Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Warehouse robots; 2019 predictions; Siemens buys COMSA.


Internet of Things
DHL Supply Chain reports that it will spend $300 million to install Internet of Things sensors and collaborative robots in its North American warehouses, bringing 60% of those facilities up to automation capabilities already implemented in 85 of DHL’s 430 warehouses in North America. The company will also employ robotic process automation software and other programs to reduce workflow interruptions.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the SMART IoT Act on a voice vote, sending the bill over for the Senate to consider during the current lame-duck session. The SMART in the title of H.R. 6032 stands for “State of Modern Application, Research, and Trends.” The legislation was introduced by Rep. Robert Latta, R-Ohio; it has 18 cosponsors, 13 Republicans and five Democrats.

The Nokia Threat Intelligence Report 2019 is out, saying IoT botnets are responsible for 78% of malware detection events seen this year. Other conclusions: IoT bots make up 16% of infected devices; malware-based crypto coin mining has expanded from high-end servers to IoT devices, smartphones, and browsers; Android malware variants grew 31% in a year and now number nearly 20 million. The report can be downloaded here.

Sierra Wireless executives shared their 2019 predictions for the IoT, security, and automotive. Philippe Guillemette, the company’s chief technology officer, sees the “Amazonification” of the IoT beginning; the emergence of the Internet of Lifesaving Things; and eSIMs will act as a catalyst for IoT growth. Larry LeBlanc, chief engineer, security, at Sierra Wireless, anticipates the rise of IoT anomaly detection, security-as-a-service, and other new IoT security solutions, while IoT security discussions will get heated. Guillemette also predicts hype will hit a wall, as automakers will put the pedal to the metal on connected car services.

Experts in the cybersecurity field offer 60 predictions of what will happen during 2019 in this feature. Some general conclusions: data will be used and misused; artificial intelligence and machine learning technology will become a double-edged sword for attackers and defenders; data privacy will be a continuing issue; the cloud changes everything; connected and moving devices add numerous security risks.

Who was behind the WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks? Their identity is not clear, but it is becoming obvious that hackers are no longer afraid of attracting attention for their cyberattacks, Danny Palmer writes.

Marriott International reported that up to 500 million of its customers may have had their personal data exposed by hackers, in a breach dating back to 2014 involving a number of Starwood brand hotels. Other Marriott brands, such as Marriott Residence Inn and the Ritz-Carlton, have had a separate reservation system; Marriott plans to combine those with the Starwood system. The massive data breach led Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and other Democratic senators to call for tougher privacy laws and significant penalties for companies that fail to protect the personal data of their customers. Meanwhile, the Quora question-and-answer website acknowledged it had been hit late last week by an attack that swept up account information and private messages of about 100 million users. Launched in 2010, Quora has 300 million monthly active users, comparable to Twitter’s user base. Still, many Quora account holders responded to the news by expressing surprise that they have Quora accounts.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., will speak Friday, December 7, at the Center for a New American Security to propose a national cybersecurity doctrine. The vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee is calling for a holistic approach to defending the U.S. against cyberattacks and hacking, including foreign meddling with American elections and disinformation/misinformation campaigns coming from overseas.

Quantum computers are under development around the world, and so is research and development on quantum encryption technology, which could conceivably crack the encryption methods used for contemporary computers and systems. China is making significant investments in quantum encryption and in establishing quantum encryption networks, this analysis notes.

Automotive Tech
Siemens acquired COMSA Computer und Software GmbH of Munich, Germany; financial terms were not disclosed. The company offers software for electrical systems design and wire harness engineering. The COMSA team and technology will join the Mentor business, part of Siemens PLM Software. Bishop and Associates estimates the worldwide cable assembly market last year was worth $155 billion, with about 30% of the market coming from automotive applications.

Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group is resuming testing of its autonomous vehicle technology in Pittsburgh, under new limitations – vehicles will travel no faster than 25 miles per hour, and they won’t be operated at night or in wet weather. The move comes eight months after an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz. There was a backup human operator in the vehicle, who was watching a television show on her smartphone and failed to brake in time.

Samsung is working with the Korean Transportation Safety Authority to come up with mobile network infrastructure for autonomous vehicles at the K-City test facility, a controlled urban environment serving as a testbed for self-driving cars. K-City cost about $10 million to construct and partially opened for business in November. The facility is located within the city of Hwaseong, around an hour’s drive south of Seoul.

Waymo One, the robotaxi service of Alphabet’s Waymo unit, launched on Wednesday in Phoenix, where the company has been testing self-driving cars for a while. The service is initially available to riders who were involved in the early stages of the trial program. Customers can use a mobile application to summon a self-driving taxi; the app provides an estimate of the fare for the desired route.

