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Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Verizon’s NB-IoT; Intel bug; auto tariffs.

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Internet of Things
Verizon Communications launched its nationwide narrowband Internet of Things network, saying it covers more than 92% of the U.S. population. “There is a whole universe of smart solutions needing scalable and affordable connections,” Jeffrey Dietel, senior vice president of business marketing and products, said in a statement. “By launching our NB-IoT network, Verizon is taking yet another step in making that connectivity available and driving innovation in the IoT field.” The network carries Internet protocol and non-IP data traffic. AT&T and T-Mobile US have recently launched nationwide NB-IoT networks.

Lots of announcements came out of this week’s Internet of Things World conference in Santa Clara, Calif. Renesas Electronics demonstrated a real-time Industrial IoT gateway, real-time asset tracking, secure chip-to-cloud connectivity using the Renesas Synergy platform, energy harvesting with silicon-on-thin-buried-oxide technology, and embedded security for a connected world. Sequans Communications is partnering with Momentum IoT to offer LTE-M connectivity with the Momentum IoT Eagle 1 telematics tracking device to provide more cost-effective and more user-friendly fleet management. The rugged Eagle 1 device is said to enable fleet managers to monitor and track all aspects of their vehicle fleets, from fuel consumption and location to maintenance issues. Myriota is teaming with Eagle.io, a cloud-based environmental platform, to help protect the worldwide water supply. The two companies will work with MIoT, a manufacturer of third-party data loggers, with Myriota integrating its module into the Captis product line, and Eagle.io building a feature that will allow device configuration and management for the Captis from within their application.

Cybersecurity
Intel warned of a microarchitectural data sampling vulnerability in its processors made since 2011. The chipmaker says the hardware security flaw, which is called the ZombieLoad bug, enables a side-channel attack to exploit those flaws, instead of inserting malicious code. The company issued patches for its Intel Xeon, Intel Broadwell, Sandy Bridge, Skylake, and Haswell processors. Intel Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, Whisky Lake, and Cascade Lake chips are also affected, along with all Atom and Knights processors.

Two Florida counties had their election systems breached by Russian hackers in 2016, Governor Ron DeSantis disclosed Tuesday, while adding that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security prohibited him from naming the counties involved. He said the cyberintrusion was focused on the voter rolls, which are public information in the Sunshine State.

The WannaCry ransomware proliferated throughout the world two years ago. The cyberinfection still pops up on an occasional basis, although its ransom component was effectively neutralized at the time. The malicious code was thought to emanate from North Korea, utilizing National Security Agency cyberweapons. The ransomware spread through the Microsoft SMB protocol, and there are an estimated 1.7 million Internet-connected devices that are still vulnerable to WannaCry, although Shodan puts the total at 1 million, with most of them in the U.S. Those figures represent devices directly connected to the Internet, and don’t include millions more devices that connected to infected servers. Microsoft this week issued patches for a critical remote code-execution vulnerability in its Remote Desktop Services existing in Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2008. The patches for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 are unusual for the company, since both of those operating systems are out of technical support. Windows 8 and Windows 10 PCs aren’t affected by this vulnerability, according to Microsoft.

Recorded Future, a cybersecurity firm, estimates that at least 170 U.S. city, county, and state government systems have been subjected to ransomware attacks since 2013, including 45 police departments and sheriff’s departments. In 2019, there have been 22 known attacks on public-sector targets, including the ransomware attack on Baltimore city networks earlier this month. Albany, N.Y., was hit with a ransomware attack on a Saturday in late March which brought down the computers of the Albany Police Department, causing officers to fill out incident reports on paper.

This week in Huawei – President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and prohibiting U.S. companies from using telecommunications services solely owned, controlled, or directed by a foreign adversary. The order is clearly aimed at Huawei Technologies, ZTE, and other Chinese vendors of networking and telecom systems. The battleground is focused on the development of 5G cellular communications, where Huawei has a commanding share of the worldwide market for 5G infrastructure. Meanwhile, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer who has been confined to Vancouver, B.C. since she was detained at the Vancouver airport on December 1 of last year, wrote a letter to Huawei’s 188,000 employees. “Despite being physically restricted to a very limited space during my time in Vancouver, my inner self has never felt so colorful and vast,” she wrote in an English translation of her missive.

