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Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

IoT advances; German hacking; Faraday’s future.

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Internet of Things
Automotive, health care, manufacturing, and the public sector could be transformed this year by Internet of Things technology, Bob Violino writes. Taqee Khaled, director of strategy at Nerdery, a digital business consultancy, predicts 2019 will see rapid evolution in enterprise IoT pilot initiatives and implementations. “This acceleration is due, in part, to advances in manufacturing that have increased processing speeds, decreased physical size, and lowered costs of core technologies,” Khaled says. “However, barriers to adoption have also decreased, with more and more senior leadership teams having gained familiarity with IoT’s value proposition to the core business.”

Kroger is testing digital shelf technology that can enable self-checkout service at stores in the Cincinnati area and in Redmond, Wash. The latter is the headquarters site of Microsoft, which is helping the grocery retailer implement the necessary technology. Another company in the Seattle area, Amazon, has been a leader in demonstrating retail outlets that don’t need cashiers to function.

Google received a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission to operate a radar-based motion sensing device at higher power levels than other devices, Michael K. Spencer writes. This is part of the company’s Project Soli, which dates back to 2015. Soli is said to pack radar sensors on a chip the size of a 25-cent coin, tracking slight finger or hand movements at high speed and with great accuracy.

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress would establish an Office of Critical Technologies & Security within the White House. The director of the proposed office would report directly to the president. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

London’s Heathrow Airport briefly suspended departures this week due to a reported drone sighting. The episode comes shortly after drones disrupted operations at Gatwick Airport. The authorities have yet to establish who was responsible for the drone activities at Gatwick.

Cybersecurity
A young German student using a computer in the home of his parents was able to infiltrate the online accounts of about 1,000 people, most of them politicians, and to post personal information gained through the hacking during December on Twitter, after guessing weak passwords, such as “1234.” The 20-year-old man was detained, questioned, and released since he has no prior criminal record and is regarded as a juvenile under German law. The personal information was revealed day-by-day, mostly of politicians associated with the Christian Democratic Union, part of the ruling coalition in Germany’s federal government. No politicians associated with the Alternative for Germany party were affected by the hacking.

FireEye reports that its Mandiant Incident Response and Intelligence teams identified a wave of DNS domain hijacking affecting government, Internet infrastructure, and telecommunications entities in the Middle East and North Africa, Europe, and North America. “While we do not currently link this activity to any tracked group, initial research suggests the actor or actors responsible have a nexus to Iran,” the company states.

The National Counterintelligence and Security Center, which reports to the Director of National Intelligence, is offering to help U.S. companies resist cyberattacks from overseas, particularly those launched by foreign nation-state actors. “Make no mistake, American companies are squarely in the cross-hairs of well-financed nation-state actors, who are routinely breaching private sector networks, stealing proprietary data, and compromising supply chains,” William Evanina, the center’s director, said in a statement. “The attacks are persistent, aggressive, and cost our nation jobs, economic advantage, and hundreds of billions of dollars,” he added. Meanwhile, the partial shutdown of the federal government is having an effect on American cybersecurity and national security. The Department of Homeland Security reports that more than half of the staff assigned to its new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has been furloughed due to the continuing shutdown. The DHS Automated Indicator Sharing program, which facilitates sharing of threat intelligence between government agencies and private industry, has sent home more than 80% of its staff, Duo Security says.

Marriott International reported that approximately 383 million guest records were compromised in the four-year hacking of the Starwood guest reservation database. That figure compares with an initial estimate by the hotelier that information on up to 500 million guests was involved. Marriott added that the actual total is likely to be less than 383 million, since there apparently were multiple records for the same guests. The company also said there were about 8.6 million unique payment card numbers, all of which were encrypted, along with about 5.25 million unencrypted unique passport numbers and around 20.3 million encrypted passport numbers.

BlackBerry brought out three products meant to protect Internet-connected devices from hacking. “Everyone looked at BlackBerry as the most secure phone you could buy,” said Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates, adding, “They would like to leverage that label into the Internet of Things world.”

Blockchain technology may help improve IoT infrastructure security, this analysis notes. “A blockchain-based cybersecurity platform can secure connected devices using digital signatures to identify and authenticate them, adding them as authorized participants in the blockchain network and ring-fencing critical infrastructure by rendering them invisible to unauthorized access attempts,” writes Floyd DCosta, co-founder of Block Armour. “Each authenticated device joining the blockchain-based secure IoT network is treated as a participating entity, just like in a conventional blockchain network. All communication among these verified participants (IoT devices) are cryptographically secure and are stored in tamper-proof logs.”

Four months ago, the Government Accountability Office delivered a report to Congress, stating that of more than 3,000 GAO recommendations on cybersecurity made to federal agencies since 2010, about 1,000 of them have not been implemented. While some agencies agreed with the GAO’s recommendations, little or nothing was done, mostly due to organizational inertia, Taylor Armerding writes.