May Mobility this month is launching its autonomous shuttle service in Columbus, Ohio, as part of the Smart Columbus and DriveOhio initiatives and in cooperation with Ohio State University. Michigan-based May Mobility is offering a similar shuttle service in Detroit.

Members of the U.S. Senate are trying to push through the AV START Act bill before the current Congress adjourns this month, trying to provide federal regulations for autonomous vehicles (although the original bill did not include autonomous trucks). Similar legislation cleared the House last year, and the Senate Commerce Committee is trying to get a floor vote on the bill.

Faraday Future is facing an uncertain future due to its financial woes. After furloughing 400 of its 1,000 employees in October, the company is preparing to furlough at least 250 more employees as it continues to combat Evergrande Health, an investor, over payments due to the car company, precipitating a “financial crisis,” Faraday states. “We hope to solve the funding issue in 2-3 months,” the company says in a statement.

Amazon wants to get the voice-controlled Alexa virtual assistant into automotive vehicles, and it was on hand at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show to push that idea. The e-commerce giant is contending with Apple’s CarPlay system and Google’s Android Auto system for that application. Audi and BMW have integrated the Alexa assistant into new vehicles. More news is likely to come from Amazon at CES 2019.

An Android Auto update is on the way, providing an easier user interface and enabling the playing of music and responding to messages.

General Motors named Dan Ammann, its president, to serve as CEO of GM Cruise, the carmaker’s autonomous vehicle subsidiary. Ammann pushed for the 2016 acquisition of San Francisco-based Cruise Automation for more than $1 billion. Kyle Vogt, co-founder and CEO of Cruise, was named Cruise’s president and chief technology officer. GM plans to offer a driver-less service by the end of next year.

Carlos Ghosn will remain in detention until at least early next week while investigators in Japan continue to pursue a case against him for financial misconduct. The former chairman of Nissan Motor has been in custody since Nov. 19. He has also been removed as chairman of Mitsubishi Motors, which is part of the Renault-Nissan alliance.

SoftBank Group is reportedly leading a large investment in ParkJockey, a Florida-based parking startup. Mubadala Investment of Abu Dhabi is expected to participate in the funding. The investment is believed to be in the range of $800 million to $1 billion.

Arm is working with Telco Systems under an existing partnership agreement to develop network functions virtualization technology for the network edge, employing Arm’s Neoverse architecture. As part of their partnership, Arm and Telco are fostering an ecosystem for system-on-a-chip vendors, such as Marvell/Cavium and NXP Semiconductors, among other parties.

Achronix Semiconductor this week announced the immediate availability of its Speedcore Gen4 embedded FPGA intellectual property for integration into SoC designs. The new release includes the company’s Machine Learning Processor IP block.

Rambus says Micron Technology picked the Rambus CryptoManager Platform for Micron’s Authenta secure memory product line for protecting IoT devices. In addition, Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam selected the Rambus Token Service Provider for mobile payments to enable secure transactions for its customers.

Cypress Semiconductor acquired Cirrent, a provider of cloud-based services and software for consumer Wi-Fi products. Cirrent’s ZipKey Wi-Fi onboarding and IoT network intelligence offerings are available for developers of connected products using various Wi-Fi chips and operating systems.

Boston-based Superpedestrian aspires to selling commercial-grade electric scooters to fleet operators. Each of its heavy-duty scooters costs about $500 and can be bought by scooter rental companies in volume.

TrackR of Santa Barbara, Calif., has rebranded itself as Adero and shifted its product focus from smart trackers to an “intelligent organization system” platform. The system comprises smart tags and taglets, which adhere to various items, and communicate with an Android smartphone application. An iOS version of the app is in the works.

ORIX Capital Partners bought NTI Connect, a Chicago-based vendor of mission-critical network deployment offerings in data centers, fiber optics, video networks, and wireless networks. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The management of NTI, previously a portfolio company of O2 Investment Partners, will remain in place. NTI comprises three operating companies: CCSI Networks, Fairhaven Integration Services, and National Technologies. ORIX plans to make add-on acquisitions for NTI Connect.

TIBCO Software of Palo Alto, Calif., agreed to acquire France’s Orchestra Networks, a data management software supplier; financial terms weren’t revealed, although sources tell Reuters the purchase price is in the low nine figures. Orchestra counts Burger King, Citigroup, and Paramount Pictures among the enterprise customers for its EBX flagship software. TIBCO is owned by Vista Equity Partners.

Chinese startups received $56 billion in funding during the first six months of this year, compared with $42 billion for U.S. startups, according to a study by Preqin, a data provider, and INSEAD, a graduate business school. That information comes as the SoftBank Vision Fund is hiring an investment team in China, and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings investment fund is always looking for enticing startups.

BYD reports that it plans to have an initial public offering for its battery business by 2022. The Chinese manufacturer of electric vehicles has Berkshire Hathaway as an investor.