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Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Smart farming; DHS on DNS; LiDAR shake-out?

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Internet of Things
Tony Franklin, Intel’s general manager for Internet of Things Segments, is interviewed by Lorin Fries on how the chipmaker is helping to develop smart farming applications. “We focus primarily on high-performance computer technologies, as well as communication technologies, which have great applicability for food systems. We work closely with a broad ecosystem of partners to enable more data collection about the environment, to analyze that data, and to improve our ability to make decisions that improve operations, including on farms,” he says.

Hassane El-Khoury, president and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, touts his company’s smart home technology business in this interview at CES 2019. Cypress offers microcontrollers and Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity chips for consumer and Industrial IoT applications. On the consumer side, the company has placed ICs in Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, Nest Labs’ thermostats, and Oculus’ virtual reality headsets. Cypress aspires to fielding an MCU/connectivity combination chip for the IoT, according to El-Khoury. The chipmaker is also pursuing automotive electronics; the CEO says some 2021 cars will have at least $125 worth of Cypress chips on board. Last October, Cypress created a joint venture with SK Hynix System IC to continue its NAND flash memory device business, which has recently seen a significant drop in prices; the Korean company owns 60% of the JV, with Cypress retaining an equity stake of 40%. The company is keeping its NOR flash memory and SRAM product lines.

The Telecommunications Industry Association and the Internet of Things Community signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on promoting IoT technology. Partners of the IoT Community are said to include the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the Connected Vehicle Trade Association, and ReadWrite Labs. Harry Smeenk, TIA’s senior vice president of technology programs, said in a statement, “TIA looks forward to working with the IoT Community to enhance the development of the Internet of Things and enable the digital transformation of smart cities and smart buildings.”

Microsoft in April will open an artificial intelligence and IoT lab in the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, New Pudong Area, Shanghai. With 2,800 square meters of space, the new lab will focus on assisting users in developing IoT products and boosting the integration of AI, IoT, and enterprise digital transformation in such areas as finance, manufacturing, medicine, and retail. The lab’s services include marketing, prototyping, rapid design, and testing.

A drone flying about 3,500 feet above Teterboro Airport in northern New Jersey caused flight arrivals to be briefly suspended at nearby Newark Liberty International Airport on Tuesday evening. The sightings from two passenger airliners headed to Newark were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA prohibits drones from flying higher than 400 feet and being within five miles of most airports. Operations at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in the U.K. were recently disrupted by drone activity.

Cybersecurity
The Department of Homeland Security this week issued an emergency directive, alerting government agencies to be aware of Domain Name System hijackings that are apparently originating in Iran, as FireEye reported earlier this month. Homeland Security wants government bodies to audit DNS records for unauthorized edits, to change their passwords, and to enable multi-factor authentication for all accounts managed through DNS records. The Cyberscoop site reports that DHS is aware of at least six civilian agency domains affected by the DNS hijacking efforts.

A new law that went into effect last month in Australia requires high-tech companies to provide tools that would help law enforcement agencies in the country to circumvent encryption in their products. The legislation could have a chilling worldwide effect on Apple, Samsung, and other vendors of smartphones, this analysis notes.

Carbon Black issued a cyberthreat report, saying, “2019 promises to be a year where endpoint visibility becomes more paramount than ever as attackers continue to evolve and global tensions increase.” The full report by the Carbon Black Threat Analysis Unit can be downloaded here.

Huawei Technologies established a strong presence in Europe through extensive lobbying of governments and making donations to charities, in addition to some dramatic marketing, such as parking a shipping container full of its wireless equipment in front of German phone carrier facilities. For all of its efforts to break into the European market during the 21st century, the Chinese company is now seeing resistance to its installing equipment for 5G networks in European countries, this analysis notes. In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice plans to formally request the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, from Canada, where she was arrested on Dec. 1 after landing in Vancouver, B.C. Canadian authorities granted her bail and allowed her to stay at one of her homes in the Vancouver area, while keeping a close eye on her activities. The U.S. is expected to make its extradition request by the end of this month, meeting a 60-day deadline for such moves. That action may set off months of hearings in Canada.

Home automation systems can provide tremendous convenience for their users. They can also offer an unguarded attack vector for cybercriminals, this analysis notes. “Criminals rob banks because that’s where the money is,” says Charles Golvin of Gartner, adding, “They’ll commit cybercrimes because that’s where the opportunity is.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, proposes that the technology industry should create an Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a private clearinghouse where companies could share cybersecurity threats. The lawmaker has also drafted a technology privacy bill.

