Research Picks Bonus – October 2017

Education in the cloud

Cloud computing is still in its infancy although many organisations, corporations and individuals have recognised the benefits of shifting computer services and storage on to remote computers they can subsequently access from anywhere they can connect to the Internet. The resource savings and energy savings can be significant. In education, it is possible to build a cloud infrastructure using desktop PCs and on-campus servers to lower overall costs and resource requirements. A new model for this CloudCampus is described by researchers from Portugal.

Monteiro, A., Teixeira, C. and Pinto, J.S. (2017) ‘CloudCampus: building an ubiquitous cloud with classroom PCs at a university campus‘, Int. J. Computational Systems Engineering, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp.113-123.

What the hash?

Hashtags are keywords usually flagged in socialmedia with the keyboard character #. They represent a useful tool for searching specific topics, events, and current affairs on microblogging platforms, such as Twitter and other online social networking and social media sites. Researchers in Hong Kong point out that with more than half a billion “tweets” (Twitter updates) each day it is important for some users and data miners to have straightforward ways to reduce the information overload, or at least, filter it. The team has now developed a hashtag recommendation system that one might think of as a pre-filtering system to allow groups of users or users whose tweets are likely to be concerned with a particular topic to focus their output for easier subsequent search and retrieval.

Cheung, K.C. and Cheung, T.K.Y. (2017) ‘Recommendation of hashtags in social Twitter network‘, Int. J. Data Analysis Techniques and Strategies, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp.222-236.

Puzzling

The so-called “15-puzzle” is one of a collection of mathematical problems that are particularly difficult to solve. The puzzle has been around since at least as long ago as the nineteenth century and involves a board of size 4 × 4 and 15 numbered tiles (1-15) each of which can sit in a single square on the board. The objective is to move tiles initially placed at random, one at a time from square to square, until we have arranged the tiles in numerical order left to right top to bottom, starting with tile number 1 at the top left-hand square and finishing with tile number 15 second bottom right and square 16 left empty. There have been numerous “solutions” to the puzzle that involve finding the minimum number of moves to achieve the complete puzzle and many algorithms developed to allow a computer to solve the problem. Achieving an efficient and minimal solution has potential applications in logistics, manufacturing and all kinds of engineering problems where data and physicals objects must be moved and rearranged efficiently. The Hong Kong team takes us a square closer to such a solution with their smaller algorithm. Indeed, finding a smaller algorithm is in itself a complicated puzzle.

Utsunomiya, K. and Asahiro, Y. (2017) ‘Improvement of the greedy algorithm for (n 2 – 1)-puzzle‘, Int. J. Innovative Computing and Applications, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp.133-148.

Sounding off about computers

We rely on audio cues increasingly to allow us to efficiently use digital technology and smart objects, whether they are phones or washing machines. Now researchers in France are investigating how sound is playing such an increasingly important role in our everyday lives. Specifically, they are focusing on how incorporating the need for sound into the design process of smart devices is an important factor in making the human-machine interaction work best. The team reviewed the literature in this field and interviewed practitioners, which allowed them to devise a lexicon of 35 terms to describe sound characteristics that might then be utilised in the smart device design process to make development consistent across the field.

Carron, M., Rotureau, T., Dubois, F., Misdariis, N. and Susini, P. (2017) ‘Speaking about sounds: a tool for communication on sound features‘, J. Design Research, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp.85-109.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.