Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Drone delivery; Instagram woes; Arm’s auto chip.


Internet of Things
Unmanned aerial vehicles are delivering vaccines to the very remote village of Cook’s Bay, on the island of Erromango, one of 83 volcanic islands in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The drones can go from island to island faster than boats, which often are not a travel option during rough weather. Vanuatu this week began its vaccine deliveries by drones with support from Unicef, the Australian government, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Swoop Aero, an Australian UAV startup, won the contract to transport vaccines to Vanuatu after demonstrating that its drones could fly 30 miles over islands and ocean, touching down within a six-foot target circle. Each drone carries more than five pounds of vaccine, ice packs, and a temperature monitor. They can bear blood samples and other items on their return to base. The drones can fly at up to 60 miles per hour, and Swoop is preparing them for 80-mile round trips. The UAVs connect to the Iridium satellite network, so they can be remotely operated by satellite communications if cell networks are not available or operating.

The Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm that used social media to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, turned to Instagram for its disinformation campaigns after the 2016 election, according to reports issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The agency, widely believed to have ties to the Russian government, reduced its activities on Facebook and Twitter after those companies paid closer attention to the parties opening accounts to spread disruptive information. New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm that was involved in preparing one report, said that Instagram proved to be a very effective vehicle of engagement for the Russians, and it predicts that the Facebook-owned social platform will likely be “a key battleground on an ongoing basis.”

This analysis looks at Huawei Technologies and its “wolf culture” of pursuing business around the world, even when it meant breaking internal rules, international regulations, and sanctions against certain countries, such as Iran. Meanwhile, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States gave the greenlight to the $26.5 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, after the parent companies of the U.S. carriers, Deutsche Telekom and SoftBank Group, respectively, indicated they are reconsidering whether to continue purchasing telecommunications and network equipment from Huawei. The T-Mobile/Sprint merger still needs the approval of the Federal Communications Commission and other regulators before it can be completed next year. Huawei held a press conference at its headquarters in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, on Wednesday to dismiss allegations that its products could be used by the Chinese government to snoop on customers, including foreign government agencies. The company plans to spend $2 billion over five years on cybersecurity measures.

Thoma Bravo is said to be negotiating with TPG Capital and Intel on acquiring McAfee, the cybersecurity software vendor, Reuters reports, citing a source familiar with the matter. Intel acquired McAfee in 2011 and last year sold a 51% stake in the company to TPG Capital, a private equity investment firm. Thoma Bravo in October agreed to acquire Imperva for $2.1 billion and bought Veracode for $950 million, expanding its portfolio of cybersecurity companies. It has also reportedly approached Symantec, which has a market capitalization of more than $12 billion, about a potential acquisition. Meanwhile, McAfee issued its McAfee Labs Threats Report for December, which says cybercriminals are pumping out 480 new threats per minute. Internet of Things malware rose 73% during the third quarter, while cryptocurrency malware was up 71% in that period, compared with a year earlier, according to McAfee.

AT&T is offering a recovery service for business customers to reduce the risk in cloud-based data storage, collaborating with Sungard Availability Services and Amazon Web Services. The service is meant to help customers deal with the effects of disasters on their IT infrastructure. The new service can be used with hybrid clouds and promises to restore cloud services in four hours or less time.

The Department of Defense’s inspector general found significant cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the Missile Defense Agency and five locations in its Ballistic Missile Defense System. The issues include a lack of antivirus software, data encryption, and multifactor authentication, along with unpatched vulnerabilities dating back 28 years. The DoD IG investigators also found that server racks at two locations were unlocked and easily accessible.

Automotive Tech
Arm introduced the Cortex-A65AE processor, optimized for 7-nanometer fabrication. It is a multithreaded processor with integrated safety for handling sensor data in autonomous vehicles and high-throughput needs in IVI/cockpit systems. The Cortex-A65AE is a new addition for Arm’s Automotive Enhanced portfolio of IP, joining the Cortex-A76AE processor unveiled in September. Both chipsets can go into advanced driver-assistance systems and both support the company’s Split-Lock feature. The two processors will be shipped in vehicles beginning in 2020.

Congress will not act on legislation to accelerate the development of self-driving cars, with a crucial deadline passing on Wednesday, congressional aides tell Reuters. The federal tax credit of $7,500 for each electric vehicle sold will not be renewed, those aides added. Effective January 1, the tax credit for purchasing a Tesla vehicle will drop to $3,750, and the tax credit will go away entirely in 2020, unless there is action by the next Congress. Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday issued a final regulation streamlining the process for reviewing applications by automakers to deploy self-driving vehicles without brakes and steering wheels.

