Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Ag IoT; Huawei woes; Ford-VW deal.


Internet of Things
A dairy barn without any people working in it. An automated greenhouse for produce. Coming soon, little robots that will weed crop fields and look for diseased plants. This is Rivendale Farms, in the countryside west of Pittsburgh, which is 175 acres serving as a beta site for agricultural Internet of Things technology. The small farm has about 150 Jersey cows, each of which wear collars to track their activities. The cows are enticed to the dairy barn an average of four times a day with a special feed, and cows that aren’t ready for milking are detected with computer vision, then kept from feeding. Robots milk the cows, and their udders are automatically cleaned with iodine and steam after each milking. The owner and proprietor of this farm is not Old MacDonald, but Thomas Tull, a high-tech billionaire, a trustee of Carnegie Mellon University, and a former film producer. He aims to have Rivendale become self-sustaining by 2020.

Microsoft Enterprise Services won a Pentagon contract worth $1.76 billion over five years to provide engineering services to the Department of Defense, Coast Guard, and the intelligence community. The contract was awarded under the DoD’s Enterprise Software Initiative. The contract, running to January 2024, will include existing cybersecurity workloads, in addition to newer work with IoT and artificial intelligence technology at the network edge. Microsoft is in the running for an even bigger computing cloud services contract, the $10 billion, 10-year Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program, which is expected to go to a single vendor during the first quarter of this year. Amazon Web Services is seen as the frontrunner for that award. IBM and Oracle unsuccessfully raised protests over terms of the contract, arguing that it should be divided among multiple cloud providers, while Google dropped out of the competition.

Chris Penrose, president of IoT solutions at AT&T Business, talks about what the growing conglomerate is doing these days in an interview at CES 2019. AT&T had 48.2 million connected devices on its network during the third quarter of 2018, of which nearly half, 24 million, were connected cars, he says. When it comes to vehicle connectivity, the company is supporting both C-V2X and DSRC, according to Penrose. AT&T is working with Amazon Web Services, IBM, and Microsoft to move IoT data through their respective public cloud services, he adds.

The Trump administration this week proposed new rules for unmanned aerial vehicles, allowing drones to fly over populated areas and to operate at night without a special permit. The Federal Aviation Administration would require night-flying drones to have an anti-collision light illuminated and visible for at least three statute miles.

Fifth-generation cellular communications will no doubt boost the adoption of IoT, but when will 5G get here? This analysis looks at that topic. “Deployment of full 5G is some way away yet,” says Paul Bevan, research director for IT Infrastructure at Bloor, an advisory and consulting firm. “We are likely to see a rolling deployment of some 5G capabilities from 2020 onwards.” He adds that full-scale 5G deployments are not likely until around 2025.

Ren Zhengfei, the founder and CEO of Huawei Technologies, met with the press on Tuesday to deny, once again, that his company works with the Chinese government to enable cyberespionage on a global scale. He also praised Donald Trump as a “great president,” despite the efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to have his daughter, Meng Wanzhou, who is Huawei’s chief financial officer, extradited from Canada to face criminal charges. “I love my country. I support the Communist Party. But I will never do anything to harm any country in the world,” Ren told reporters. Meanwhile, Huawei is reportedly under investigation by federal prosecutors in Seattle, who are examining a case of trade-secret theft between the Chinese company and T-Mobile, which sued Huawei and won the civil suit in 2017.

Facebook reports that it removed 364 accounts and pages that purported to be genuine news websites in Eastern Europe, which were actually created by employees of Sputnik, a government-owned news site in Russia. The groups involved also spent $135,000 for ads on Facebook, starting in 2013.

Enterprise Strategy Group surveyed IT professionals around the world at the end of 2018, and 53% of respondents said there was a shortage of cybersecurity skills in their organization, Jon Oltsik, a senior principal analyst at ESG, writes in a blog post. “The cybersecurity skills shortage is nothing new. Alarmingly, the cybersecurity skills deficit has held the top position in ESG’s annual survey every year. Furthermore, the percentage of organizations reporting a problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills continues to increase,” he notes.

The U.S. Defense Department’s inspector general reports that more than 250 cybersecurity vulnerabilities, a few dating back a decade, are still unaddressed in the Pentagon’s networks. The watchdog office said the department hadn’t corrected 266 vulnerabilities found between July of 2017 and June of 2018. Two of those security flaws were identified in 2008. “Without proper governance, the DoD cannot ensure that it effectively identifies and manages cybersecurity risk as it continues to face a growing variety of cyber threats from adversaries, such as offensive cyberspace operations used to disrupt, degrade, or destroy targeted information systems,” the inspector general wrote in an annual report on the DoD’s cyber posture.

