Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Internet of Cows; Russian hacking; AI for AVs.


Internet of Things
Cattle ranchers in Australia are using solar-powered ear tags to keep track of their herds, connecting through LoRa technology to locate their bulls, cows, heifers, and steers. SODAQ of the Netherlands and Lacuna Space of the U.K. are providing the Internet of Things technology and satellite-based LoRa connectivity to make this possible. “The main differentiator for LoRa over the other competing low-power, low-bandwidth, and long-range protocol standards for the Internet of Things is that it is the only one where you can build out a network from scratch without relying on any third-party providers,” Alasdair Allan, a technology researcher and consultant in Exeter, England, says in this article.

University of Glasgow researchers report development of solar-powered flexible supercapacitors suitable to function as power sources for advanced wearable devices. The team alternated layers of graphene and polyurethane to create a low-cost, flexible supercapacitor that passes solar power from the top layer to underlying storage surfaces. This supercapacitor design can provide 2.5 volts of power output, significantly greater than the 1 volt or lower output with previous supercapacitors.

LG Electronics has integrated Amazon Dash functionality into its Wi-Fi connected smart appliances for the home. LG’s dishwashers and washing machines can enable the Dash Replenishment function with the LG SmarThinQ application, connected to the user’s Amazon account. The sentient appliances take it from there, ordering detergents when needed and having them delivered.

A hacking group associated with Russian intelligence services attacked a number of civil society organizations in Europe, ahead of elections in May for the European Parliament and national elections in European countries, according to Microsoft. Among the groups attacked were the German Council on Foreign Relations, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and the European offices of the Aspen Institute. Microsoft blamed the attacks on the group known as Fancy Bear, which was involved in the 2016 cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee, according to the party and security researchers. “Today we’re announcing the expansion of Microsoft AccountGuard to twelve new markets across Europe, providing comprehensive threat detection and notification to eligible organizations at no additional cost and customized help to secure their systems,” Microsoft’s Tom Burt, corporate vice president, customer security and trust, wrote Wednesday in a blog post.

CrowdStrike reports that Russian hackers are eight times faster than their counterparts in China, Iran, and North Korea, and even among cybercriminals. Meanwhile, the National Security Agency and FireEye say Chinese and Iranian hackers are targeting American businesses and government agencies in the wake of the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement in 2018 and the Trump administration’s trade war with China. Boeing, General Electric Aviation, and T-Mobile have seen Chinese industrial-espionage efforts aimed at their operations, according to a U.S. intelligence briefing. The renewed cyberespionage comes after the Obama administration was able in 2015 to get the Chinese to scale back their probing for trade secrets among American companies.

This week in Huawei – British cybersecurity officials do not support a full and total ban of telecommunications equipment provided by the Chinese company, Reuters reports, citing people with knowledge of the matter. Allowing Huawei to supply next-generation networking systems, especially for 5G cellular communications, to the United Kingdom could have an impact on the working relations of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing group of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the United States, since the U.S. has urged other countries to boycott Huawei products made in China. The Wall Street Journal reports that Germany may allow Huawei to continue doing business there. Meanwhile, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei told the BBC that the U.S. stance on alleged cybersnooping by China and Huawei is “politically motivated” and led to the Dec. 1 arrest of his daughter, Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, who is detained in Canada; the U.S. has formally requested her extradition to the States. The U.S. Department of Justice denies that there are any political considerations in the detention of Meng.

For all the attention Huawei Technologies is getting in the media, Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins says his company is competitive with Huawei in Asian and European markets. “We haven’t seen any material impact from all of the noise in the system around this topic,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “If you look at the numbers and you look at our service provider business in both Europe and Asia, where we compete with them, they were both positive. So, we were able to compete.”

Tony Bradley, Alert Logic’s senior manager of content marketing and editor-in-chief of TechSpective, writes about Armorblox, a new company that incorporates natural language processing in its cybersecurity platform. The startup touts its platform’s natural language understanding capabilities to inspect the text context of everything, rather than just detecting file attachments or links to malware.

Nest Labs is requiring owners of its security cameras to change their passwords, claiming there are too many insecure passwords that could lead to data breaches. Nest users are locked out of their accounts until they complete the password change. The Google subsidiary says the move is motivated by recent hacks of the security cameras, not Nest’s security protocols.