The Democratic National Committee was hacked during the 2016 presidential campaign, an effort apparently originating in Russia, where the government had an active interest in making sure that Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Democratic nominee for the presidency, would not be elected. Now, the DNC alleges that a Russian group was trying to hack the committee again after the 2018 midterm elections. Spearfishing emails went out to dozens of DNC email addresses on Nov. 14. Those emails were similar to those used earlier by Cozy Bear, one of the two Russian groups that breached DNC computers in 2016. FireEye and CrowdStrike both took notice of increased hacking activity last November, although CrowdStrike did not conclusively blame Cozy Bear for the activity.

Fortinet CEO Ken Xie writes about the cybersecurity skills gap in this piece. He suggests hands-on training for IT staff, updating the formal education process and encouraging greater diversity among job candidates, leveraging the expertise of military veterans making the transition to civilian life, and accelerating adoption of automation and machine learning.

Nexusguard reports that 65.5% of the distributed denial-of-service attacks during the third quarter of 2018 were aimed at communications service providers. These attacks took the form of targeting autonomous system number-level providers, spreading tiny attack traffic across hundreds of Internet protocol addresses to avoid detection. “Perpetrators are using smaller, bit-and-piece methods to inject junk into legitimate traffic, causing attacks to bypass detection rather than sounding alarms with large, obvious attack spikes,” Nexusguard chief technology officer Juniman Kasman said in a statement. “Diffused traffic can cause communications service providers to easily miss large-scale DDoS attacks in the making, which is why these organizations will need to share the load with the cloud at the network edge to minimize attack impact.”

Gemalto surveyed 950 companies that make or use IoT technology, and found that 48% of those companies have no idea if their IoT devices have been hacked. Almost all of the respondents acknowledged that IoT cybersecurity is crucial and 65% said securing such devices can be a competitive advantage in the market. As a result, consumers have little trust in IoT devices.

Troy Hunt, a security researcher, reports a hacker folder labeled “Collection #1” holds more than 772 million email addresses and nearly 22 million unique passwords, representing more than 87 gigabytes of purloined data. The spoils of multiple data breaches have been removed from an online hacking forum, he notes, but that doesn’t mean the information has gone away.

Dror Liwer, the founder and chief information security officer of the Coronet cloud security firm, writes that it’s time for small and mid-size businesses to get a financial incentive from the federal government to secure their data from cyberattacks. The usual firewalls and other consumer-grade precautions don’t provide sufficient protection, he asserts. The state of Maryland offers a Cybersecurity Investment Incentive Tax Credit, Liwer notes.

Automotive/Mobility
Could this be the end of LiDAR madness? To quote Sir Winston Churchill: “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” There are dozens of LiDAR startups, possibly up to 100 of them, currently working on the light-based sensor technology for automated driving, Joann Muller of Axios writes. Industry experts predict that only five to 10 LiDAR suppliers will ultimately survive. Velodyne LiDAR remains the market leader, with first-mover status, while facing competition from the likes of Innoviz, Quanergy Systems, Luminar Technologies, and Ouster. CB Insights estimates that LiDAR startups have received $1.1 billion in private funding since 2015, with $324 million of that total being invested in 26 deals during 2018.

Carlos Ghosn newsbreak! The jailed executive resigned as chairman and CEO of the Renault Group. What happens next?

Standards in autonomous vehicles, especially regarding cybersecurity, are a significant concern at the moment, Tamir Bechor of Claremont Graduate University writes. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and SAE International are developing uniform guidelines for worldwide deployment. “Cybersecurity is an important focus in ISO and SAE’s collaborative initiative to issue international safety standards for self-driving cars by 2020,” he writes.

Ford Motor, facing a challenging world market, is committing to making its gasoline-powered F-150 pickup trucks into all-electric and hybrid vehicles. “We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series – battery electric and hybrid,” Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, said at a conference in Detroit. The big automotive manufacturer will have competition in electric pickups from Tesla and Rivian Automotive. Meanwhile, Ford will collaborate with Clinc, a startup in the field of conversational AI, to offer voice recognition technology in its vehicles. Established in 2015, Clinc combines deep neural networks, machine learning, and natural language processing in its voice recognition offering. The Michigan-based startup has $7.75 million in private funding from Drive Capital, eLab Ventures, and other investors.

BMW and Daimler are combining their mobility divisions in a 50/50 joint venture, a move approved by antitrust regulators. The JV will make its headquarters in Berlin, Germany.

Apple says 200 employees were dismissed from Project Titan, the company’s self-driving skunkworks endeavor, with some moving to other internal projects.

Boeing tested its flying car prototype on Wednesday in Manassas, Virginia. The Autonomous Passenger Air Vehicle competes with similar research and development at Airbus and other companies.

