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UW CSE’s Richard Anderson talks to KPLU about digital financial services for the developing world

Richard AndersonUW CSE professor Richard Anderson recently spoke to KPLU’s Jennifer Wing about our new Digital Financial Services Research Group that was announced last week. The new group, which aims to accelerate the development of secure mobile banking services for people in the developing world, is a collaboration between UW CSE’s Information & Communications Technology for Development (ICTD) Lab, Security and Privacy Research Lab, and the iSchool.

From the radio segment:

“In developing and third-world countries, moving money around digitally can be very complicated and risky. Computer science professors and students at the University of Washington are trying to make that task easier and safer.

“In remote parts of India or Africa, ‘It’s very common for a farmer to leave his village, go the city, drive a taxi and then, every month, he wants to send his wages back to his family,’ said Richard Anderson…

“But how can that taxi driver do that without worrying about financial security threats and identity theft?”

Read or listen to the full segment online here.

Read our previous coverage of the new group here and the UW news release here.

January 19, 2016

UW CSE alum Ben Hindman, co-creator of Mesos, wins UW College of Engineering Diamond Award

Ben HindmanEach year, the UW College of Engineering honors a select group of alumni for their contributions to the field of engineering and to society with its Diamond Awards. Among the 2016 honorees is CSE alum Ben Hindman (B.S., ’07), Founder of Mesosphere, Inc. – an outgrowth of his graduate work at UC Berkeley – who is recognized with the “Early Career” award.

From the citation:

“Few people outside the tech industry have heard of Apache Mesos, software that provides essential infrastructure enabling applications to interact with data servers. But for anyone who has asked Apple’s Siri a question, used Yelp to look up restaurants, or watched a movie on Netflix, Mesos has helped to provide the resulting content with speed, ease and reliability. Ben Hindman is the co-creator of Mesos technology and founder of the company Mesosphere. In the ten years since graduating from the UW, Ben has transformed the way software runs within data centers, the backbone of some of the most popular applications in the world, and sparked an innovative new technology industry….

“With tens of millions in funding raised to date, offices in two cities and over 100 employees, Mesosphere continues to be the biggest “infrastructure computing” company quietly serving countless end-users every day.”

Read the full citation here, and learn more about Ben’s journey since graduating from UW CSE—which he shared with a group of current undergrads as part of last year’s UW CSE Leadership Seminar Series—here and here.

Ben and his fellow 2016 award winners will be the guests of honor at a dinner on May 20th.

Ben joins a stellar group of CSE alumni who have been recognized with Diamond Awards over the past decade: Yaw Anokwa and Christophe Bisciglia (2015); Brad Fitzpatrick (2014); Kevin Ross (2013); Greg Badros and Anne Condon (2012); Loren Carpenter and Tapan Parikh (2010); Gail Murphy and Rob Short (2008); Ed Felten (2007); and Jeff Dean and Jeremy Jaech (2006).

Congratulations, Ben!

January 16, 2016

UW rocks in “Best Paper” awards!

bp2015Brown University computer science professor Jeff Huang maintains a list of “Best Paper” awards at the major computer science conferences, going back to 1996. The list displays the award papers at each conference for each year, and the total number of award papers from each institution (with appropriate treatment of papers with co-authors from multiple institutions).

The 2015 update has just been posted.

UW has always ranked well … but we are now the #1 academic institution – bested only by Microsoft Research (which has roughly 20X as many Ph.D. researchers as UW CSE). It’s another sign of our ever-increasing impact.

Check it out here.

January 12, 2016

UW CSE launches Digital Financial Services Research Group to accelerate innovative banking solutions for developing regions

M-Pesa agent in Africa

Photo credit: Brian Harries/Flickr

UW CSE revolutionized data collection and analysis in low-resource settings with the creation of the Open Data Kit (ODK), a suite of free, open-source mobile tools. ODK – a project spearheaded by the late professor Gaetano Borriello – has been deployed in more than 40 countries to monitor elections, to conserve natural resources, to track health care outcomes, and much more.

Now, UW CSE is poised to do for money management what we did for data with the launch of our new Digital Financial Services Research Group.

Led by professor Richard Anderson of the Information & Communications Technology for Development (ICTD) Lab, the new group will focus on accelerating the development and deployment of secure, practical and culturally relevant digital banking solutions to people in developing regions, where mobile phone usage is surging.

From the UW news release:

“In Kenya, the ease of transferring money via mobile phone has increased incomes in rural areas, enabled small businesses to thrive and reshaped the country’s economy….

“But the success of that service — called M-Pesa — has been difficult or impossible to replicate in other parts of the developing world.

“University of Washington computer scientists and engineers, with a grant from the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will develop, test and deploy new technological solutions to make financial products more available to the lowest-income people around the world.

“‘This technology can have tremendous impact — both for allowing people to send remittances from the city back to rural regions, and to establish savings accounts so people can have reserves so that an event like an accident or a pregnancy doesn’t send them over the edge,’ said Richard Anderson, a UW professor of computer science and engineering.”