Disinformation about the European Parliament elections this month is being spread by Russia-linked social media accounts and websites. This disinformation campaign is being copied by far-right groups, also interested in disrupting democracies in Europe, this analysis notes. European Union investigators say the same digital fingerprints and tactics seen now are similar to previous Russian attacks, including the Kremlin’s documented interference in the U.S. presidential election of 2016.

Citizen Lab, an Internet research group at the University of Toronto, has uncovered a pro-Iranian influence operation which is spreading fake news made to look like it comes from legitimate organizations, such as Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The operation, which Citizen Lab dubs “Endless Mayfly,” has been going on since 2016, distributing fabricated articles attacking policies of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S.

Federal prosecutors indicted nine people involved in an alleged conspiracy to hijack SIM cards and to steal cryptocurrency, a scheme that took in $2.4 million. The hacking ring, called The Community, involved six people living in the U.S. and Ireland, prosecutors allege. Regarding the trade in SIM cards, prosecutors charged three employees at mobile phone companies with accepting bribes for inside information.

Firewalls, routers, and switches from Cisco Systems have bugs in their secure boot processes, according to Red Balloon Security. Code-named “Thrangrycat,” the bug is within Cisco’s Trust Anchor module, which has been incorporated in the company’s enterprise routers, switches, and firewalls since 2013. Red Balloon reports there is a separate bug in the IOS operating system. Cisco this week issued a security advisory about the secure boot vulnerability and announced a patch for some of the issues unveiled by the cybersecurity researchers.

Spyware was detected in the WhatsApp messaging application, which is used by 1.5 billion people on their Android smartphones and iPhones. The spyware was allegedly produced by the NSO Group, an Israeli company which provides software to government agencies to fight terrorism and to help law enforcement investigations. NSO’s spyware has been used by the governments of Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all countries that have questionable records in human rights. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, encouraged users to upgrade to the latest version of the app, while also updating their mobile device operating systems.

Members of Congress introduced bipartisan legislation calling for the Department of Labor to award grants helping to create and expand cyber apprenticeship programs. The Cyber Ready Workforce Act would also provide funding for career counseling, childcare, and transportation for participants in the programs.

The Cybersecurity Solarium Commission, formally established last week, seeks to emulate a commission formed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s to work out a nuclear strategy. Senator Angus King, I-Maine, is co-chair of the commission, which has 14 members and is drawn from academia, Congress, government officials, and industry.

Automotive/Mobility
Trump administration officials tell Reuters that the president is likely to delay a decision on imposing tariffs upon imported cars and parts by up to six months. This Saturday marks the deadline for a formal announcement from the White House on recommendations made by the Department of Commerce on weighing tariffs upon foreign cars on national security grounds. The White House declined to comment on the issue.

Volkswagen said it would invest nearly €1 billion (about $1.1 billion) in a battery cell production facility in western Germany. VW is also interested in reducing or simplifying its organizational structure. The group is considering options for its MAN Energy Solutions business, which makes large diesel engines for power plants and ships. Also under consideration is Renk, its majority-owned manufacturer of transmissions. The options include joint ventures, partnerships, and partial or full sales of those business units.

The Volkswagen Group selected Cree as the exclusive silicon carbide partner to VW for the German manufacturer’s Future Automotive Supply Tracks initiative. “The Volkswagen Group has committed to launch almost 70 new electric models in the next ten years, which is up from our pledge of 50 and increases the projected number of vehicles to be built on the group’s electric platforms from 15 million to 22 million in that timeframe. An effective network is our key to success. Our FAST partners are our strategic partners, each of them outstanding in their respective field. We want to shape the automotive future together,” Michael Baecker, Head of Volkswagen Purchasing Connectivity, said in a statement.