The Waymo unit of Alphabet is expanding its operations in Michigan, featuring a new plant where it will add self-driving technology to vehicles supplied by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar Land Rover. Waymo will partner with Magna International, a Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry, to work on Chrysler Pacifica minivans and Jaguar I-Pace electric vehicles. The unit will invest $13.6 million to construct a facility in southeast Michigan and to create more than 100 jobs. The project has the potential to create up to 400 jobs, to which goal the Michigan Economic Development Corp. is providing a grant of $8 million for the project. Waymo currently has 20 employees working in Novi, a Detroit suburb.

Tesla is talking with Tianjin Lishen to provide batteries for its new Shanghai factory, Reuters reports, citing two people with direct knowledge of the matter. Panasonic currently supplies battery cells to Tesla, which is also forming an EV battery joint venture with Toyota Motor. Elsewhere, Tesla announced that it will have a 7% workforce reduction, affecting more than 3,000 jobs, in order to lower the starting price of its Model 3 sedan from $44,000 to $35,000.

Toyota and Panasonic are establishing a joint venture to produce batteries for EVs, starting by the end of 2020. The automaker will own 51% of the JV, with 49% held by Panasonic.

Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Samsung’s Harman International Industries subsidiary, sees great promise in Level 2 and Level 3 autonomous vehicles, which will be on the market before fully autonomous vehicles. Harman is working with tech firms in Israel to provide sensor fusion for such AVs. At CES 2019, Samsung and Harman announced that the Korean company’s Bixby personal assistant will be integrated into a digital cockpit system for vehicles.

Products/Services
Arm Treasure Data was recognized in the 2019 Gartner Data Management Solution for Analytics Magic Quadrant for the second time.

MorningCore Technology, a Datang subsidiary, licensed the EFLX 4K eFPGA for Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing’s 12-nanometer FinFET Compact technology process and the EFLX Compiler for programming the eFPGA from Flex Logix Technologies. The Chinese company also licensed additional seats of the EFLX Compiler for their customers to use.

NETINT Technologies licensed the Arteris IP FlexNoC Interconnect for use in its enterprise solid-state drive storage system controllers with on-chip video processors. NETINT’s Codensity G4 system-on-a-chip is at the heart of the company’s Codensity D400 SSDs and Codensity T400 video transcoders.

Synopsys debuted the DesignWare ARC EM Software Development Platform for accelerating software development and debugging of ARC EM processor-based SoCs for ultra-low-power applications, such as IoT, sensor fusion, and voice. The platform includes an FPGA-based hardware board and is supported by the company’s MetaWare Development Tool Kit.

Silicon Labs expanded its Wi-Fi portfolio of modules and transceivers for IoT applications, saying the Wireless Gecko portfolio reduces power consumption in half. New to the line-up is the WGM160P module, which combines an onboard Gecko microcontroller, host support, an integrated antenna, flash memory and RAM, and peripheral capabilities. The company is currently sampling the WGM160P, with production quantities planned for late February.

M&A
TomTom has agreed to sell its telematics and fleet management business to Bridgestone Europe for €910 million (about $1.03 billion). The company will now focus on its digital map business, which competes with Google and HERE.

Autodesk completed its acquisition of BuildingConnected for $275 million, net of cash received. BuildingConnected offers a preconstruction platform.

Fossil Group agreed to sell smartwatch technology intellectual property to Google for $40 million. The transaction is expected to close later this month. Some of Fossil’s wearables R&D team will join Google as a result of the deal.

R&D
The Federal Communications Commission is reactivating its Equipment Authorization System, three weeks after temporarily stopping the program due to the partial government shutdown. The FCC system tests and authorizes electronics products.

Finance

Strategic Cyber Ventures estimates that cybersecurity companies took in about $5.3 billion in venture capital during 2018, up 20% from the $4.4 billion invested in 2017. The lion’s share of the private funding went to companies based in North America, mainly in California, and followed by Asia and Europe.

Japan Display, which provides displays for Apple’s iPhone XR model, is in talks with Taiwan’s TPK Holding and China’s Silk Road Fund for an equity investment, giving those investors about 30% of the company. Disappointing sales of the smartphone are said to be the reason for the investment negotiations.

Farewell
San Francisco-based Munchery, which offered on-demand food-delivery services, went out of business on Monday, unable to keep competing with the likes of DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats. The startup had been scaling back operations for several months before the closure. Munchery was founded in 2011 and had raised $125.4 million in private funding, according to Crunchbase, with investors that included Menlo Ventures and Sherpa Capital.


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