Week in Review: IoT, Security, Auto

Winging it; Huawei’s week; meet Digit.


Internet of Things
The Wing unit of Alphabet this summer will begin making drone deliveries in the Vuosarri district of Helsinki, Finland. The unmanned aerial vehicles will bear food and other items from Herkku Food, a gourmet market, and the Café Monami restaurant. The drones will bear deliveries of up to 3.3 pounds over distances of up to 6.2 miles.

Comcast is reportedly developing an in-home device to monitor the health of residents, CNBC says, citing two people with direct knowledge of the project. (CNBC is part of NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast.) Sumit Nagpal, an Accenture executive who joined Comcast’s management earlier this year as senior vice president and general manager of health innovation, is overseeing the team working on the device. The company will reportedly begin pilot programs with the device by the end of this year, with an eye toward a commercial release in 2020.

MediaTek is addressing the Internet of Things market with its Rich IoT program, which features three new chipsets, a hardware evaluation kit, software design kits, and an ecosystem with industry partners. Out first are the MT8516 and MT8167 chipsets, to be followed by the MT8385 chipset, all incorporating Arm’s built-in TrustZone security. The chip company’s Rich IoT “Pumpkin” hardware evaluation kit will be available next month through Seeed Studio for the MT8516 and MT8167 platforms, with optional add-on peripherals, such as a camera adapter, a display adapter, and a circular microphone array from Vesper Technologies.

Resideo Technologies reports acquiring energy efficiency technology from Whisker Labs and hiring the startup’s team. This is the second acquisition since Resideo of Austin, Texas, was last year spun off from Honeywell International as a publicly held company.

This week in Huawei – what a week it’s been! It started off with a number of companies restricting their supply of products and services to the Chinese company following the Department of Commerce’s prohibition on providing microchips and other products to Huawei. The Commerce Department then said it would give American companies permission for 90 days to supply necessary components for existing cellular handsets and networks, a temporary reprieve on banning sales to Huawei. Google’s limitation of support for Huawei’s Android-based phones resulted in mobile carriers in Britain and Japan stopping sales of certain Huawei handsets, while Arm reportedly suspended business with Huawei because some of its chip designs contained technology developed in the U.S. Meanwhile, bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate, offering to cover the cost of removing Huawei-made equipment from 5G wireless networks. In other news, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing said the U.S. restrictions do not apply with the foundry’s shipments to Huawei. TSMC fabricates 7-nanometer system-on-a-chip devices for HiSilicon Technologies, Huawei’s chip design arm, with many of those devices going into Huawei brand smartphones for China and other markets. Stay tuned!

Fortinet issued its quarterly report on cyberthreats for the first quarter of 2019. “Due to their widespread use, Microsoft and Apache are permanent fixtures on the list for as long as we can remember. Routers of various types—represented this quarter by D-Link, Netcore, DASAN, and Linksys—have become staples as well over the last couple of years. But remote code execution attempts against the ThinkPHP development framework did pique our interest,” the report says. It adds, “40 different malware families (not variants) made the weekly top five list over the quarter when measured by volume per device. Most of them were routine offenders making the rounds during their latest campaign. Coinhive was one of those—until it was shut down in early March. On the botnet side of the house, Emotet is the standout for the quarter. The Emotet malware has been around for years, but got more lively in Q1 with several new campaigns leveraging its latest information-stealing, ransomware, and banking Trojan modules.”

SecurityScorecard assessed the cyber risk exposure of political parties in the European Union and the U.S. In its report, the company says the Democratic National Committee is trailing the Republican National Committee in bolstering its cybersecurity. “While SecurityScorecard believes the DNC has made significant investments in security since 2016, the organizational behavior at managing digital assets still lags behind the RNC,” the report states. “The DNC has spent the last two years completely overhauling its cyber infrastructure and we continue to welcome help from researchers and other organizations to help improve the security posture of the entire Democratic ecosystem,” says Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer.

Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced The Secure 5G and Beyond Act. The bipartisan legislation calls for the Trump administration to develop an “unclassified national strategy” to protect U.S. allies and consumers from threats to 5G systems.

David Wells of Tenable details a vulnerability that came to light in the Slack messaging application. Slack has patched the flaw in its v3.4.0 update. Meanwhile, Tenable reports it has 19 new or enhanced integrations, including new integrations with BlackBerry, Microsoft, and Alphabet’s Chronicle unit.

Risk Based Security reports there were 5,501 reported vulnerabilities during the first quarter, a record for a three-month period, and a 2.3% increase from 5,375 disclosed vulnerabilities in the same period of 2018. Nearly 38% of those Q1 vulnerabilities have publicly available exploits. More concerning – 38.2% of the Q1 vulnerabilities have no known fixes, the firm notes.

IoT devices for consumer applications are showing up in enterprise networks, potentially compromising those systems, Zscaler ThreatLabz reports. Security researchers say 91.5% of IoT transactions happen over a plaintext channel, and only 18% running that use SSL exclusively to communicate in enterprise settings.