Governments are engaging with academia to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities, this analysis notes. The National Science Foundation awarded a $2.39 million grant to the University of Buffalo for training cybersecurity experts, among other joint efforts. The NSF is currently accepting proposals for pilot cybersecurity education programs at community colleges. The foundation has given out almost $75 million for cybersecurity research projects in 37 states.

Automotive Tech
Faraday Future reached a legal settlement with Evergrande Health Industry Group, the Chinese company that was making a $2 billion investment in the automotive manufacturing startup. Evergrande gains full control over Faraday’s activities in China while providing a bridge loan to Faraday, which experienced cash-flow difficulties in recent months as their legal dispute continued. Evergrande’s 45% equity stake in Faraday will be reduced to 32%, and Faraday will have the option to buy out Evergrande’s remaining stake in five years. Faraday’s workforce dwindled to about one-quarter of its size last year as the cash-starved startup furloughed hundreds of employees, some of which later found jobs with other employers.

All-electric vehicles, which now depend on lithium-ion batteries for their power, will need solid-state batteries in the future to ensure the viability of EV technology, this analysis notes. Tesla’s supercharger network currently can recharge an EV’s battery to 80% in about 30 minutes. EV batteries should be able to recharge in around 10 minutes, not several hours, according to industry experts. “We don’t see another way to get there without solid-state technology,” says Ted Miller, senior manager of energy storage strategy and research at Ford Motor. “What I can’t predict right now is who is going to commercialize it.”

SK Innovation is considering a $10 billion program to develop battery cells for use in electric vehicles. The South Korean company, a supplier to Daimler, Hyundai Motor Group, and Volkswagen Group, wants to be more competitive with the likes of Contemporary Amperex Technology, LG Chem, and Samsung SDI.

Daimler announced it will spend €500 million (more than $577 million) on developing trucks capable of Level 4 autonomy. The investment will create 200-plus jobs at the automotive manufacturer. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz is collaborating with Nvidia on developing an artificial intelligence architecture for cars. “We’re announcing a new partnership going forward, creating a computer that defines the future of autonomous vehicles, the future of AI, and the future of mobility,” Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said Tuesday at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

The Toyota Mobility Foundation announced five finalists in the three-year Mobility Unlimited Challenge, which is being run in partnership with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre. The five finalists will each receive a $500,000 grant to develop their aids for people with lower-limb paralysis. The finalist with the winning concept will get $1 million to carry out their ideas, with the decision to be made next year in Tokyo. At CES 2019, Toyota Motor unveiled its TRI-P4 automated driving test vehicle, based on the fifth-generation Lexus LS flagship sedan. Toyota’s Bob Carter says, “Full mobility is still many years down the road, perhaps at the end of the next decade. A lot of work needs to be done not only by Toyota but the entire industry.”

Intel’s Mobileye unit described its automatic preventative braking technology, which it claims could potentially eliminate most rear-end collisions. “Using formulas to determine the moment when the vehicle enters a dangerous situation, APB would help the vehicle return to a safer position by applying small, barely noticeable preventative braking instead of sudden braking to prevent a collision,” Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua wrote in a blog post.

Ford will roll out cellular vehicle-to-everything wireless technology starting with its 2022 models in the U.S. The CV2X connectivity will augment sensors in self-driving cars, providing more data to cameras and radar chips. Meanwhile, Ford is planning a significant reduction in force for its European operations, which employ 68,000 people. Among other moves, the company will close a transmission plant in Bordeaux, France. In another indication of retrenching in the automotive industry, Jaguar Land Rover announced that it will eliminate 4,500 positions, after buying out 1,500 employees last year.

Geely Automotive Holdings forecasts flat sales for 2019, after posting 2018 sales growth of 20%. Geely owns Volvo Cars and other automotive brands.

General Motors will work with DoorDash this year to start an on-demand food delivery program using driverless cars. A pilot delivery program will begin in San Francisco, offering restaurant meals and groceries.

NXP Semiconductors is collaborating with the Kalray chip firm to develop computers for self-driving cars. Kalray offers a parallel processor, similar to Nvidia’s chips, for processing visual data.

Byton reports that its EV factory being constructed in Nanjing, China, is on schedule for completion this year. The plant will be capable of producing 300,000 vehicles a year. The automotive startup plans to introduce its M-Byte SUV by mid-2019, with volume production commencing by the end of this year. Last June, Byton raised $500 million in Series B funding from FAW Group, Tus-Holdings, and CATL. The company has privately raised a total of $850 million from investors, while also receiving loans and subsidies from China.

Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors, appeared Tuesday in Tokyo District Court, challenging the allegations of financial misconduct brought against him and requesting a release from detention. He has been detained in a Japanese jail since he was arrested on Nov. 19 of last year. “I have been wrongly accused and unfairly detained based on meritless and unsubstantiated accusations,” he told the court, which later denied his request for release.

Products/Services
Arm debuted a unified data management offering for retail applications. Combining the Arm Pelion IoT platform and Arm Treasure Data customer data platforms, the new solution is meant to provide retailers with a way to securely consolidate, unify, and manage physical in-store IoT data and digital customer data. “The Arm Retail solution enables merchandisers to hyperlocalize items in the store based on shopper preferences,” writes Charlene Marini, vice president of strategy for Arm’s IoT Services Group.

