Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Drone inspections; war exclusion; Apple’s LiDAR; IPOs.


Internet of Things
Combining artificial intelligence with unmanned aerial vehicles could provide a quicker and safer alternative to inspecting roadways for cracks, potholes, and other damage, according to a paper posted on arvix.org. “[M]anual visual inspection [is] not only tedious, time-consuming, and costly, but also dangerous for the personnel. Furthermore, the detection results are always subjective and qualitative because decisions entirely depend on the experience of the personnel … With recent advances in airborne technology, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with digital cameras provide new opportunities for road inspection,” the researchers write.

The Internet of Things is being implemented in smart city projects, and AT&T is involved in a lot of those projects. “IoT is a challenge for anybody because no one company does it all. And the approach we’ve taken at AT&T is to move beyond just connectivity – to provide some end-to-end solutions that make it easier for both the public sector, which will be a third of the IoT revenues across the world, and the enterprises to have end-to-end solutions packaged up and ready to go,” Mike Zito, AT&T’s general manager and executive director of smart cities, says in this interview.

Canalys forecasts the worldwide installed base of smart speakers will grow from 114 million units in 2018 to 207.9 million units by the end of this year. Smart speakers are poised to overtake tablet computers by 2021 in terms of the installed bases, the market research firm predicts. While the U.S. will have the largest installed base, with 46% growth in 2019, growth is accelerating faster in China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Researchers at Princeton University have developed IoT Inspector, an application for Mac OS that allows users to keep tabs on their smart home devices. The open-source tool can be downloaded here. There are wait lists for people who want a Windows or Linux version of the app.

When the NotPetYa cyberstrike happened in 2017, Mondelez International, Merck, and other affected companies thought they could be reimbursed for damage done to their operations by the cyberattack through their property and casualty insurance policies. Zurich Insurance, Mondelez’s insurer, surprised the company by invoking the “war exclusion” clause in its policy. That meant the insurer wouldn’t pay for damage done in an undeclared yet devastating cyberwar. The U.S. government later blamed hackers based in Russia for the cyberattack, further muddying the circumstances of the attack. Mondelez and Merck have both sued Zurich Insurance over their claims.

Andy Purdy, the chief security officer of Huawei Technologies USA, wants to see competing vendors scrutinized for their cybersecurity precautions. “We are the most scrutinized company in the world, with the most rigorous examination,” he says in this interview. “We have found some very important things to fix and that’s a good thing, we’re committed to fixing them. But in terms of the security of networks globally, now it’s important that our competitors also have their products evaluated.” Meanwhile, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfai said in an interview that he would be open to selling 5G chips and other components to Apple. That offer may have less value in light of this week’s legal settlement between Apple and Qualcomm.

Some VPN packages from Cisco Systems, F5 Networks, Palo Alto Networks, and Pulse Secure may improperly secure tokens and cookies, leaving those VPNs vulnerable to outside attacks, the Department of Homeland Security warns. The warning from the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency follows a notice from Carnegie Mellon University’s CERT Division that multiple VPN applications store the authentication and/or session cookies insecurely in memory and/or log files. Details are available here.

Lastline, a threat intelligence vendor, conducted a survey of cybersecurity professionals during the RSA Conference in March, getting responses from 136 participants. Around half of those pros said they would sooner walk barefoot into a public restroom than to use a public Wi-Fi connection, and 69% said they cover the webcams on their laptops. The company’s CEO, John DiLullo, said of the survey, “Today’s security experts recognize that the typical enterprise is in retreat and not winning the battle. Losses due to cybercrime hit a record in 2018 and it is largely believed that another record will be broken in 2019. People often believe that they are next in line, if they have not already been breached. No one feels totally safe. No one has that much hubris.”

Ixia, a business unit of Keysight Technologies, issued its third annual security report. Some key takeaways in the report: Software security flaws cause the majority of product vulnerabilities; humans are the weakest link; cyber hygiene is at an all-time low; security vulnerability disclosures are a double-edged sword; and crypto-jacking activity continues to grow. You may download a copy of the 2019 Ixia Security Report here.