Partisan groups supporting Democrats indulged in disinformation campaigns during Alabama’s special election for a U.S. Senate seat in 2017, taking a note from foreigners who attempted to influence the outcome of the American presidential campaign in 2016. The move doesn’t bode well for the forthcoming U.S. election in 2020, this analysis notes, with both major parties likely looking to swing the vote to their side.

Check Point Software Technologies reports that the three biggest spreaders of malware through their software were cryptocurrency miners – namely, CoinHive, XMRig, and JSECoin. CoinHive was responsible for impacting 12% of organizations worldwide, while XMRig accounted for 8% and JSECoin 7%. Check Point notes that CoinHive, with its Monero-mining script, has been in first place for this ignominious honor for 13 straight months.

Check Point Research says there were vulnerabilities in the popular “Fortnite” online game that would allow a threat actor to take over the account of any game player, look at their personal account information, and buy V-Bucks, the virtual currency used in the Epic Games online platform. The game publisher was notified of the vulnerabilities and deployed a fix for the flaws. Sixgill, another cybersecurity firm, conducted a joint investigation with The Independent and found that hackers were buying V-Bucks with stolen credit cards and reselling the V-Bucks to launder the money transactions.

Two Trend Micro security researchers were able to demonstrate how to attack and manipulate construction cranes on a tour of northern Italy. They found their software was also able to take control of excavators, scrapers, and other construction machinery.

Dublin-based Corrata announced integrating its Zero Gateway advanced Internet security software with Microsoft’s Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection. The Irish startup has also joined the Microsoft Intelligent Security Association.

Matt Apuzzo reviews “Breaking and Entering: The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called Alien,” by Jeremy N. Smith. The nonfiction book chronicles the career and life of a cybersecurity professional who goes by the pseudonym of Alien. “The story offers just enough technological details to establish its bona fides without slowing its pace. It is a difficult balance,” Apuzzo writes. “Alien’s social-engineering techniques have been detailed in books by and about the hacker Kevin Mitnick and elsewhere, and will come as no surprise to tech-savvy or security-conscious readers. More casual readers will get an introduction to that world, but not a guide to help them understand it.”

Ford Motor and Volkswagen came to an agreement to work together on developing electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Ford plans to design and manufacture a compact pickup truck, based on the new Ford Ranger model, that both companies could sell in South America, Africa, and Europe. The American carmaker will also turn out a large delivery van, while VW produces a compact van, with both vehicles being sold primarily in Europe. The partners see these vehicles being introduced in 2023. Meanwhile, VW announced it will spend $800 million to expand its factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to manufacture EVs, beginning in 2022. Ford made other news by saying it will end its Chariot shuttle service in San Francisco and other U.S. cities, along with London, after acquiring the company in 2016 for a reported $65 million. Chariot was launched in 2014, emulating the ride-hailing service of Uber Technologies, only with commuter shuttle buses instead of passenger cars. In a blog post, Chariot stated, “In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly.”

The North American International Auto Show is taking place this week in Detroit; it will be open to the public during this weekend. Audi, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Mini (a BMW marque), and Nissan Motor are exhibiting electric vehicles they plan to sell in the U.S. market. InsideEVs.com estimates that 361,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. last year, with Tesla accounting for half of those purchases. Ford and General Motors are gearing up to bring out new EV models, too. Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is prospering, mainly because it abandoned the passenger car market well before its competitors, choosing to focus on pickups and SUVs. Its 2018 sales increased 9% from the previous year, largely on the strength of its Jeep brand, and Ram trucks are taking market share from Ford and GM in the full-size pickup segment.

Stockholm-based Veoneer reports it received a contract from “a global automaker” to design and manufacture a volume-production LiDAR system for autonomous vehicles. The Swedish supplier will commercialize an automotive-grade surround-view LiDAR system using Velodyne LiDAR’s scalable reference design and core 3D firmware technology. Velodyne reached a technical license agreement with Veoneer, transferring a detailed reference design enabling Veoneer to take responsibility for the automotive design, including implementation of cybersecurity and functional safety features for the LiDAR system. Veoneer specializes in advanced driver-assistance systems and automated driving.

The authorities in Portland, Ore., saw what happened with electric scooters being introduced into the streets and sidewalks of San Francisco, Santa Monica, and other cities. It decided to have a four-month pilot program to collect data on when and where e-scooters would be used in the community. Bird, Lime, and Skip were granted permits to place about 2,000 scooters on the streets of Portland. Once the pilot program ended in November, the city required the three companies to remove all of the scooters. A second, year-long pilot program may begin in the spring.

Aicha Evans, the chief strategy officer of Intel, was named CEO of Zoox, the autonomous mobility startup. The company has gone without a CEO since co-founder Tim Kentley-Klay was fired by the board last August. Zoox has raised about $800 million in private funding.

