Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Smart homes; fed indictments; GM’s woes.


Internet of Things
Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer, is giving up on the smart home market. The company is putting its Iris Smart Home business up for sale as part of a reorganization. The retailer made a big splash at CES 2015 with its Innovation Lab offerings, which included retail service robots and the Holoroom “home improvement simulator.” The Iris product line includes multiple Iris-branded products for the home, along with products from Bosch, First Alert, General Electric, Honeywell, Nest Labs, Swann, and other manufacturers. The Iris Smart Hub ties it all together.

Cisco Systems has a contrasting perspective on smart home automation, saying connected homes will be a big driver for the Internet of Things. “Connected home applications, such as home automation, home security and video surveillance, connected white goods, and tracking applications, will represent 48%, or nearly half, of the total M2M connections by 2022, showing the pervasiveness of M2M in our lives,” Cisco states in its new white paper, Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Trends, 2017-2022.

AT&T and Emerson Electric employed IoT technology to help keep about 7,400 tons of food waste out of landfills during the past year. AT&T provided the IoT connectivity on its network and Emerson supplied its Grind2Energy foot waste recycling system.

Carbon Black released its Holiday Threat Report on Cyber Monday, naturally. Researchers at the cybersecurity company’s Threat Analysis Unit noted that attempted cyberattacks during the holiday shopping season increased by 57.5% in 2017, compared with a year earlier. Threat activity peaks on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the days after Christmas, the report notes.

Symantec reports that it and other parties in the cybersecurity industry helped the FBI take down cybercriminal rings behind a worldwide ad-fraud botnet, part of the 3ve ad-fraud scam. Eight Russians were indicted in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn; three suspects were arrested and are awaiting extradition, while five other individuals are at large. Meanwhile, two Iranians were indicted Wednesday in Newark, N.J., for creating the SamSam ransomware, which federal prosecutors allege has caused more than $30 million in losses by hospitals, municipalities, and public institutions over a period of nearly three years.

Amazon Web Services on Wednesday introduced the AWS Security Hub at the AWS re:Invent conference. The security updates on the popular cloud services platform are supported by a number of AWS partners, including CrowdStrike, McAfee, Palo Alto Networks, Splunk, Symantec, and Tenable.

Big industrial manufacturers are proving to be easy targets for cybercriminals and hackers, this analysis notes. C3 Chairman and CEO Thomas Siebel says, “Manufacturers are sloppy when it comes to cybersecurity.” Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, for example, had its wafer production disrupted by the WannaCry ransomware in August.

The Cyber NYC initiative aspires to make New York City a hub for cybersecurity research and development, job creation, and innovation. Facilities are being established in Manhattan’s Chelsea and SoHo neighborhoods, while the multiyear project will partner with Columbia University, New York University, and City University of New York. Goldman Sachs, Mastercard, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are among the companies that will be involved. Jerusalem Venture Partners and SOSA will provide some of the $70 million in private investments, and the City of New York is supplying $30 million in public funding.

Automotive Tech
General Motors was in the news this week, announcing the idling of five factories in North America and reducing about 14,000 positions in its workforce. The carmaker will stop producing several models, including the Chevrolet plug-in hybrid Volt, as a result, while continuing to develop all-electric vehicles. The Trump administration was naturally angered to hear that four U.S. plants are suspending production (they are not being permanently closed, for now). GM has saved $157 million in federal taxes so far this year thanks to last year’s tax reform bill. The administration’s tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, however, have raised the carmaker’s material costs by an estimated $700 million in 2018, as prices for steel produced in the U.S. have gone up.

Nvidia signed deals to have SF Motors, Singulato Motors, and XPeng Motors use its Xavier AI chip and computing platform for autonomous driving.

This analysis looks at the state of autonomous driving technology, with capsule profiles of some startups in the field. “Fully unstructured driving by go-anywhere cars is a long time away,” says Reilly Brennan, a general partner of Trucks Venture Capital and a lecturer in transportation at Stanford University. “Few start-ups actually understood the commitment required to create a complete vehicle.”

