Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Google smartwatch; access control; Rivian investors.


Internet of Things
Is Google developing a Pixel Watch wearable? Perhaps, if recent job listings are any indication. The company recently was looking to hire someone as vice president of hardware engineering, wearables. Last month, Fossil Group sold smartwatch technology intellectual property to Google for $40 million, while Google hired certain members of Fossil’s wearables R&D team.

IBM Research, SweetSense, and The Freshwater Trust are collaborating on technologies to monitor groundwater use at a North American aquifer. The University of Colorado Boulder is providing research support for the project, which is funded by the Water Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Internet of Things sensors will send water extraction data to satellites, then the data will go into the IBM Blockchain Platform, hosted in the IBM Cloud. The project will work in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta of Northern California.

Keysight Technologies last month demonstrated its network emulation offering at CES 2019 to showcase an Industrial IoT application from NAVER LABS with Qualcomm 5G technology. The proof-of-concept demonstration connected the Snapdragon X50 5G modem from Qualcomm Technologies and Keysight’s network emulation tool to NAVER’s AMBIDEX industrial robotic arm.

Plume Design of Palo Alto, Calif., is working with TalkTalk to offer memberships to its service in the U.K. The Plume service includes Adaptive Wi-Fi, which offers connectivity throughout the whole home; SuperPods, tri-band Wi-Fi devices that plug into electrical outlets; HomePass guest access; and the Plume application. TalkTalk customers can sign up for Plume at £9 (about $11.56) per month.

Dish Network is a little more than a year away from completing its narrowband IoT network, a project estimated to cost $500 million to $1 billion. The company is also planning to build a stand-alone 5G network, which may cost around $10 billion.

Access control in enterprises is crucial to maintaining sufficient defenses against cyberattacks, writes Richard Bird, chief customer information officer at Ping Identity. Most companies use the Active Directory tool to manage access to IT systems and data, he notes. “But while Active Directory gives companies an efficient way to provide network access to employees, partners and vendors, it was never built with security in mind, which makes it easy to exploit,” Bird writes. Access management policies should not be considered equivalent to access control, he asserts.

Google reports it has paid out more than $15 million since launching its bug bounty program in November of 2010. In 2018 alone, it distributed $3.4 million to 317 security researchers, compared with $2.9 million paid to 274 researchers in 2017. Last year, $1.7 million went to reward the discovery of vulnerabilities in the Android and Chrome operating systems.

This week in Huawei: The Chinese telecom vendor finds its position in the Czech Republic in jeopardy after the country’s cybersecurity agency warned against using Huawei systems. Huawei responded by threatening litigation against the agency if it did not rescind its warning. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is closer to signing an executive order barring U.S. telecommunications companies from using equipment made in China for next-generation wireless networks, 5G infrastructure in particular. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Europe this week, urging allies to prohibit purchases from Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies. The proposed executive order would prohibit software produced in Russia from use in American telecom networks. Ericsson and Nokia would be exempt from such restrictions.

Russia is reportedly testing technology that could isolate its networks from the worldwide Internet. The country last year introduced the Digital Economy National Program, requiring Internet service providers in Russia to remain functional if they were cut off from the Internet and the World Wide Web. In that instance, ISPs would redirect Web traffic to routing points within Russia, relying on its own copy of the Domain Name System. Some observers say Russia is envious of China’s Internet access policies, tightly controlled by the “Great Firewall of China,” which keeps out Facebook, Google, YouTube, and other popular websites.

Dragos issued a series of reports looking back on 2018, regarding vulnerabilities in industrial control systems, ICS threat activity groups, lessons learned in threat hunting, and building an industrial cybersecurity strategy. They can be accessed here.

Amazon led an investment of $700 million in Rivian Automotive of Plymouth, Mich., in a deal that would possibly value the electric pickup truck manufacturer at up to $2 billion. Reuters earlier reported that Amazon and General Motors would be investors in the startup, citing people familiar with the matter. Amazon also participated in the $530 million funding round received by Aurora Innovation, another startup working on advanced automotive technology. Rivian previously raised more than $200 million in debt financing by Standard Chartered Bank and Sumitomo Corporation of America.

GM is branding its electric bicycles as Ariv. The e-bikes will be sold in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands beginning in the second quarter of this year, with prices ranging from €2,750 (about $3,100) to €3,400 (around $3,840). Two models will be offered, a compact bike and a foldable e-bike, with both powered by lithium-ion batteries.

This winter’s extremely cold weather in the U.S. can cause havoc with electric vehicles, according to AAA. The auto association notes that temperatures of 20 degrees F can decrease the average driving range of an EV by 41%. “The appeal of electric vehicles continues to grow since a greater variety of designs and options with increased range have come onto the market,” Greg Brannon, AAA’s director of automotive engineering and industry relations, said in a statement. “As long as drivers understand that there are limitations when operating electric vehicles in more extreme climates, they are less likely to be caught off guard by an unexpected drop in driving range.”

NavInfo reached a deal with BMW to provide digital maps for vehicles sold in China.

China Mobile announced it is developing a 5G smart highway in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. The Chinese carrier has installed 31 5G base stations in Wuhan, with plans to deploy 2,000 more base stations this year. The company has also applied for autonomous driving test permits.