Distil Networks brought out its 2019 Bad Bot Report, a white paper looking closely at automated Web traffic. Bots were behind 37.9% of all online traffic during 2018, the report notes, while bad bots are outnumbering good bots. Humans accounted for 62.1% of Web traffic last year, while bad bots represented 20.4% and good bots were behind 17.5%.

About 70% of the attacks its products detected during the fourth quarter of 2018 were aimed at vulnerabilities related to Microsoft Office products, more than four times the activity seen two years earlier, Kaspersky Lab reports. “None of the top most exploited vulnerabilities are in MS Office itself. Rather, the vulnerabilities exist in related components,” the cybersecurity company notes.

China Mobile’s application to provide cellular service in the U.S. is being opposed by Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who leads the Republican majority on the commission. “It is clear that China Mobile’s application to provide telecommunications services in our country raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks,” he said in a statement. Pai expects the FCC will vote on the application next month.

Tenable integrated Tenable.io with the Google Cloud Security Command Center. Tenable.io is a core component of the Tenable Cyber Exposure platform.

Reuters reports that Apple has talked with at least four companies about supplying the LiDAR sensors for self-driving cars, while also continuing to develop its own LiDAR technology, citing three people familiar with the discussions. The company is reportedly not satisfied with the state-of-the-art in LiDAR and is pushing potential partners to come up with a product that is more comprehensive yet less expensive to produce. Apple declined to comment on the report. It still remains unclear if the goal of the company’s “Project Titan” is to come out with an autonomous vehicle, or not.

Aeva, a Silicon Valley LiDAR startup that came out of stealth mode last fall with $45 million in private funding, reached an agreement with the Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit of Audi and the Volkswagen Group. The deal gives the German company access to Aeva’s LiDAR sensors for use in its “e-tron” development fleet vehicles in Munich. Four months ago, AID announced a similar pact to work with Luminar Technologies.

Toyota Motor agreed to sell electric vehicle technology to Singulato, an EV startup in China. Singulato gets a license to use the design of Toyota’s eQ, a battery-powered electric microcar. The Chinese company will redesign the car, with an eye on an early 2021 debut.

Daimler made a minority equity investment in Sila Nanotechnologies, a developer of next-generation battery materials. The German company led a new round of private funding for the American startup. “We are on our way to a carbon-free future mobility. While our all-new EQC model enters the markets this year we are already preparing the way for the next generation of powerful battery electric vehicles. Lithium-ion technology is currently the most efficient battery technology available, and still shows plenty of potential for the future. The advancements Sila Nano have made in battery performance are very promising. We are looking forward to a fruitful cooperation, pooling our know-how on further development and fast commercialization,” Sajjad Khan, Daimler’s Executive Vice President for Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Electric Mobility, said in a statement.

Prosecutors in Germany charged former VW CEO Martin Winterkorn and four other VW executives with fraud and other charges related to the automotive manufacturer’s cheating on diesel emission testing. Winterkorn resigned in 2015 after U.S. investigators disclosed the cheating scandal. Prison sentences in the case range from six months to 10 years, if the defendants are convicted in Germany.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles proposed to change rules that would allow companies to test light-duty autonomous trucks on public roadways. The self-driving vehicles in question would have to weigh less than 10,001 pounds. The DMV will take public comments on the proposed rule change until May 27, 2019.

The number of electric scooters available for use in San Francisco may expand from 1,250 to 2,500 under a proposal by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. Scoot and Skip are the only two companies permitted to provide e-scooters in The City. Statistics show that 63% of those e-scooter users are white, 68% have annual incomes of more than $100,000, and 82% are male. The SFMTA (known as Muni) wants the e-scooter companies to have more low-income residents among its customers.

Citi Bike last weekend took its electric bicycles off the streets of New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., after receiving multiple reports of riders being injured while attempting to brake the bikes, causing the front wheel to lock up and send the riders flying over the handlebars. “We recently received a small number of reports from riders who experienced stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel,” the company said in a statement on its website. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively removing the pedal-assist bikes from service for the time being. We know this is disappointing to the many people who love the current experience — but reliability and safety come first.” Citi Bike is owned by Lyft.