In addition to Anderson, the core research team will include Kurtis Heimerl, an expert in community-based cellular networks who will join the UW CSE faculty in the fall; professors Yoshi Kohno and Franzi Roesner, co-directors of UW CSE’s Security and Privacy Research Lab; and iSchool professor (and CSE adjunct) Joshua Blumenstock. The group will work with mobile providers and financial institutions to test and refine new technologies in the communities they will serve.

Read the complete UW news release to learn more about this exciting new line of research for us. We look forward to sharing many success stories from this stellar group of faculty and their students in the future!

January 12, 2016

UW CSE’s Martin Tompa welcomes students to weekly Schnapsen-fest

Schnapsen game in the Allen CenterUW CSE professor Martin Tompa welcomed “a veritable horde” of undergraduate students to the first weekly Schnapsen game of the winter quarter. Schnapsen is the national card game of Austria, which Tompa uses to illustrate many probability topics in his CSE 312 course. Tompa published the definitive guide to winning at Schnapsen last September.

The very active UW Schnapsen Club provided pizza and hand-made cookies in the shapes of the Austrian card suits. Club members partnered with novice Schnapsen players from CSE 312 to teach them the basics.

Tompa reflected, “In the age of distributed video games, it’s surprising and heart-warming that so many students are engaged in this old-school, face-to-face activity and having so much fun with it.”

The students play every Friday afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, and they welcome all comers. Read our previous coverage of Tompa’s devotion to Schnapsen here.

January 12, 2016

UW CSE’s Aditya Vashistha wins Facebook Graduate Fellowship

Aditya VashisthaAditya Vashistha, a third-year Ph.D. student working in the Information & Communications Technology for Development (ICTD) Lab led by UW CSE professor Richard Anderson, has been selected as a Facebook Graduate Fellow for 2016-2017. The highly competitive program is designed to support emerging leaders who demonstrate the potential to advance Facebook’s mission of making the world more open and connected.

Social media platforms play an essential role in people’s lives, and they are an increasingly vital tool for those engaged in political activism and to manage crisis response in communities across the globe. Vashistha’s research is focused on enabling people of low incomes and low literacy to access social media platforms and crowdsourcing systems so they can reap the benefits of these increasingly popular technologies, particularly the creation of voice-based platforms for people with basic mobile phones and no Internet connectivity and the development of voice-based social media and crowdsourcing platforms for people with smartphones and only intermittent Internet connectivity.

In addition to receiving financial support for academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18, Vashistha will have the opportunity to present his research and meet with engineers at Facebook’s headquarters.

Vashistha has been on a roll lately, having previously earned a Best Student Paper Award at ASSETS 2015, a Best Paper Award at CHI 2015 and the 2014 Access Facebook Award.

Two other UW graduate students were named finalists by Facebook: CSE’s Konstantin Weitz, who works with professor Michael Ernst in the Programming Languages & Software Engineering group, and Alexis Hiniker, who works with professor (and CSE adjunct faculty member) Julie Kientz in Human Centered Design & Engineering.

Congratulations to Aditya on this latest win, and to Konstantin and Alexis for their strong showing in this year’s competition!

January 11, 2016

Doug Walker, 1950-2015

160101-doug-walker-mn-1415_7b143d6d86faac3bf2d7e181b2a7064d.nbcnews-ux-600-480We remember Doug Walker, a long-time friend of UW CSE and co-founder in 1981 of WRQ, a top-20 software company in its day. Doug went missing Thursday afternoon while snowshoeing with friends on Granite Mountain in the Cascades, and was found dead on Friday by a search and rescue team.

It’s impossible to convey what Doug (always along with his wife Maggie) has meant to the Seattle community. Obviously WRQ. Philanthropy – to the University of Washington, the Seattle Parks Foundation, the Hutch, MOHAI, and many other causes – including the co-founding of Social Venture Partners and the Seattle Parks Foundation. Conservation. Mountaineering. Cycling.

A truly wonderful human being, who died doing what he loved.

NBC News here. Seattle Times here, here, and here. GeekWire here. Seattle PI here. KING5 TV here. New York Times here. Wall Street Journal here. Excellent biography here.

January 1, 2016

UW CSE’s Pedro Domingos talks to the Seattle Times about the future of work

Pedro DomingosEconomics columnist Jon Talton wrote an interesting piece for the Seattle Times exploring how our economy has changed and the complexion of the future job market given globalization, automation and the rise of the “gig economy,” among other forces that are reshaping how people work and live. UW CSE professor Pedro Domingos provided his take on the potentially radical changes in store, a topic to which he gave much thought in writing his recent book, The Master Algorithm.

From the column:

“Pedro Domingos, computer science professor at the University of Washington and author of The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake Our World, says, ‘It’s not going to be a smooth ride by any stretch of the imagination.’

“Yet he is not a pessimist.

“‘Over the next five to 20 years, some occupations will disappear, but lots of occupations will be created,’ he says. With machine learning, humans and computers will be teamed up. ‘What in my job can be done by machine learning, and what can’t? What will be very hard to replace?’….

