Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Apple patents; Huawei woes; Uber rumor.


Internet of Things
Apple purchased a portfolio of eight granted and pending patents that belonged to Lighthouse AI, a smart home security camera startup that ceased operations near the end of 2018. The portfolio was acquired at about the same time, according to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office; financial terms weren’t revealed. Also not disclosed, as usual, is what Apple will do with this patent portfolio. They’re not likely to get into the security camera business, which is highly competitive. The patented technology could be useful for the cameras in the iPhone and iPad, this analysis notes. The company is reportedly developing a long-distance, 3D, time-of-flight camera for the 2020 iPhone and iPad models.

CTIA, the wireless industry association, approved AT&T’s HARMAN Spark as the first device certified under the trade group’s Internet of Things Cybersecurity Device Program. The HARMAN Spark is a plug-in device that is said to turn any car manufactured after 1996 into a connected car. Ericsson predicts that the worldwide number of cellular IoT connections will reach 4.1 billion by 2024. CTIA launched the certification program last year with the support of AT&T, Verizon Communications, and T-Mobile US.

Bipartisan legislation regarding cybersecurity standards for Internet-connected devices was introduced in Congress this week. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced the bill in the Senate, while Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) introduced it in the House of Representatives. Gardner and Warner proposed a similar bill during the 115th Congress, yet the measure did not advance. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) are supporting the new legislation. It also has the support of Cloudflare, Symantec, and other cybersecurity companies, along with academic researchers at Harvard University and Stanford University.

FogHorn Systems reports that NTT Data selected its Lightning software to provide on-premise real-time analytics and artificial intelligence to their industrial clients. The Japanese firm offers deep expertise with IoT consulting and integration services used by FogHorn in the telecommunications, manufacturing, and energy industries. NTT Data’s use of the Lightning tool’s edge computing technology will augment the company’s professional services, which include advisory and strategy services, consulting, delivery and integration services, systems development, and outsourcing.

This week in Huawei – the U.S. is threatening Germany with limiting its sharing of intelligence with Berlin if the Germans go ahead with awarding contracts to the Chinese company for 5G network infrastructure, The Wall Street Journal reports. Richard A. Grenell, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, wrote a letter to the country’s economics minister, saying that giving 5G equipment contracts to Huawei and other Chinese companies would jeopardize the cooperative relationship with German security agencies. One way Huawei is fighting back against U.S. efforts to shut out the Chinese vendor is how Huawei is embedding itself in the undersea cable networks that carry the world’s Internet traffic. Finally, Yi-Zheng Lian, an economics professor at Japan’s Yamanashi Gakuin University and the former chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, notes that China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law says, “All organizations and citizens shall support, assist and cooperate with national intelligence efforts according to the Law.”

AT&T announced the formation of AT&T Cybersecurity, a stand-alone division that combines AlienVault (acquired last summer) with the company’s security consulting and managed services. In addition, AT&T is the first North American network operator to join the Global Telco Security Alliance, an international group established last year by Etisalat, Singtel, SoftBank Group, and Telefónica.

Citrix Systems acknowledged a breach of its internal network. Stan Black, the company’s chief security and information officer, wrote in a blog post, “On March 6, 2019, the FBI contacted Citrix to advise they had reason to believe that international cyber criminals gained access to the internal Citrix network. Citrix has taken action to contain this incident. We commenced a forensic investigation; engaged a leading cyber security firm to assist; took actions to secure our internal network; and continue to cooperate with the FBI.” Resecurity reports notifying Citrix on December 28 about a breach that occurred earlier that month by the same hacker group. It estimates 6 terabytes to 10TB of data was stolen in the two recent breaches, particularly documents related to the FBI, NASA, and the aerospace industry, along with Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company.

American small businesses are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, which are expensive to repair in their aftermath, this analysis notes. Ransomware hoaxes can also plague such companies, which are annoying if not harmful.

Uber Technologies is considering selling an equity stake in its Advanced Technologies Group to the SoftBank Vision Fund and other investors for up to $1 billion, The New York Times reports, citing four people with knowledge of the matter. The Wall Street Journal originally broke the story. Uber, which plans to go public this year, would retain the majority ownership in the self-driving car technology unit The investor consortium reportedly includes an automotive manufacturer. Elsewhere, Waymo is reportedly seeking outside funding, The Information reports.