Automotive Ethernet connections will need to support higher rates of data transmission to meet the networking requirements of autonomous vehicles, Alan Amici of TE Connectivity writes in this analysis. “Wireless networks could offer some advantages in internal and external AV communication, but AVs cannot rely on a network with any chance of experiencing a delay, making wired networks the safest bet,” he notes. “Cars with semi-autonomous features currently have network speeds ranging from 500 kilobits per second to 1 megabit per second — but fully autonomous cars will require networks capable of speeds approaching 10-20 gigabits per second.”

China is outdoing the U.S. in development and adoption of electric vehicles, writes Jack Barkenbus, a visiting scholar at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vanderbilt University. Chinese consumers bought 1.1 million EVs in 2018, compared with U.S. sales of 358,000 EVs. China represents more than 55% of all worldwide EV sales. “A key element of an electric vehicle’s price is the cost of its batteries — and China already makes more than half of the world’s electric vehicle batteries. Battery prices continue to fall; industry analysts now suggest that within five years it will be cheaper to buy an electric car than a gas- or diesel-powered one,” he writes.

Uber Technologies brought out the online Uber Movement tool, which would enable cities to map travel times on a granular, street-by-street level, using the company’s trip data. Uber has aggregated speed data for streets in various urban areas, including Cincinnati, London, Nairobi, New York City, and Seattle. The tool would provide data on the flow of traffic for city planners and experts, offering data points on traffic management.

Elon Musk’s recent comments that adoption of LiDAR sensors in autonomous vehicles is “doomed” reverberates throughout the AV industry, writes Lance Eliot, an expert in artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. The CEO’s assertion to Tesla investors gives comfort to some in the industry who insist cameras will ultimately prevail in AV sensing. “Taking us more deeply into the acrimonious debate, the usual reply by the cameras-only camp is that conventional radar is merely a temporary bridge and once the cameras are good enough, apparently the radar will not be needed or will be considered a mere convenience of availability. They often toss into their points the notion that radar is less expensive than LiDAR and less bulky, those offhand comments won’t stand the test of time,” he writes. “For Tesla, if pressed by a lawsuit, they will need to defend in court their decision to not use LiDAR. As you can imagine, Tesla will be on rather shaky ground if it is shown that essentially all other autonomous cars are using LiDAR. The burden to explain and justify the lack of LiDAR on Tesla’s is going to be mighty steep.” Nissan Motor this week took the position of employing cameras and radar sensors, eschewing for now LiDAR technology or light-based sensors.

Nissan forecasts its operating profit for the fiscal year ending in March 2020 to decline almost 23% to $2 billion, blaming diminishing sales in Europe and the U.S. “We hope to hit the rock bottom in 2018 and 2019 and reverse the trend in the coming years,” CEO Hiroto Saikawa told reporters.

The National Labor Relations Board concluded that Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees of the ride-hailing company. “Drivers’ virtually complete control of their cars, work schedules, and log-in locations, together with their freedom to work for competitors of Uber, provided them with significant entrepreneurial opportunity,” an NLRB staff memo states.

ChargePoint, which operates a network of EV charging stations across the U.S., finds itself potentially at odds with BMW and Daimler, financial backers of the company, about the choice of a technical standard for charging technology. At issue is the proposed ISO 15118 technical standard. ChargePoint plans to run 2.5 million charging stations by 2025 and has raised more than $530 million in 10 rounds of private funding.

Livent wants to get more than half of its lithium sales from customers in the EV industry by 2020. While Tesla is a customer for lithium going into its EV batteries, other EV companies have yet to purchase the white metal from Livent. “Our customers are changing,” CEO Paul Graves told Reuters. “The auto supply chain is an increasingly critical area for us.”

Products/Services
Arm debuted the eMRAM-enabled Musca-S1 test chip, fabricated with Samsung Foundry process technology, and capable of running the Mbed OS and the Arm Pelion IoT platform. The test chip demonstrates the capabilities of FD-SOI body biasing and eMRAM technology to be used in system-on-a-chip designs for highly energy-efficient IoT devices, according to Arm. The test chip and development board will be made available to IoT device designers during the fourth quarter of this year.

Arteris IP reports that Black Sesame Technologies licensed Arteris FlexNoC interconnect IP and the FlexNoc Resilience Package for use in its advanced driver-assistance systems which utilize artificial intelligence algorithms for autonomous driving.