Boston-based Optimus Ride, a self-driving startup, will provide an autonomous shuttle service within the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. The shuttle will be available to about 8,500 workers at the 300-acre site, which now houses a variety of heavy and light manufacturing businesses. The service will be available to workers who want to use the new East River Ferry, which will dock at the Navy Yard. Autonomous vehicles are barred from testing or service on public streets in New York State, unless there is a safety driver with one hand on the steering wheel in the vehicle. Optimus Ride is also gearing up to provide ride-hailing trips for residents of the Paradise Valley retirement community in Northern California.

NXP Semiconductors invested in China’s Hawkeye Technology and signed a collaboration agreement with the Chinese company to develop automotive radar technology. “The collaboration with Hawkeye is evidence of NXP’s confidence in the Chinese market and our determination to continuously invest in the country,” NXP President Kurt Sievers said in a statement.

Forrester Consulting surveyed 54 automotive industry experts, who agreed that the current crop of prototype autonomous vehicles is at least a decade away from volume deployment. “The biggest challenge is around the foundational computing,” Robert Day, Arm’s director of automotive solutions and platforms, writes in this blog post. “The truth is the technology in test cars today must be replaced by trusted AV technology that is vastly more efficient, affordable and capable. It is actually a key opportunity for Arm as mindsets shift from concept to commercial and there’s a new focus on extending vehicle ranges through far more efficient artificial intelligence-capable compute technology that is safe, secure, and cost-optimized.”

DisplayLink has licensed Arteris FlexNoC interconnect IP for use in its integrated chipsets. “FlexNoC enables DisplayLink to build on a predictable infrastructure for high-frequency interconnects required in our SoC family,” says Ian Stacey, Vice President Silicon Engineering and Operations, DisplayLink.

Mentor, a Siemens Business, announced that Arm China has selected Mentor’s Questa Simulation with Power Aware verification solution to handle critical tasks in the development of next-generation, low-power microcontroller cores. Arm China selected the Mentor Questa solution after a thorough evaluation, during which Questa demonstrated smooth bring-up and delivered a 100% pass rate against all target designs.

Rambus announced its newest portfolio solution of 112G Long Reach (LR) SerDes PHY on a leading-edge 7-nanometer process node for next-generation terabit switches, routers, optical transport networks (OTNs), and high-performance networking equipment. As the industry rapidly transitions to 400GB and 800GB wired communication applications, 112G is a key building block necessary to support the ever-growing demand for more bandwidth in data center and network applications, doubling the data rate of 56G SerDes.

Synopsys announced its collaboration with STMicroelectronics to establish a Center of Excellence program to speed development of automotive electronic systems and software. The program focuses on delivering Synopsys Virtualizer Development Kits (VDKs) for the ST Stellar family of automotive multicore microcontrollers, enabling companies to accelerate the development of automotive electronic systems by enabling the move from physical to virtual testing. The first VDK with support for the ST Stellar MCU family is now available.

Boston-based Lightelligence unveiled a prototype of its optical AI chip, about the size of a printed circuit board, which is loaded with photonic components. The young startup demonstrates MNIST, a benchmark machine learning model that uses computer vision to recognize handwritten digits.

Japan Display, a supplier to Apple, is getting a $2.1 billion bailout from Chinese and Taiwanese investors, who will receive a 49.8% equity stake in the manufacturer of display panels. The investment group includes TPK Holding, a Taiwan-based producer of flat displays, and Harvest Group, a Chinese investment firm. The investors will also buy Japan Display shares and bonds worth about $714.6 million. INCJ, the fund backed by the government of Japan, will provide another $1.4 billion in capital to seal the deal, while lowering its ownership stake to 12.7% from 25.3%.

Siris Capital Group agreed to acquire Electronics For Imaging for about $1.6 billion in cash, offering $37 a share for all common stock in EFI, a digital printer based in Fremont, Calif. Including debt, the transaction is valued at around $1.7 billion, and it is expected to close by the third quarter of this year.