Volkswagen plans to eliminate up to 7,000 positions, aiming to improve productivity and to provide €5.9 billion (about $6.7 billion) of annual savings for its VW brand by 2023. The VW brand targets a 6% margin in 2022, compared with a 3.8% operating margin last year. Meanwhile, VW is betting on electric vehicles to help improve its profitability. “Software will account for 90% of future innovations in the car,” VW CEO Herbert Diess said at the company’s annual press conference.

Autonomous vehicles developed in China will differ from those created in Europe and the U.S., Patrick Lozada of Albright Stonebridge writes in this analysis. Chinese AVs will use the country’s BeiDou GNSS standard, rather than GPS, which is controlled by the American military. China is in the midst of installing a national 5G network and aims to have a 90% coverage rate for cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology by next year.

The City of Pittsburgh will require companies testing autonomous vehicles to immediately report any crashes that result in injuries to people. There are five entities that are testing AVs in the western Pennsylvania city – Aptiv, Argo AI, Aurora Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University, and Uber. An Uber AV last year had a fatal collision with a pedestrian at night in Tempe, Ariz., which has led to stricter regulation of AV testing.

Tesla backtracked on its plan to go to online-only sales, closing a few of its stores and keeping most of them in operation. At the same time, the company raised its vehicle prices by about 3% around the world. Tesla shuttered 10% of its sales locations, and another 20% of the stores are under review to decide their viability. Meanwhile, the amount of data collected by Tesla vehicles includes the vehicle’s location and personal settings, which may give pause to some owners with a greater expectation of privacy. Owners can opt out of supplying such data to the company, which shares it with other parties, but that could affect the vehicle’s performance, prevent over-the-air software updates, and disable some features, this analysis notes.

Bill Ford, the executive chairman of Ford Motor, says the automotive manufacturer is looking at reaching a supply agreement with a lithium producer. “We are looking at the entire supply chain and where we want to play,” he said. Lithium is key to the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles.

The GM Cruise subsidiary of General Motors plans to hire 1,000 more people by the end of this year, nearly doubling its workforce, as GM tries to launch a robotaxi service before the end of 2019. Most of the new hires will be engineers. GM Cruise is also expanding its office space in San Francisco, tripling in size.

Uber has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit filed in 2013 by paying $20 million to its driving contractors and their attorneys. The settlement covers about 13,600 drivers in California and Massachusetts who drove for the ride-hailing startup between August 16, 2009, and February 28, 2019. The company, which is in registration for an initial public offering this year, also agreed to implement a comprehensive written deactivation policy, institute a formal appeals process for certain deactivation decisions, and to offer quality courses for drivers.

The post-Ghosn era of the Renault-Nissan alliance begins. New board and management appointments are in place, and Mitsubishi Motors is still onboard as part of the automotive alliance. The moves came after Carlos Ghosn was released from a Tokyo jail on bail of nearly $9 million, while he is prohibited to leave Japan as prosecutors continue their investigation of alleged misconduct. Ghosn left the detention facility wearing a construction worker uniform, a cap, and a face mask, a disguise that only momentarily eluded the media representatives awaiting his release.

Looking ahead to the future of vehicles, the big oil companies are investing in electric-vehicle charging technology, this analysis notes. “When you listen to people arguing about the EV space nowadays, I feel very strongly that the passenger car and the car industry is at a Kodak moment,” ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said at the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference in Houston.

RoboSense reports its cold-resistant, all-weather LiDAR sensor will be in the GACHA, an autonomous shuttle robotaxi designed by MUJI of Japan, which will be tested in Espoo, Finland. The Chinese LiDAR startup collaborated with Sensible 4, an autonomous driving company in Finland, in deploying the RoboSense sensor.

Arm, Cadence Design Systems, and Xilinx collaborated on development of the Neoverse N1 System Development Platform, an infrastructure development platform for microchips with 7-nanometer features. The new platform is said to be silicon-proven on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing’s 7nm FinFET process technology. The SDP enables asymmetrical computer acceleration through the CCIX interconnect architecture, according to Arm. It is available to hardware and software developers for hardware prototyping, performance profiling/tuning, software development, and system validation.

Arteris IP reports that Silicon Mobility licensed Arteris FlexNoC interconnect intellectual property for use in its line of OLEA FPCU products, part of its SILant ASIL-D functional safety integrated architecture.