More than 70 companies have entered the AI chip market in recent years, and about 100 AI chip startups have formed. That’s not including all those in full stealth mode. Many of these companies are aiming their efforts at advanced computing for autonomous vehicles. “A specialized AI chip market has emerged to create platforms that can perform these complex computations almost instantaneously, while using as little power as possible,” writes Bibhrajit Halder, CEO of an early-stage AV startup. Nvidia, Google, and Graphcore are leading contenders in this field, he notes. “Roughly 12–15 companies are pulling ahead with their next-generation AI chips, but solidifying a lead will require producing and scaling them as well, which could favor established players or motivate smaller companies to merge with larger ones, as Nervana Systems and Intel did,” Halder concludes.

Honda Motor this week said it plans to shut down its plant in Swindon, England, by 2021, putting 3,500 workers in jeopardy of losing their jobs. “In light of the unprecedented changes that are affecting our industry, it is vital that we accelerate our electrification strategy and restructure our global operations accordingly,” Katsushi Inoue, the chief officer for European operations, said in a statement. The British government expressed its disappointment with the decision, which is apparently unrelated to the Brexit tribulations. “The U.K. is one of the leaders in the development of these technologies and so it is deeply disappointing that this decision has been taken now,” Business Secretary Greg Clark said. Swindon has Honda’s only plant in the European Union, and the Japanese manufacturer is also planning to shutter its production facility in Turkey within two years. “Honda’s move doesn’t speak well of global growth and at the very least, raises a yellow flag about the automotive market over the next few years,” Bret Kenwell writes in this analysis. While Honda and other mass-market manufacturers may be headed for the exits as the Brexit deadline looms, many of England’s luxury automotive manufacturers, such as Aston Martin, Bentley Motors (part of the Volkswagen Group), McLaren Automotive, and Rolls-Royce, are nonchalant at the prospect of leaving the EU. Their vehicles command six-figure prices, and they are unlikely to feel much financial pain over the breakup, although Jaguar Land Rover, now owned by Tata Motors of India, is eliminating 5,000 jobs in its workforce of 40,000.

Amazon’s investments in Rivian Automotive and Aurora Innovation show the e-commerce giant’s embrace of automated driving technology, which potentially could help the company deliver its ever-growing stream of packages, without relying upon FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service. In 2018, Amazon ordered 20,000 Mercedes-Benz vans to bolster its own delivery fleet. Those vans run on diesel fuel, however. “For Amazon, this small investment is a good way to enlarge their bet on the E.V. automotive market without having to tool up a plant to find out if it will fly,” said Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor of Kelley Blue Book. “Over time, the Rivian investment could give Amazon a starting point to own and operate an in-house package delivery business.”

Nauto, a mobility startup backed by SoftBank and other investors, has acquired Newton Technologies of Pasadena, Calif.; financial terms weren’t revealed. Both companies have developed driver assistance products. Pear Ventures was an investor in Newton. Nauto has raised a total of $173.9 million in private funding, including a Series B round of $159 million from SoftBank and Greylock Partners in 2017. Its other investors include BMW i Ventures, General Motors Ventures, and Toyota AI Ventures.

Uber Technologies is offering its Autonomous Visualization System as an open-source project. It is a stand-alone, Web-based technology developed by the company’s Advanced Technologies Group. Details are available here.

Arm this week brought out the Arm Neoverse N1 platform, optimized for 7-nanometer process technology and aimed at use in cloud workloads, and the Arm Neoverse E1 platform, described by the company as a high-efficiency throughput platform. “We are moving from an Internet model that distributes video (Netflix and YouTube) to one that consumes, manages, and processes information produced at the edge. When you consider these factors, and the end of Moore’s Law, the days of one-size-fits-all computing are over. We are entering a new era driven by a greater diversity of specialized compute and the need for flexible architectures tailored to meet application-specific needs,” Drew Henry, senior vice president and general manager, Infrastructure Line of Business, wrote in a blog post.

Rambus announced the availability of its 32G Multi-protocol SerDes PHY intellectual property on the 22-nanometer fully depleted silicon-on-insulator (22FDX) platform of GlobalFoundries. The IP offers data rates of up to 32 gigabits per second and supports multiple standards, such as Ethernet, CPRI, JESD204B/C, and PCIe 4.0. It is meant for high-speed applications in data centers, wireless 5G infrastructure, and wireline communications.