Luminar Technologies, a developer of sensors for autonomous vehicles, and Volvo Cars demonstrated what they have created at the LA Mobility trade show in Los Angeles. The San Francisco-based Luminar came out of stealth mode last year with $36 million in private funding. The LiDAR startup this year announced its closer collaboration with Volvo on self-driving cars, while the Volvo Cars Tech Fund made an equity investment in Luminar.

Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board in the Obama administration, was hired to serve as Waymo’s chief safety officer, effective in January.

Rivian Automotive, established in 2009, electrified the Los Angeles auto show with the introduction of its battery-powered R1T pickup truck and R1S seven-passenger SUV. The company hopes there is a market for more rugged EVs that can go off-roading. Pricing for the R1T starts at $61,500 and the R1S base price is $65,000, after the federal EV tax credit.

Reuters reports Volkswagen reached a legal settlement with Broadcom after the chip company sued the carmaker in Germany over patent issues, seeking more than $1 billion in damages. No details of the reported out-of-court settlement are immediately available.

BYD suspended plans to build an electric truck plant in Canada. The Chinese company could revisit the plan, said Ted Dowling, vice president of BYD Canada, adding, “When the business case makes sense, we’ll do it.” Berkshire Hathaway has invested in BYD.

Amazon Web Services announced the immediate availability of Arm Neoverse-based application servers. The development stemmed from the 2015 acquisition of Annapurna Labs by AWS, putting the Annapurna team to work on designing and developing the Arm-based custom Graviton machine-learning processor introduced by AWS this week.

National Instruments brought out a new release of LabVIEW NXG. The new version is said to simplify time-consuming tasks in automated test and automated measurement, such as setting up and configuring systems, developing test and measurement code, and creating Web-ready applications.

Silicon Labs worked with Cognosos, provider of the Geo IoT platform, to develop the Cognosos RadioTrax tag, based on the chip company’s wireless Flex Gecko system-on-a-chip device. RadioTrax can be used to quickly locate cars in parking garages and parking lots.

The latest Ericsson Mobility Report focuses on 5G cellular communications. Among many other figures, the report notes that there were about 7.9 billion mobile subscriptions around the world during the third quarter, up 3% from a year earlier, with 120 million new subscriptions added. China accounted for 37 million new subscriptions, while India added 31 million and Indonesia 13 million.

Qualcomm established a $100 million investment fund to put money into AI startups, asserting that AI at the network’s edge is more efficient and faster than cloud-based computing services. The new Qualcomm Ventures AI Fund made its first investment, an undisclosed amount, in Israel-based AnyVision, which is developing an AI system to identify objects and people.

TuanChe, an online automotive marketplace in Beijing, completed an initial public offering, raising $20.3 million by selling 2.6 million shares priced at $7.80. The company trades as TC on Nasdaq.

Red Hat acquired NooBaa of Tel Aviv, Israel, an early-stage startup developing software for managing data storage across hybrid clouds and multicloud environments; financial terms weren’t revealed. NooBaa was established in 2013 and has nine employees. While nearly all of Red Hat’s software is open source, NooBaa’s is not, and Red Hat plans to transition NooBaa’s code to open source in time. Red Hat is being acquired by IBM for about $34 billion in cash.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise reached a definitive agreement to purchase BlueData, a privately held company in Santa Clara, Calif.; financial terms weren’t disclosed. BlueData’s software helps enterprises deploy artificial intelligence technology and big data analytics. The transaction is set to close by the end of HPE’s fiscal first quarter on January 31, 2019.

Autodesk agreed to acquire San Francisco-based PlanGrid, a supplier of cloud-based construction productivity software, for $875 million, net of cash. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of Autodesk’s fiscal year on January 31, 2019.

The RISC-V Summit takes place next week at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley, running from Monday, December 3, through Thursday, December 6. The expo hall will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday. Conference sessions and member meetings will be held to discuss the progress of the open-source instruction-set architecture and its burgeoning ecosystem.

The Edge AI Summit is scheduled for Tuesday, December 11, at Le Meridien San Francisco. The day-long event focuses on edge computing and artificial intelligence. Cheng Wang of Flex Logix Technologies will make a presentation on his company’s NMAX neural inferencing offering.

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