CWC has been at the focal point of innovation in the wireless sector almost from its beginning in the San Diego area. So we recognize the importance of bringing together the best minds from industry and academe to explore the technical barriers to overcome and new commercial opportunities that 5G will open up.”

    CWC itself has been around since 1995 – less than a decade after Qualcomm was incorporated by its co-founders, led by former UCSD professor Irwin Jacobs. While he no longer runs the company, Jacobs remains the unofficial patriarch of San Diego’s wireless industry, and on Nov. 20, he will give a talk after the dinner (which Irwin Jacobs will attend with his wife, Joan Jacobs).  

    Keynote speakers scheduled for the first session on Thursday will be ViaSat CEO Mark Dankberg, and Phil Fleming, Chief Technology Officer for Nokia Networks in North America. Fleming will specifically spell out Nokia Networks’ 5G research strategy.

    Other sessions on the first day of the forum will include one on multimedia, the Internet of Things and cloud-driven innovations in 5G, followed by a session on 5G spectrum and radio technologies. Companies represented in the two sessions will include InterDigital, Brocade Communications, Samsung, Qualcomm and Keysight Technologies (which, as of November 3, is a spinoff of the electronic measurement equipment division of Agilent Technologies, which itself was a 1999 spinoff from Hewlett-Packard).  Speakers on Thursday will include CWC’s Sujit Dey, “The Silent Intelligence” author Daniel Obodovski, Samsung R&D America President Farooq Khan, as well as Rangam Subramanian, lead technology and spectrum policy strategist in the spectrum policy division of the National Telecommunications Information Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and others.

    [Pictured at right (l-r): Irwin Jacobs and keynoters Mark Dankberg, Phil Fleming, Rajesh Pankaj and Ken Stewart]

    Keynote speakers on Friday will include Qualcomm Senior VP of Engineering Rajesh Pankaj on the future of wireless, and Intel’s Chief Wireless Technologist Ken Stewart. Stewart is also an Intel Fellow, and he will talk about the “Wireless Device of 2020.” Other sessions will focus on: innovations from CWC faculty, including professors Peter Asbeck and Bhaskar Rao; 5G perspectives from mobile network operators, including Japan’s NTT DOCOMO and the China Mobile Research Institute;  and a panel of diverse 5G perspectives from representatives of Yahoo!, Google, Ericsson, and L-3 Communications.

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