Marvell says its hard-disk drive controller and preamplifier are shipping in Toshiba Electronic Devices & Storage’s 16-terabyte Enterprise Capacity line of HDDs. In other news, Marvell brought out the Prestera CX 8500 line of Ethernet switches, which are said to move data at 2 terabits per second up to 12.8 Tbps, meant for edge and private data centers utilizing composable infrastructure. Meanwhile, Crehan Research reports that Marvell’s QLogic Fibre Channel technology continues to dominate the global market for the 16th consecutive year, as detailed in Crehan’s Quarterly Market Share Report for the fourth quarter of 2018.

At this week’s Open Compute Project Global Summit in San Jose, Calif., Rambus is demonstrating its hybrid memory research platform in collaboration with Alpha Data, IBM, Wistron, and Xilinx.

Synopsys had several announcements this week. The company released version 8.7 of its LightTools illumination design software for the modeling, analysis, and optimization of illumination optics. The Synopsys Design Compiler NXT, the latest in the Design Compiler line of RTL synthesis products, is now available. Synopsys brought out the Subsystem Verification Solution, Verification IP, and UVM source-code test suite for the new USB4 specification. Finally, the electronic design automation company says Renesas Electronics deployed the Synopsys Fusion Compiler RTL-to-GDSII implementation offering for its high-performance automotive system-on-a-chip devices and mission-critical microcontrollers for next-generation automotive designs.

U.S. military spending on artificial intelligence is accelerating. Project Maven is penned in for a 580% increase in funding in this year’s $717 billion National Defense Authorization Act. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will spend $2 billion over five years on military AI projects. The U.S. Army just released a $72 million grant to Carnegie Mellon University, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, and a consortium of other universities to work together on using AI tech for combat readiness. It is a five-year program.

F5 Networks agreed to acquire NGINX for about $670 million. The San Francisco-based startup provides an open-source Web server and specializes in application delivery. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter. Both firms are involved in multi-cloud application services. NGINX had raised around $84 million in private funding from NEA, Goldman Sachs, Index Ventures, and other investors.

Another San Francisco-based startup, Figure Eight, will be purchased by Appen, a publicly held company from Sydney, Australia, for $175 million in cash, with $125 million more to be paid depending upon Figure Eight’s performance. Figure Eight is in data annotation, offering a machine learning software platform with automated tools to convert unlabeled audio/video, image, and text data into high-quality AI training data. The startup was founded in 2007 as CrowdFlower. It raised about $58 million from Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, and other private investors.

I.D. Systems bought Pointer Telocation for about $140 million in cash and stock, with just over half of the consideration in cash. Israel-based Pointer provides telematics and mobile IoT software.

Okta agreed to acquire Seattle-based Azuqua for $52.5 million in cash. Azuqua is in the business of cloud-based integration and workflow automation. It was established in 2013 by former employees of Microsoft and had received more than $16 million in private funding from Insight Venture Partners and other investors.

Acquisitive Apple purchased Laserlike of Mountain View, Calif., adding a content discovery and personalization platform in the process, The Information reports. Three former engineers at Google started the company in 2015; they raised $24.1 million from Redpoint Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures, according to Crunchbase.

Tibco Software acquired SnappyData of India. Tibco is a portfolio company of Vista Equity Partners. SnappyData provides a high-performance, in-memory data platform.

SoftBank Group is establishing a $5 billion fund to invest in Latin American tech startups. The Japanese company initially committed $2 billion to the SoftBank Innovation Fund and will work with the SoftBank Vision Fund on larger investments. The new investment fund will target mid- to late-stage ventures.

Much the way PayPal executives, such as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, fanned out into Silicon Valley to start new companies and investment funds, the forthcoming initial public offerings are expected to produce a new crop of entrepreneurs and investors from Airbnb, Lyft, Pinterest, Postmates, Slack, Uber, and other startups, this analysis notes.

Volkswagen put off an IPO for its Traton trucks unit, citing uncertain market conditions.

Burlingame, Calif.-based Iswill Acquisition, a blank-check company aiming to invest in software and Internet technology, filed for a $230 million IPO. It plans to list on NASDAQ as IWAC.U. Cantor Fitzgerald is serving as the bookrunner for the offering, which will involve 23 million units at $10 apiece.

Tech Data of Clearwater, Fla., is partnering with Automation Anywhere to provide robotic process automation capabilities to its U.S. customers.


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