The city of Baltimore is still unraveling the results of this month’s ransomware attack, this analysis notes. One amusing note: The hackers responsible for the attack included privacy statement boilerplate in one of their communications – “I want to mention that your privacy is important to us.”

Ford Motor is working with Agility Robotics on technology to make home deliveries with autonomous vehicles and a robot to take the package to the front door of the address where it’s going. Agility has designed and built Digit, a two-legged robot meant to look and walk like a human being. The robot is specified to carry packages of up to 40 pounds, go up and down stairs, walk naturally on uneven surfaces, and to not lose its balance and fall over when it is bumped. Digit is designed to fold up for storage in a self-driving vehicle. Meanwhile, delivery robots in various pilot programs are doing more than bringing groceries, meals, or packages to destinations. Along the way, they are collecting data that will prove valuable to retailers and other ventures making deliveries with the robots, writes Sudha Jamthe, director of DriverlessWorldSchool, who teaches AV Business at Stanford Continuing Studies.

Marta Hall, president and chief business development officer of Velodyne Lidar, disputes Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s assertion that LiDAR technology is unnecessary in autonomous vehicle technology. “I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about. He doesn’t understand how LiDAR works to make driving more safe. I don’t think when he talks about autonomy it’s truly autonomous,” she says in this interview.

Maven, the car-sharing service of General Motors, is being shut down in eight of the 17 U.S. cities where it was operating. GM confirmed that the service is no longer offered in Chicago and New York City, without naming other cities affected. It is reportedly keeping Detroit and Los Angeles among the remaining nine cities. Maven was started up in 2016, allowing customers to rent GM vehicles for short periods, using a mobile application. It later expanded to leases for ride-sharing drivers and an app-based service enabling car owners to share their vehicles with other people.

Automotive manufacturers around the world are cutting costs, as GM seems to be doing with Maven. Daimler CEO Ola Kaellenius, who just took over the top spot from Dieter Zetsche, has a plan to reduce administrative costs by about 20%, the Handelsblatt newspaper reports, citing company sources. Daimler declined to comment on the report. Meanwhile, Ford announced it will eliminate about 10% of its worldwide salaried workforce, cutting around 7,000 jobs by the end of August. The move will involve layoffs and voluntary buyouts; it is part of the company’s efforts to reduce costs by $600 million a year.

Scania, a truck brand of the Volkswagen Group, will invest more than $344 million to modernize its factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo, near Sao Paulo, Brazil. The decision to upgrade the plant comes as Ford is departing the heavy truck market in South America, closing its factory in Sao Bernardo do Campo.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is moving ahead with spending $1.6 billion on building a new assembly plant in Detroit and $900 million on retooling and modernizing another facility. The twin projects will create more than 6,400 jobs, including 4,950 positions in Detroit, along with 1,400 jobs at the Warren Truck Assembly Plant and 83 positions at the Sterling Stamping Plant in the Detroit suburbs. Construction is set to begin immediately, with the new assembly line turning out vehicles by late 2020. The company is retooling and upgrading its Jefferson North Assembly Plant.

The U.S. Postal Service is testing autonomous trucks to reduce its costs in mail delivery, partnering with TuSimple. The two-week, 1,000-mile pilot will see TuSimple’s self-driving rigs haul USPS trailers between Dallas and Phoenix, using Interstates 10, 20, and 30. The trucks will operate for up to 22 hours at a time, with a safety engineer and driver aboard. The national shortage of truck drivers is one factor driving the adoption of autonomous trucks.

Achronix Semiconductor this week unveiled the Speedster7t line of field-programmable gate arrays, designed for artificial intelligence/machine learning and high-bandwidth data acceleration applications. The new FPGAs feature a highly optimized architecture and ASIC-like performance with FPGA flexibility, the company states.

ClioSoft and Silvaco announced the release of Silvaco for SOS, an SoC design management platform developed by the two companies. The new offering integrates ClioSoft’s flagship SOS7 design management platform with Silvaco’s Analog Custom Design tool flow.

Arteris IP and Wave Computing will collaborate on a blueprint to help customers deal with compute-to-memory design challenges. As part of their working together, Wave will license Arteris IP’s Ncore Cache Coherent Interconnect, FlexNoC interconnect IP, and the accompanying FlexNoc AI package for use in Wave’s AI-enabled chips for its data center products.

Mentor, a Siemens business, is adding an AI/ML development kit and AI/ML enhancements to two of its design tools. The company’s new Catapult software High-Level Synthesis AI Toolkit and HLS ecosystem are meant to aid customers jumpstart development of complex machine learning IC architectures. The Calibre platform line is getting AI/ML enhancements, staring with Calibre Machine Learning OPC and Calibre LFD with Machine Learning.