Salesforce.com will acquire Salesforce.org, a Salesforce software reseller that distributes grants and provides software to educational and not-for-profit organizations, for $300 million, which will go to the Salesforce.com Foundation, an independent nonprofit. Salesforce.com says the merger with Salesforce.org will yield annual revenue of $150 million to $200 million. Meanwhile, Salesforce.com signed a definitive agreement to buy MapAnything of Charlotte, N.C., a provider of geo-analytics, location, and mapping intelligence software and services. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The 10-year-old startup had raised almost $84 million in private funding from Salesforce Ventures, ServiceNow, and other investors.

Microsoft acquired San Diego-based Express Logic, a developer of real-time operating systems for the IoT and edge devices, especially those involving microcontrollers. Microsoft’s director of IoT, Sam George, wrote in a blog post, “Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS joins Microsoft’s growing support for IoT devices and is complementary with Azure Sphere, our premier security offering in the microcontroller space.”

Intel bought Basingstoke, U.K.-based Omnitek, a designer of field-programmable gate arrays for smart video and vision systems; financial details weren’t revealed. The programmable chip design firm was founded in 1998 and has developed more than 220 FPGA cores in its history. Omnitek is said to have 40 employees.

Zoom Video Communications completed its initial public offering, raising $751.3 million by selling nearly 20.87 million shares at $36 a share, and valuing the provider of videoconferencing software at $9.2 billion. The ZM stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market zoomed in its debut, rising 79% by midafternoon on Thursday to $64.44 a share, giving Zoom a market capitalization of about $16.56 billion. Prior to pricing the IPO, Zoom raised the offering’s range from $28-to-$32 to $33-to-$35 per share. ZM finished its first day of trading at $62, up 72.22% from the opening bell, before taking a break for the Easter holiday weekend.

Uber Technologies reports an investment of $1 billion in the company’s Advanced Technologies Group, valuing the unit at $7.25 billion. The SoftBank Vision Fund is putting in $333 million, while Toyota Motor and Denso contributed $667 million. Toyota may also contribute another $300 million over the next three years to help cover the costs of building commercial self-driving vehicles, Uber says. Early last year, SoftBank invested $8 billion in Uber, making it the largest shareholder in the ride-hailing and ride-sharing company, with a 16% equity stake. What about the forthcoming Uber IPO? Find details here.

IPO filings: Mayville Engineering of Mayville, Wis., filed for a $100 million IPO, planning to trade as MEC on the New York Stock Exchange, with Baird as its lead underwriter – it provides end-to-end manufacturing services for OEMs; Sonim Technologies of San Mateo, Calif., filed for a $58 million IPO, planning to trade as SONM on Nasdaq, with Oppenheimer & Co. as its lead underwriter – it makes mobile phones for customers in the industrial and public sectors; ConversionPoint of Newport Beach, Calif., filed for a $40 million IPO, planning to trade as CPTI on Nasdaq with Oppenheimer as its lead underwriter – it provides a software-as-a-service platform for e-commerce and marketing.

KKR and other private equity firms have been quite active in investing in cybersecurity startups in recent years, this analysis notes. KKR managing director Vini Letteri says, “Criminal activity is no longer breaking into banks and art museums; it’s stealing data and information, and you see this digitization of crime, if you will, which we think is really interesting. On every board that we sit on, which is hundreds of boards, cybersecurity is a topic of conversation.”

The Trump administration plans to auction more 5G spectrum and wants to spend $20.4 billion to provide broadband access in underserved rural areas. “Secure 5G networks will absolutely be a vital link to America’s prosperity and national security in the 21st century,” President Trump said at a White House event.

The 25th annual TSMC Technology Symposium is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23rd, in Santa Clara, Calif. Top executives of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing will be among the speakers at the daylong conference. The TSMC 2019 Technology Symposium will also be staged in Boston, Mass.; Austin, Texas; Hsinchu, Taiwan; Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Shanghai, China; and Herzliya, Israel. The symposium will feature an exhibition by TSMC Ecosystem Partners.


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