Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Ag IoT; IPOs on tap; Arm’s auto CPU.


Internet of Things
IBM this week launched the Watson Decision Platform for Agriculture, which combines artificial intelligence, Internet of Things technology, and cloud-based offerings, providing insights to farmers through a managed service. Among other features, growers can deploy drones to send photos to the IBM Cloud for AI-based trend analysis and detection of crop diseases. The platform can forecast crop yields, keep an eye on commodity prices, and even suggest the best time to harvest.

Speaking of precision agriculture – U.S. Cellular is partnering with Internet of Things America to offer a suite of IoT solutions for business customers and rural communities. IoT America’s technology is meant to increase efficiency, productivity, safety, and yield for farmers and ranchers, while reducing operating costs. It will begin by providing asset tracking and tank monitoring for U.S. Cellular customers.

Microsoft held its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, introducing IoT updates for the Azure cloud computing platform. Among other announcements, the company said the Azure IoT platform now supports Google’s Android mobile operating system and Android Things platform through its Java software development kit. It also rolled out Azure Digital Twins, enabling enterprises to create digital models of physical environments. A preview of Azure Digital Twins will be available on October 15.

Teaming up to protect IoT devices from cybersecurity threats are AT&T and Ericsson, which together will offer comprehensive testing through the CTIA Cybersecurity Certification Program. The program will address a wide variety of IoT devices, including body cameras, connected streetlights, industrial routers, medical devices, and utility meters.

The U.S. Naval Academy’s cybersecurity education program is now formally accredited by ABET. The academy established a cyber operations major in 2013. ABET also accredited the U.S. Air Force Academy, Towson University, and Southeast Missouri State University.

What’s it like covering the Defcon event in Las Vegas for The New York Times? Stephen Hiltner writes about the advice he received (stay away from the ATMs near the event, don’t use public Wi-Fi connections) while attending the hacker conference. He describes how these white-hat hackers are dedicated to good causes and to helping businesses navigate the tricky world of cyberattacks and cybersecurity.

Automotive Tech
General Motors made some management changes as it prepares to field 20 electric vehicle models by 2023. Pam Fletcher, the vice president of global EV programs, is named VP of innovation, directly reporting to Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. Doug Parks, the VP for autonomous and EV programs, picks up primary responsibility for GM’s EV team. Mike Ableson, VP for global strategy, becomes of VP of EV charging and infrastructure, reporting to Parks.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche will step down next May and will be succeeded by Ola Kallenius, the head of vehicle development for Mercedes-Benz. Daimler announced that Zetsche will be nominated in 2021 to become the company’s chairman of the board, when Manfred Bischoff ends his current term.

Are you using fingerprints to cash checks at the bank, or to access your mobile device? That type of identification authentication will become common on automotive vehicles in the near future. “This technology will be used in cars in two to four years,” Godfrey Cheng of Synaptics says in this feature.

Uber Technologies is reportedly negotiating to acquire Dubai-based Careem Networks, at a price possibly ranging from $2 billion to $2.5 billion. Meanwhile, Careem has purchased Commut, a bus shuttle service based in Hyderabad, India, which works through a mass transport application.

Lucid Motors, an EV startup that plans to launch its first model in 2020, is working with Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary, to provide high-speed charging for its vehicles across the U.S. The VW unit plans to have 500 charging stations available or under construction by July of next year. Lucid recently received an investment of more than $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Brian Modoff, vice president of strategy and M&A at Qualcomm, sees the vision of autonomous vehicles taking a long time to become prevalent in society. “You’ll see self-driving cars emerge in steps,” he said at a conference in Chicago. “You’ll see it in cordoned-off areas where cars drive on their own; you’ll see things like self-parking, you will see elements of it before you see the full system.” He added that automotive technologists will have to deal with an “almost exponential” number of issues to bring about automated driving.

Toyota Motor, which will offer Apple CarPlay on some new models, is reportedly considering use of Google’s Android Auto software, possibly making an announcement in October. Lexus, Toyota’s luxury marque, may also adopt Android Auto, it was said.

Synaptics reports its TD7800 line of automotive TDDI products is now in full production. The products feature ultra-high-definition resolution and support auto displays of up to 17 inches.

Sensata Technologies has agreed to acquire GIGAVAC for about $233 million in cash. Privately held GIGAVAC supplies high-voltage contactors for electrified products, including cars, buses, delivery trucks, charging stations, and material handling equipment. Sensata expects to complete the transaction during the fourth quarter of this year.

What’s happening in Kentish Town these days? The north London neighborhood is being served by a fleet of UPS electric trucks, making deliveries to businesses and residences. The parcel service is converting many of its diesel vans to electric motors. Going EV in the delivery business involves more than buying new vehicles or converting existing vehicles, this feature notes.

TomTom says it is considering the sale of its fleet management and telematics business, so it can focus on competing with Google and Here Technologies in car navigation software.

Elastic, a venture-funded provider of subscription-based data search software, said it plans to sell 7 million shares at $26 to $29 a share in its initial public offering, which has Goldman Sachs as the lead underwriter. The company plans to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ESTC ticker symbol. Elastic has raised more than $100 million in private funding from such investors as Benchmark and NEA.

Austin, Texas-based SolarWinds is going public again, filing for a $500 million IPO with Goldman Sachs as its lead underwriter. The company was taken private in 2016 by Silver Lake Partners and Thoma Bravo, which paid $4.5 billion for the provider of IT management software. SolarWinds will trade on the Big Board as SWI.

Niu Technologies, a Chinese manufacturer of electric scooters, filed for a $150 million IPO with Credit Suisse as its lead underwriter. The company plans to trade on Nasdaq under the NIU ticker symbol. GGV Capital holds an 11.2% equity stake in Niu.