Synopsys and Kudan will collaborate on optimizing Kudan’s simultaneous localization and mapping software algorithms for the Synopsys DesignWare ARC EV6x Embedded Vision Processor IP. The Embedded Vision Alliance named the DesignWare ARC EV6x Embedded Vision Processor IP with the Safety Enhancement Package as the “Best Processor” during the alliance’s annual Vision Products of the Year Award program. The company also announced its ZeBu Power Analyzer for software-driven SoC power analysis, providing much faster results. Meanwhile, Synopsys debuted its Datapath Validation application as part of its VC Formal offering. The DVP app is said to leverage the company’s HECTOR tech for exhaustive formal verification closure on datapath-intensive IC designs during the design and verification process. Finally, TSMC’s Open Innovation Platform Virtual Design Environment with Synopsys tools is now certified and available on the Google Cloud Platform.

Marvell Technology Group agreed to acquire the Avera Semiconductor unit of GlobalFoundries for $650 million in cash. Avera, the former ASIC business of IBM Microelectronics, will bolster Marvell Semiconductor’s portfolio for infrastructure ASICs. The transaction is expected to close by the end of Marvell’s 2020 fiscal year. Marvell will pay an additional $90 million in cash if certain business conditions are satisfied within 15 months. With its recent divestitures of wafer fabrication facilities in Singapore and the U.S., along with this transaction, GlobalFoundries will receive more than $1.4 billion in cash.

Aurora Innovation is buying Blackmore Sensors and Analytics of Bozeman, Mont. Blackmore is among the LiDAR startups that have collaborated with Toyota Motor, which is developing its own autonomous vehicle technology. Financial terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed. “Lidar is critical for developing a reliable self-driving system that can navigate our roads more safely than a human driver,” Aurora stated in a blog post. Blackmore raised $21.5 million in venture funding from investors including BMW i Ventures, Millennium Technology Venture Partners, Next Frontier Capital, and Toyota AI Ventures.

Zebra Technologies will purchase Burlington, Mass.-based Profitect, which provides prescriptive analytics for the consumer packaged goods and retail industries. Financial details of the transaction, which is expected to close in this quarter, weren’t revealed. Profitect had raised about $22 million in venture funding from Cedar Fund, Benhamou Global Ventures, Grayhawk Capital, and Vertical Venture Partners.

KnowBe4 acquired CLTRe, a firm in Norway that specializes in helping organizations to build and maintain a cybersecurity culture. Deal terms weren’t disclosed. CLTRe had taken in funding of €50,000 (about $55,900).

MSA Safety completed its $33 million acquisition of Sierra Monitor.

The Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act, bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate, would provide $2.2 billion in AI research and development funding for the next five years. The National Science Foundation would receive $500 million for research and new educational standards and institutions. The National Institute of Standards and Technology would get $40 million to establish AI algorithm benchmarks. The Department of Energy would be given $1.5 billion to set up five AI R&D centers. The White House has requested about $850 million for AI R&D.

Rohde & Schwarz, the Germany-based test and measurement equipment company, is discounting some of its fully loaded value-level test equipment for a limited time. The target is the R&D and education market. “It’s mainly going to be engineers less likely in manufacturing more likely in R&D lab. Often these fall [into the category of] they’re inexpensive enough that they have one on every bench. They’re designing either digital systems or IoT products where there might be a radio inside of it. Things with Bluetooth Wi-Fi,” Rich Markley, product manager, told Semiconductor Engineering.

We’ve often heard: ‘My projects change pretty regularly know every 12 to 18 months but I’m expected to use this for the next five years or seven years,’” said Markley. The customers don’t always know what their projects will entail, “and they don’t know what the problems might be. But we’ve also heard from them that they don’t know what their budget is going to be and if they will have money in the future to buy some of these upgrades and that they have money right now.” The promotion includes five oscilloscopes; two spectrum analyzers, three power supplies and one power analyzer. The equipment comes with all the features unlocked and runs for a limited time, from May 20, 2019, to December 31, 2019.

Craig Irwin of Roth Capital Partners told CNBC that Apple made a bid to acquire Tesla about six years ago. “Around 2013, there was a serious bid from Apple at around $240 a share,” he said in an interview. “This is something we did multiple checks on. I have complete confidence that this is accurate. Apple bid for Tesla. I don’t know if it got to a formal paperwork stage, but I know from multiple different sources that this was very credible.” Apple and Tesla did not respond to requests for comment. TSLA stock closed Thursday at $195.49 a share.

While the initial public offerings of Lyft and Uber Technologies have been disappointing, not all tech IPOs this year have been quite so disastrous, Kathleen Pender writes. Zoom Video Communications and PagerDuty are among the most successful IPOs in recent weeks, she notes. Another San Francisco-based cloud computing company, Fastly, got a 50% pop on its shares when it went public last week.

Salesforce Ventures is launching a $125 million Europe Trailblazer Fund, which will make investments in enterprise cloud startups.

Market Research
Juniper Research forecasts that smart city traffic technology offerings to reduce chronic urban congestion in the streets will produce $4.4 billion in revenue during 2023, compared with $2 billion this year. The leading cities in the world utilizing smart traffic tech are, in order: Barcelona, San Francisco, Singapore, London, and Portland, Ore. The firm has new research in Smart Cities: Leading Platforms, Segment Analysis & Forecasts 2019-2023. Juniper also offers a free whitepaper, The Future of Lighting & Urban Mobility in Smart Cities.


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