Mentor, a Siemens Business, announced that Shimadzu selected Mentor’s Xpedition design flow software as its corporate standard. The manufacturer of analytical instruments and medical equipment will use the Xpedition tool suite from concept design to schematic design, and on to their printed circuit board design-through-manufacturing flow.

Synopsys will collaborate with Elektrobit on accelerating automotive electronic systems development with virtual environments. The companies will bring together the Synopsys Virtualizer Development Kits, Elektrobit operating systems, development and test tools, and complementary expertise to enable pre-silicon and pre-electronic control unit (ECU) hardware availability and software development.

M&A
Tesla completed its $218 million acquisition of Maxwell Technologies, which is developing a dry electrode technology for EV batteries. It is also an ultracapacitor vendor.

Truck Hero of Ann Arbor, Mich., agreed to acquire Lund International of Buford, Ga., a manufacturer of branded automotive accessories. Truck Hero is a portfolio company of CCMP Capital Partners, while Lund is owned by Highlander Partners. The transaction terms were not disclosed. Chicago-based AHEAD, another portfolio company of CCMP Capital Partners, agreed to purchase Link Solutions Group of Saline, Mich., which provides computing, data storage, and networking products for data centers, serving enterprise customers across the Midwest.

Virtium of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., was acquired by Court Square Capital Partners, buying the company from L Squared Capital Partners. Financial terms weren’t revealed. Virtium is a vendor of solid-state drives, memory modules, and other solid-state data storage products for industrial embedded applications.

Cove Hill Partners invested in NetDocuments, a cloud-based content service platform for law firms and corporate legal and compliance departments. Cove Hill joins Clearlake Capital Group as a strategic investor in NetDocuments.

Finance
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based CrowdStrike, a leading cybersecurity firm, filed for a $100 million initial public offering. It plans to trade on the Nasdaq as CRWD. Goldman Sachs is serving as the lead underwriter. CrowdStrike reported a $140 million net loss on revenue of $250 million for 2018. The company raised more than $480 million in venture funding from investors including Warburg Pincus, which owns 30.3% of the company, Accel (20.3%), and CapitalG (11.2%). CrowdStrike had a post-money valuation of $3.35 billion nearly a year ago.

San Francisco-based Fastly, the provider of an edge cloud platform for optimized Web and application delivery, raised $180 million in its IPO, selling 11.25 million shares at $16 per share, at the upper end of its earlier pricing range, $14 to $16. The shares will trade as FSLY on the New York Stock Exchange. BofA Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, and Credit Suisse are the joint book-running managers for the offering. FSLY finished its first day of trading on the Big Board at $23.99 a share, up $7.99 and nearly 50% on the day.

Volkswagen is once again pursuing an IPO for its Traton Group unit, which makes trucks. Traton includes the MAN, Scania, and VW trucks businesses.

China’s BAIC Group wants to buy an equity stake in Daimler of up to 5%, Reuters reports, citing three sources familiar with the matter. The move is seen as a way to secure its investment in Beijing Benz Automotive, which manufactures Mercedes-Benz vehicles for the Chinese market.

Newport Beach, Calif.-based ConversionPoint, which provides a software-as-a-service platform for e-commerce and marketing, postponed its $40 million IPO on the Nasdaq.

JD.com is investing about $55 million for up to a 10% stake in Jiangsu Xinning Modern Logistics, a supply chain services provider specializing in consumer electronics.

Deals
Microsoft and Sony are partnering for streaming the Japanese company’s games and media on the Microsoft Azure cloud service. The two companies, which are competitors in video-game consoles, will also work together on developing image sensors.

Appian is allying with UiPath to bring together Appian’s low-code application development technology with UiPath’s enterprise robotic process automation software.

Market Research
Strategy Analytics estimates there were 22 billion devices connected to the Internet at the end of 2018. Enterprise IoT accounts for more than half of the market, followed by mobile/computing, with about 25%. The market research firm forecasts there will be 38.6 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2025, growing to 50 billion by 2030. A new report, Global Connected and IoT Device Forecast Update, is available here.


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