Flexpoint Ford, a Chicago-based private equity firm, invested in MobilityWorks, a provider of wheelchair-accessible vehicles headquartered in Richfield, Ohio. Established in 1997, MobilityWorks has more than 70 locations in 24 states and employs 1,200-plus people.

Startup funding rounds:
• Seattle-based Convoy raised $185 million in Series C funding led by CapitalG, bringing its total private funding to $265 million and valuing the company at more than $1 billion. Convoy provides digital freight technology, connecting shippers with truckers.
Darktrace of Cambridge, U.K., received $50 million in Series E funding led by Vitruvian Partners, valuing the cyber defense company at $1.65 billion. Darktrace uses artificial intelligence technology to provide autonomous responses to cyberthreats.
Instana of Redwood City, Calif., which offers application performance monitoring on containerized services, raised $30 million in Series C funding led by Meritech Capital Partners. Its private funding now totals $57 million.
• San Francisco-based Nozomi Networks received $30 million in Series C funding led by Planven Investments. The company’s focus is industrial cybersecurity.
Lionano of Woburn, Mass., raised $22 million in Series B funding from Wave Equity Partners, Helios Capital Ventures, and NXT Ventures. The company develops performance-boosting technology for lithium-ion batteries.
• London-based Snyk received $22 million in Series B funding led by Accel. The startup helps companies securely use open-source code.
Guardhat of Detroit raised $22 million in Series A funding led by RTP Ventures. The company specializes in Industrial IoT safety technology for developing wearables, infrastructure, and software platforms. Guardhat will use the money for expediting growth and technology development, and also for international expansion.
• Oxford, U.K.-based Oxbotica, a developer of autonomous vehicle software, received £14 million (about $18.3 million) in private funding led by IP Group, Parkwalk Advisors, and AXA XL. The company will use the funds to increase its headcount and to serve an international customer base in aerospace, construction, logistics, and mining, in addition to automotive electronics. Oxbotica was founded in 2014 and based its software on research by Oxford University’s Robotics Institute.
Shohoz, an on-demand transportation startup in Bangladesh, raised $15 million in funding led by Golden Gate Ventures. Shohoz means “easy” in Bengali.
• Austin, Texas-based Data.world received $12 million in Series C funding led by Workday Ventures, bringing its total private funding to $45.3 million. The company provides a collaborative data resource platform.
• Israel’s Source Defense raised $10 million in Series A funding led by AllegisCyber. The company’s software helps to prevent website supply-chain attacks.
PAI Health of Vancouver, B.C., received $9 million in new funding to expand into the insurtech market. The company offers personalized health engagement in the area of cardiorespiratory fitness for use by health-care providers, insurance companies, and wellness programs.
• Tucson, Ariz.-based Lunewave, which develops sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles, raised $3.75 million in seed funding led by McCombs Fraser.
Mode of San Mateo, Calif., received $3 million in Series A funding led by True Ventures, bringing its total private funding to $5 million. The startup provides a real-time database for sensor data.
Teraki of Berlin, Germany, got $3 million in seed funding and government grants to continue development of AI and edge processing technology for automotive applications. Paladin Capital Group and GPS Ventures, new investors, joined return backers, which include Deutsche Telekom’s hub:raum tech incubator.

Boeing Defense, Space & Security licensed embedded field-programmable gate array technology from Flex Logix Technologies, specifically the EFLX4K Logic and DSP eFPGA IP cores. GlobalFoundries will manufacture the Boeing chip designs with the Flex Logix IP, using a 14-nanometer process at its wafer fabrication facility in Malta, N.Y.

Adobe Systems, Microsoft, and SAP teamed for the Open Data Initiative, creating a single model for representing customer data among multiple enterprise systems.

Arm debuted the Cortex-A76AE, which it describes as an “autonomous-class processor.” The CPU is optimized for fabrication with 7nm processes. The AE designation stands for “Automotive Enhanced.” The system-on-a-chip device is aimed at achieving ASIL D status, the highest degree of autonomous hazard defined by the International Organization for Standardization. The company also unveiled its Arm Safety Ready program, which will test chipsets to certify that they meet ISO 26262 and other safety standards. Safety Ready products include the Cortex-A72, Cortex-R5, Cortex-R52, Cortex-A53, and Cortex-M4, along with the Cortex-A76AE. It also brought out the Split-Lock feature for configuring CPU clusters in two modes – “split mode” for higher performance and “lock mode” for synchronizing CPU pairs for safer, less error-prone data processing.

Synopsys introduced the newest releases of its LucidShape CAA V5 Based and LucidDrive software tools for automotive lighting analysis and simulation. The company also announced a new, production-ready process design kit based on SMART Photonics’ indium phosphide process as part of the Synopsys OptSim Circuit tool for InP-based photonic integrated circuit design and simulation.

Rigado said its IoT edge infrastructure is integrated with the new Microsoft Azure Digital Twins for use in smart buildings.

Israel’s Airobotics opened a U.S. headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz., which may someday become the company’s global headquarters. It develops autonomous drones that don’t need a pilot and can perform such tasks as automatically changing batteries through robotics. Founded in 2014, Airobotics now has 250 employees around the world, with plans to hire up to 80 more in Arizona by the end of 2019.

Avnet and Not Impossible Labs collaborated on development of a wearable product – a “Vibrotextile” vest that comes with ankle and wrist bands that pulse in sync with live music. The “Music: Not Impossible” bundle can be used by deaf people and those with impaired hearing to feel the vibrations produced by music. The wearable is also suitable for hearing concertgoers.