Synopsys says its automotive Grade 1 temperature DesignWare Foundation, Analog, and Interface IP is being developed for the GF 22FDX platform. Avi Bauer, vice president of R&D at Arbe, said in a statement, “We need to work with leading companies who can support our technology innovation. GF’s 22FDX technology, with Synopsys automotive-grade DesignWare IP, will help us meet automotive reliability and operation requirements and is critical to our success.” Meanwhile, Synopsys stated that its Fusion Design Platform was used by Samsung Foundry to tape out its gate-all-around system-on-a-chip test chip, comprising several high-performance, multi-core subsystems. “Samsung Foundry has achieved many industry firsts in our drive to deliver differentiated process technology offerings to our comprehensive customer base. The latest tape-out, our GAA test chip, provides further validation of our continued commitment,” Jaehong Park, executive vice president of Design Platform Development at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement.

Ericsson updated its 5G Platform with seven new products in its Cloud Core portfolio. The dual-mode 5G Cloud Core will support both 4G and 5G cellular communications.

Marvell Technology Group named Sandeep Bharathi as senior vice president of central engineering. He previously held engineering posts at Intel, Xilinx, and Advanced Micro Devices. Neil Kim, Marvell’s chief technology officer and the current head of central engineering, plans to retire at the end of May.

Ahead of MWC19 next week in Barcelona, Spain, CEVA and Autotalks worked together to add C-V2X Rel. 14/15 support to the CEVA-XC DSP-based Autotalks chipset, capable of supporting both DSRC and C-V2X direct communications.

Market Research
Mobile Internet traffic will involve nearly a zettabyte (2 to the 70th power bytes) by 2022 and will represent 20% of worldwide Internet protocol traffic, Cisco Systems forecasts. The number of mobile Internet users is projected to rise from 5 billion in 2017 to 5.5 billion in 2022. More than 12 billion IoT devices and mobile-ready gadgets will be connected to the Web in five years, compared with about 9 billion in 2017.

Juniper Research predicts annual shipments of smartwatches will reach 166 million units by 2023. By that time, the market share commanded by Apple, Fossil Group, Fitbit, and Samsung together will slump to 43%. Hybrid smartwatches accounted for an estimated 22% of all smartwatches last year. The firm’s new research on smartwatches can be found here.

Tractica published a free white paper, “How Will 5G + AI Transform the Wireless Edge?

Lyft reportedly may float its initial public offering in early April, getting out ahead of Uber’s IPO, The New York Times reports, citing two people familiar with the company’s plans. The company’s roadshow, making presentations to prospective investors, may commence during the week of March 18th.

Meanwhile, the Uber IPO is seen taking longer for the Securities and Exchange Commission to review, given the variety of businesses it is in, aside from ride-hailing services, such as development of autonomous vehicle technology. The company’s unprofitability may give pause to some investors. Uber reported its net revenue for 2018 came to $11.3 billion, a 43% gain from 2017. In the fourth quarter of last year, the company posted net revenue of $3 billion and a net loss of $865 million. It had $6.4 billion in cash at the end of 2018.

Palo Alto Networks agreed to acquire Demisto for $560 million in cash and stock, adding to its cybersecurity portfolio. Demisto specializes in security orchestration, automation and response technology. Its purchase will bolster Palo Alto Networks’ capabilities in security information and event management tools. The transaction is expected to close in the acquirer’s fiscal third quarter. Demisto raised $69 million in private funding from Accel, Greylock Partners, Cylance CEO Stuart McClure, and other investors.

Radnor, Penn.-based Qlik, a portfolio company of Thoma Bravo, agreed to acquire Attunity for about $560 million in cash. Qlik is a business intelligence company and Attunity provides big data management software. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter.

Google is buying Alooma, a data migration specialist; financial terms weren’t disclosed. Alooma had raised $15 million in private funding from Sequoia Capital and Lightspeed Venture Partners, among other investors, according to Crunchbase. Google hopes to boost use of Google Cloud, which trails Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in the cloud computing market, with the purchase.

HelloSign, which was just acquired by Dropbox for $230 million in cash, competes with Adobe Systems and DocuSign in the e-signature market. It counts Instacart, Lyft, and Samsung among its 80,000-plus paying customers around the world, this analysis notes. It also offers HelloWorks, a workflow application that likely attracted Dropbox to make the purchase, Rich Duprey of The Motley Fool writes.

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