The CES 2019 conference and exhibition overwhelmed Las Vegas this week, with much ado about 5G cellular communications, artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and virtual assistants, among other fields. While Apple has eschewed a presence at CES for some time now, favoring its own media events, the company was in the news at CES, about how its technology will now play nice with products from LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony, and Vizio.

Arm CEO Simon Segars referenced the advent of 5G at the outset of CES. “5G starts to become real in 2019 with superfast data speeds made possible from the first rollouts of more powerful and intelligent network services,” he wrote in a blog post. “It’s the start of a new era for consumers. Dreams of what 5G can do will turn into everyday products early in the year as 5G-fueled smartphones appear and seem to perform like sleek supercars compared to the push-bike handsets of just a few years ago.”

Advanced Micro Devices had plenty to discuss at CES, with Lisa Su, AMD’s president and CEO, giving a keynote address on Wednesday. The chip design company is squarely aiming at Intel and Nvidia, talking up how new chips will be introduced and shipped this year, made by its foundry partners with 7-nanometer processes, at a time when Intel is struggling to ship its 10nm chips.

Ginni Rometty, the chairman, president, and CEO of IBM, gave the opening keynote address at CES on Tuesday, touching on the topics of artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud services, and quantum computing. Her speech included presentations by executives of Delta Airlines, ExxonMobil, and Walmart.

Avnet introduced the Azure Sphere MT3620 Starter Kit, supporting the rapid prototyping of IoT implementations using Microsoft’s Azure Sphere service. The product is being demonstrated at CES.

Cepton Technologies introduced at CES its Vista-M and Vista-X LiDAR products, both of which are based on the company’s patented Micro-Motion Technology and can operate with Nvidia’s DRIVE in-vehicle AI computing platform. The Vista-M will go into vehicle headlamps, while the Vista-X will be placed in the rearview mirror, according to Cepton CEO Jun Pei. “This pretty much completes the Vista product line,” he said in an interview, with the new products building on the original Vista release in 2018. He added, “The result has been very nice, one of the most reliable products on the market.” Cepton is ready to put its Vista Series LiDAR into volume production, according to the company. “The LiDAR industry is entering a new phase, a difficult phase,” Jun Pei noted, with an estimated 50-60 LiDAR startups in the field. Yole Développement forecasts the LiDAR market will be worth $5 billion by 2023 and $28 billion by 2032.

Argus Cyber Security says its Argus IPDS Ethernet solution will be integrated into Marvell’s 88Q5050 automotive Ethernet switch, enhancing the product’s security. Meanwhile, Marvell Semiconductor worked with Rohde & Schwarz to demonstrate 1000Base-T1 compliance test cases for layer 1 (PHY), using Marvell’s validated chipsets and the German company’s test equipment.

Innovium selected the Synopsys IC Validator tool while working on its TERALYNX switch, capable of handling data at 12.8 terabits per second. The Synopsys software was used across more than 250 CPU cores. IC Validator completed full-chip design rule checking and layout-versus-schematic signoff on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing’s 16-nanometer FinFET process in one day, it was said.

M&A
Motorola Solutions acquired VaaS International Holdings for $445 million in cash and equity, adding automated license plate readers to its product portfolio for use by law enforcement agencies. VaaS forecasts its 2019 revenue will reach $100 million. The company was founded in 2014 and raised $5 million from private investors, according to Crunchbase.

CloudEndure, a disaster recovery startup based in Israel, was acquired by Amazon Web Services. Financial details weren’t revealed, although there are reports that the transaction’s purchase price was between $200 million and $250 million. Dell Technologies Capital, Infosys, Magma Venture Partners, VMware and other investors put about $18 million into CloudEndure.

Handelsblatt reports that Alibaba Group acquired Data Artisans, a German data analysis startup, for about €90 million (approximately $103.5 million).

Standard Cognition, an autonomous checkout startup with $50 million in private funding, made its first acquisition, buying Explorer.ai; financial details weren’t disclosed. Both companies were established in late 2017. Explorer.ai has developed mapping technology that could help Standard Cognition bring cashier-less retail to big-box stores.

QuickLogic acquired SensiML Corp., which offers the SensiML Analytics Kit for the practical application of local AI in edge/endpoint devices and applications. Details about the financial aspects of the transaction were not made public. SensiML will now operate as a division of QuickLogic.

Akamai Technologies agreed to acquire Janrain of Portland, Ore., a privately held developer of customer identity access management software. Janrain’s Identity Cloud will be integrated into Akamai’s Intelligent Edge Platform. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2019.

Finance
High-priced term sheets for promising startups are proving to be too expensive for KKR and other investors, this analysis notes. The current choppiness of the equity markets could bring more reasonable values for potential investors in Silicon Valley startups. The performance of the initial public offerings for Uber Technologies, Lyft, and other “unicorns” could help determine how private investments go in 2019.


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