Christophe Sapet, founder of Navya, is out as CEO of the French autonomous shuttle startup, two weeks after the company said it would fall far short of its 2018 revenue forecast. Chief Financial Officer Frank Maccary will serve as the interim CEO. Four board members have stepped down, including the representatives of investors Keolis and Valeo. Navya had raised $73 million in private funding and went public on the Euronext Paris exchange in July, raising $42.75 million. The company says it has $27.4 million in the bank and recently secured a credit line of $34.2 million from European Investment Bank.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation approved the petition by Uber Technologies to resume testing of its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh. The tests began again this week, with fewer than five vehicles operating on a mile-long route between two offices of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group. Uber is reportedly seeking to resume driving tests in San Francisco and to perform manually driven road tests in Toronto, nine months after one of its vehicles hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Ariz.

The Financial Times reports that Ofo, the Chinese bicycle-sharing startup backed by Alibaba Group, is in dire financial condition due to fierce competition in the Chinese bike-sharing market. Ofo founder Dai Wei wrote in a letter to employees, “For the whole of this year we’ve borne immense cash flow pressure. Returning deposits to users, paying debts to suppliers, in order to keep the company running we have to turn every renminbi into three.” He added, “I’ve thought countless times…of even dissolving the company and applying for bankruptcy.”

China has five of the top 10 manufacturers in electric vehicles, Jordyn Dahl writes in this analysis. EVs are among the 10 pillars of Made in China 2025, she notes. While it’s difficult to get license plates for gasoline-powered vehicles in China’s cities, license plates are free and plentiful for EVs. “The world needs a different way of powering the economy,” says Bill Russo, CEO of Automobility, a Shanghai-based consulting firm. “China recognizes it can’t be dependent on fossil fuels—it will choke on its own fumes.”

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Luminar Technologies will work with Autonomous Intelligent Driving, Audi’s driverless technology spinoff, which is a supplier to Porsche, Volkswagen, and other brands of the Volkswagen Group. The companies previously partnered on developing LiDAR sensors for autonomous vehicle prototypes.

The Volkswagen Group is acquiring an equity stake of 75.1% in WirelessCar, the telematics unit of the Volvo Group, for $122 million. The transaction is expected to close during the first half of 2019, subject to regulatory approval. The proposed deal will allow the Volvo Group to focus on commercial vehicles, its core business since it sold Volvo Cars in 1999.

Ambarella of Santa Clara, Calif., launched the Ambarella CV22AQ automotive camera chip, meant to provide computer vision for deep neural network processing in advanced driver-assistance systems. The company will debut the technology next month at CES 2019. Ambarella is pairing the CV22AQ with HELLA Aglaia’s open application software for use in NCAP and Level 2 automated driving front-facing cameras.

NIO of Shanghai, China, rolled out its NIO ES6 high-performance, long-range electric SUV. Prices start at nearly $52,000 for the vehicle; the company is taking pre-orders for the ES6 through the NIO application, with deliveries beginning next June.

Synopsys announced the release of version 2018.12 of the RSoft Photonic Component Design Suite, which is said to have new features to improve the optics in augmented reality/virtual reality systems. It also announced that the Liberty Technical Advisory Board and the Interconnect Modeling Technical Advisory Board ratified new modeling constructs to address parasitic extraction and timing challenges at process nodes down to 2 nanometers.

Rambus says TravelMaster selected the Rambus Ticketing suite for smart ticketing with multiple operators. TravelMaster delivers and manages integrated and multi-operator ticketing in South Yorkshire.

Ford GoBike is increasing its electric bicycle fleet in San Francisco to 850 bikes, up from 250. As part of its partnership with Ford Motor, the bike-sharing system is expanding to the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay.

Autodesk agreed to acquire BuildingConnected for $275 million, net of cash. The transaction is expected to close by the end of January. BuildingConnected will add bid management, risk analysis, and other preconstruction offerings to Autodesk’s construction technology portfolio. Autodesk also announced the completion of its $875 million acquisition of PlanGrid, a supplier of construction productivity software.

The Industrial Internet Consortium reached an agreement in principle to merge with the OpenFog Consortium. The organizations expect to wrap up the deal in early 2019. Following the proposed merger, the IIC will address the Industrial IoT, fog computing, and edge computing.

The 2019 International CES opens Tuesday, January 8, and runs through Friday, January 11, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Lighthouse AI, a supplier of smart security cameras, is shutting down, finding the security camera market highly competitive. Its customers will receive refunds. CEO Alex Teichman wrote in a statement posted on the company’s website, “I am incredibly proud of the groundbreaking work the Lighthouse team accomplished – delivering useful and accessible intelligence for our homes via advanced AI and 3D sensing. Unfortunately, we did not achieve the commercial success we were looking for and will be shutting down operations in the near future.” He added, “We remain strong believers in a future with AI at your service, and look forward to inventing that future with you.”

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