“‘In the long run, we will get to the point, in our lifetime, where computers and robots can do everything better than people,’ he says. ‘This will mark the transition to a very different economy.’

“‘With such measures as a guaranteed universal income, this won’t be a problem. People might say, oh, the U.S. is falling backward because only 25 percent of people are working. No. This can be a great thing. People will find satisfaction in other things.'”

There’s more to it – check out the entire column here.

January 1, 2016

UW CSE generates three of the 10 “Best of UW” news stories of 2015

Best of UW 2015 image collageWe love data here at UW CSE – especially when it makes us look good. And we’re looking pretty good as 2015 comes to a close: according to our friends in UW’s Office of News & Information, UW CSE research inspired three of their 10 most viewed news stories over the past year. So join us in raising a toast to the amazing year that was – and to our amazing faculty and students!

Here are the ways UW CSE has been making headlines, according to the “Best of UW,” 2015 edition:

Popular Science names ‘Power Over Wi-Fi’ one of the year’s game-changing technologies

A team of UW CSE and EE researchers earned accolades for developing a novel way to power devices by tapping into a readily available, but largely ignored, energy source: the signals emitted by your WiFi router. Popular Science included the project affectionately known as “PoWiFi” in its annual “Best of What’s New” awards in November after researchers demonstrated its ability to power a small camera and temperature sensor without degrading the quality of the Wi-Fi signal. (UW CSE professor Shyam Gollakota; CSE and EE professor Josh Smith, EE graduate students Vamsi Talla, Bryce Kellogg and Saman Naderiparizi; and former CSE postdoc Ben Ransford)

Affordable camera reveals hidden details invisible to the naked eye

In October, members of the Ubiquitous Computing Lab and Microsoft Research revealed HyperCam, an affordable hyperspectral imaging camera that can capture what lies beneath the surface of an object, such as the veins in your hand or the flesh of an avocado. The technology could be used for a host of health and safety and consumer applications, from food quality monitoring, to biometric security, to gaming. (UW CSE and EE professor Shwetak Patel; CSE professor Gaetano Borriello; CSE graduate students Mayank Goel, Eric Whitmire and Alex Mariakakis; and Scott Saponas, Neel Joshi, Dan Morris, Brian Guenter and Marcel Gavriliu of Microsoft Research)

New UW app can detect sleep apnea events via smartphone

UW CSE and the UW Medicine Sleep Center collaborated on the development of an affordable, contactless mobile phone app that is capable of detecting sleep apnea, a respiratory disorder that affects one in 13 Americans, without requiring patients to leave their bedrooms. In 300 hours of testing, ApneaApp was shown to be 95 to 99 percent accurate in tracking respiratory events compared to the more costly – and much less convenient – intensive polysomnography test. (UW CSE professor Shyam Gollakota; CSE graduate student Rajalakshmi Nandakumar; and Dr. Nathaniel Watson of the UW Medicine Sleep Center)

View the complete list of the “Best of UW” in 2015 here. Go team!

December 31, 2015

UW Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering scores major NSF funding to reanimate paralyzed limbs

Raj RaoThe Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, led by UW CSE professor Raj Rao, will receive $16 million over the next four years from the National Science Foundation to support the development of implantable devices that will enable patients who have suffered stroke or spinal cord injury to move again. The new funding will enable CSNE to continue its groundbreaking work on bi-directional brain-computer interfaces that interpret and wirelessly transmit brain signals across damaged regions of the nervous system.

From the UW News release:

“‘There’s a huge unmet need, especially with an aging population of baby boomers, for developing the next generation of medical devices for helping people with progressive or traumatic neurological conditions such as stroke and spinal cord injury,’ said CSNE director and UW professor of computer science and engineering Rajesh Rao….

“‘When Christopher Reeve sustained a spinal cord injury due to a fall from his horse, his brain circuits were still intact and able to form the intention to move, but unfortunately the injury prevented that intention from being conveyed to the spinal cord,’ Rao said.

“‘Our implantable devices aim to bridge such lost connections by decoding brain signals and stimulating the appropriate part of the spinal cord to enable the person to move again.'”

Brain interface graphicCSNE researchers aim to not only restore movement with the new devices, but also to promote brain plasticity and enable rehabilitation of the affected areas. Rao and his colleagues intend to conduct proof-of-concept demonstrations in humans within the next five years. They are also working to improve existing implantable technologies—for example, deep brain simulators used to treat people with Parkinson’s disease—to reduce negative side effects and cut down on the number of replacement surgeries required for patients living with such devices.

CSNE was first established with an initial grant from NSF in 2011. The center engages faculty and students in computer science, engineering, neuroscience and other disciplines from the UW, MIT, San Diego State University, the University of British Columbia and several other academic and industry partners.

Read the full UW media release here and a great article in the Seattle Times here. Learn more about CSNE by visiting its website here.

Congratulations to Raj and the entire CSNE team!

December 29, 2015

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