Electra Meccanica Vehicles is assembling three-wheeled vehicles at a facility near Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The company’s Solo vehicles have a single seat and are priced at $15,500. Before the end of this year, 5,000 of those vehicles will be delivered for use in the Los Angeles area. Electra Meccanica plans to deliver 70,000 more Solos along the West Coast during the next two years.

President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that France will invest €700 million (more than $790 million) over five years on battery technology for electric vehicles in Europe. Germany has budgeted €1 billion (about $1.1 billion) for developing EV batteries. Two battery factories will be built in France and Germany, according to Macron. “As the president of France, I cannot be happy with a situation where 100% of the batteries of my electric vehicles are produced in Asia,” Macron said. “In terms of sovereignty and independence, I think it’s not good in the long run for our industry and the European industry to be 100% reliant on non-Europeans. So that’s why, according to me, on batteries, we need a European wake-up call.”

Arm is addressing machine learning and signal processing for embedded devices with the introduction of Arm Helium, an M-Profile Vector Extension to the Armv8.1-M architecture. The technology is aimed at next-generation Cortex-M processors. Arm Helium is said to provide a 15x performance improvement in machine learning and up to 5x uplift for signal processing tasks for the smallest embedded devices.

Achronix Semiconductor is launching a partner program for its Speedster FPGAs, Speedchip chiplet technology, and Speedcore eFPGA custom IP-block technology, taking in EDA tools, software, and IP vendors.

Synopsys debuted Simpleware ScanIP Medical, software with CE marking for the European Economic Area and FDA 510(k) clearance for the United States. The tool is developed using an ISO 13485:2016 quality management system, it was said.

Sequans Communications worked with STMicroelectronics to bring LTE for IoT connectivity to the microcontroller ecosystem, developing a dedicated cellular extension board for STM32 Discovery kits based upon Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M/NB-IoT technology. ST also enlarged its STM32CUBE cellular software library to support the GM01Q Monarch-based module from Sequans.

The Industrial Internet Consortium and the Wi-SUN Alliance will work together on interoperable wireless technology for use in smart cities, smart utilities, and other IoT applications. Their agreement calls for collaboration on interoperability, portability, privacy, and security for the Industrial Internet.

San Francisco-based Postmates, the food and grocery delivery platform, reports making a confidential filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. The company last month raised $100 million in Series F funding from BlackRock, Tiger Global, and other investors, carrying a post-money valuation of $1.85 billion. Postmates’ private funding totals about $680 million, including a $300 million round last year valuing the company at $1.2 billion. Lyft and Uber Technologies have also announced filing confidential documents for IPOs this year.

Dell Technologies is considering a sale of SecureWorks, a cybersecurity company in which it holds an 85.7% equity stake, Reuters reports, citing people familiar with the matter. SecureWorks has a market capitalization of $1.76 billion. Morgan Stanley is reportedly advising SecureWorks on the potential sale process.

FLIR Systems has agreed to acquire Endeavor Robotics for $385 million in cash. The provider of ground-based robotic systems to the Department of Defense and other customers is currently owned by Arlington Capital Partners, the private equity firm that bought Endeavor for about $45 million in 2016.

Dynamic Map Platform of Japan is purchasing Ushr of Livonia, Mich., for up to $200 million. Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor, and Honda Motor are among the Japanese company’s customers. Ushr provides 3D mapping data to General Motors. In 2017, private investors put $10 million into Ushr.

Dropbox completed its $230 million acquisition of HelloSign.

Symantec bought Luminate Security, which provides software-defined perimeter technology. Luminate’s Secure Access Cloud service will augment Symantec’s Integrated Cyber Defense Platform. Financial terms of the transaction weren’t revealed.

Qualcomm sold its Qualcomm Life business to Francisco Partners. The provider of medical-device connectivity will be renamed Capsule Technologies. Meanwhile, the chip design company sold its Halo electric vehicle wireless charging unit to WiTricity; financial terms weren’t disclosed. Qualcomm will remain a minority owner of Halo under the deal.

Amazon is purchasing San Francisco-based eero, a provider of mesh Wi-Fi devices for the home.

Veritas Capital and Elliott Management completed their $5.7 billion acquisition of athenahealth, which is being combined with Virence Health, a Veritas portfolio company.

Intel and Ericsson will collaborate on developing a hardware and software management platform for 5G cellular communications, network functions virtualization, and distributed cloud services. The effort pairs Ericsson’s software-defined infrastructure management software and Intel’s Rack Scale Design during a multiple-year project.

Sumitomo Electric Industries is partnering with Aquantia to enable the Japanese company to deliver multiple-gigabit Ethernet connectivity products for autonomous vehicles. Sumitomo Electric’s automotive business posted 2018 revenue of $15.5 billion.

Nuremberg, Germany, will host the embedded world Conference 2019 on Feb. 26-27-28. Intrinsic ID will be at the annual show, exhibiting with NXP Semiconductors and Renesas Electronics.

The RSA Conference returns to San Francisco’s Moscone Center during the week of March 4. Executives of Xerox, Mozilla, and Adobe will be among the keynote speakers.


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