The Carlos Ghosn saga continues in Japan, with prosecutors bringing additional charges against the former chairman of Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors. His request for bail was refused on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the French government wants Renault to dismiss Ghosn as its chairman and CEO, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. The government owns 15% of Renault and holds two seats on its board. Reuters also reports that Nissan plans to file a civil suit against Ghosn, alleging his misuse of corporate funds.

Keaz and ShareRing have teamed up to offer a service that will allow users to book and unlock a rental vehicle in less than 30 seconds. The service secures transactions with blockchain technology. The rollout starts on March 29 in California and Nevada, Australia, and Hong Kong, then later expanding to London, England.

The London Electric Vehicle Company named Joerg Hofmann as its next CEO, succeeding Chris Gubbey, who is stepping down in February. Hofmann has previously worked at General Motors and Audi. LEVC is owned by Geely Automobile Holdings of China.

Rambus acquired the assets of Diablo Technologies, saying the purchase will expand its portfolio in flash memory technology and hybrid DRAMs. The Diablo patents will augment the existing Rambus NVDIMM portfolio and complement its high-bandwidth, low-power memory technologies. Financial terms of the transaction were not revealed.

Synopsys says Habana Labs has achieved first-pass silicon success for its Goya inference processor system-on-a-chip using DesignWare Controller and PHY IP Solutions for PCI Express 4.0. The chip startup is also integrating Synopsys’ DesignWare IP for PCIe 4.0 into the next-generation Gaudi training processor SoC. Synopsys also reports that a new version of its Coverity static application security testing tool is now available.

Baidu licensed the Arteris IP FlexNoC Interconnect for its high-performance Kunlun AI processor for use in data centers. The cloud-based AI chips are meant to provide AI training and inference.

Mentor, a Siemens Business, announces that Chips&Media successfully deployed Mentor’s Catapult HLS platform to design and verify their c.WAVE computer vision IP for detecting objects in real time, using a deep neural network algorithm. A case study white paper about the project is available here.

Sierra Wireless debuted AirLink Complete, a comprehensive management and support service providing cloud-based management, security monitoring, 24/7 technical support, and an extended warranty. The company says every purchase of eligible AirLink routers and gateways will include one complimentary year of AirLink Complete.

The Financial Times reports Cars.com hired J.P. Morgan to explore strategic options, including a possible sale of the company. The CARS stock gained 6.7% on Thursday on the news, giving the company a market capitalization of $1.69 billion.

The Calcalist website reports Salesforce.com is in negotiations to acquire ClickSoftware Technologies, a provider of workforce management software, for about $1.5 billion. Click is owned by Francisco Partners. The private equity firm bought Click for $438 million in 2015.

Zix agreed to acquire AppRiver of Gulf Breeze, Fla., from Marlin Equity Partners for $275 million in cash. AppRiver provides cloud-based cybersecurity software. As part of the transaction, True Wind Capital will make a $100 million convertible preferred investment in publicly traded Zix.

Amazon Web Services bought TSO Logic, which helps customers make the most efficient use of cloud resources. Financial terms of the transaction weren’t revealed. Founded in 2012, TSO Logic is based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Check Point acquired ForceNock Security of Tel Aviv, Israel, which provides Web application and API protection technology. The buyer will integrate ForceNock’s technology into its Infinity total protection architecture.

ASSA ABLOY agreed to acquire KEYper Systems of Harrisburg, N.C., a supplier of electrical and mechanical key management systems, specializing in automotive applications. Established in 1993, KEYper has about 25 employees and expects to have 2019 revenue of about $22 million. ASSA ABLOY anticipates closing the transaction during the first quarter of 2019.

Bain Capital is acquiring a majority equity stake in Santa Clara, Calif.-based Brillio, an IT consulting and services firm, spun out of Collabera in 2014. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

General Atlantic is buying a minority equity stake in powercloud GmbH, a German provider of energy software. Powercloud competes with SAP and counts E.ON and EnBW among its customers.

Egis Capital Partners and ABS Capital Partners have taken a majority stake in ClearObject, an IoT system integrator in Fishers, Ind. The company was founded in 2010 as ClearOne and has 52 employees.

Nvidia opened its robotics research lab in Seattle, housing 50 roboticists, 20 Nvidia Research staffers, and others from the academic community. The lab is led by Dieter Fox, who is on the University of Washington’s computer science faculty.

CEVA opened a research and development facility in Bristol, England, U.K.

The Telecommunications Industry Association urged President Trump and Congress to end the partial government shutdown, noting that the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t been able to continue its device approval process since Jan. 3. This means the FCC can’t evaluate connected devices to enable and support 5G deployment, the TIA notes.


Leave a Reply

(Note: This name will be displayed publicly)