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Week in Review: IoT, Security, Autos

USAF contract; secret cyberattack; Pony.ai & Toyota.

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Products/Services
Rambus reports completing its acquisition of Northwest Logic, a supplier of memory, PCIe, and MIPI digital controllers. Meanwhile, the company named Sean Fan as chief operating officer. He previously served as vice president and general manager of the data center business unit at Renesas Electronics. Prior to its acquisition by Renesas earlier this year, Fan held senior executive positions at Integrated Device Technology for more than 19 years.

While Amazon, Apple, and IBM are often cited for their prowess in artificial intelligence technology, Microsoft and Google are the two American companies that have made the most out of their AI efforts, this analysis asserts. Microsoft created its Artificial Intelligence and Research engineering group in 2016. The Google unit of Alphabet has been collecting data for two decades, from its search engine and other sources, leading up to the unveiling of the Duplex human-like voice assistant at the 2018 I/O developer conference.

Mellanox Technologies announced that its Remote Direct Memory Access networking offerings for VMware’s vSphere enable virtualized machine learning technology to achieve higher GPU utilization and efficiency. The Nvidia vComputeServer for virtualized GPUs achieves 2x better efficiency by using VMware’s paravirtualized RDMA technology, compared with traditional networking protocols, it was said.

Personnel
Marvell Technology Group promoted Dean Jarnac to senior vice president of global sales. He will lead Marvell’s global direct and channel sales activities. Jarnac succeeds Tom Lagatta, who announced in May his decision to retire this year. Jarnac joined Marvell in 2017 as vice president of North America sales and global distribution. He previously held positions of increasing sales responsibility at Samsung, Broadcom, Freescale Semiconductor, Altera, and Advanced Micro Devices.

Internet of Things
Falkonry reports being awarded the next-phase AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research contract from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The Falkonry LRS machine learning system was evaluated. The system was selected by STRATCOM’s Joint Warfare Analysis Center to proceed with the Phase II program.

Thinking of turning your drone into a cool weapon? Don’t, says the Federal Aviation Administration. You could be subject to a fine of up to $25,000. “Perhaps you’ve seen online photos and videos of drones with attached guns, bombs, fireworks, flamethrowers, and other dangerous items,” an FAA public notice reads. “Do not consider attaching any items such as these to a drone because operating a drone with such an item may result in significant harm to a person and to your bank account.”

IKEA is delving deeper into the home automation system market with its Home Smart line of products, and by extension into the Internet of Things, this analysis notes.

Users of Nest Hello with an active Nest Aware subscription can now get notices of a package delivery to their homes. The new feature enables homeowners to draw “Activity Zones” on the doorstep or porch where packages are usually delivered.

Cybersecurity
A secret cyberattack two months ago wiped out a database used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s paramilitary forces, to plot attacks on oil tankers, The New York Times reports, citing senior American officials. Iran is still trying to recover information lost in the June 20 attack and to restart some computer systems, including military communications networks, taken offline, those officials add.

This week in Huawei – the U.S. Department of Commerce took in more than 130 applications from American companies for licenses to sell goods to Huawei Technologies, Reuters reports, citing unnamed sources. The federal government has yet to grant any of those licenses, said the people familiar with the process. Meanwhile, Gartner estimates Huawei’s smartphone sales increased 16.5% during the second quarter, while Apple’s iPhone sales dropped by 13%. Through a surge of sales within China, Huawei put more distance between itself and Apple in worldwide smartphone revenues.

As ransomware attacks increase against governments in the U.S., the National Guard is taking a larger role in helping to respond to cyberattacks in the homeland. “We’re seeing the whole of the first responder networks come to assist and mitigate the damage and get everything back up and running, and the National Guard is part of that response,” said General Joseph Lengyel of the U.S. Air Force, who oversees the National Guard.

Barracuda Networks, an IT security firm, reports more than 60% of ransomware incidents in the U.S. during the first half of this year were aimed at state and local governments. There were 55 known incidents involving governments during that period; that figure does not include the coordinated attack in Texas that affected 22 small municipalities. State agencies were hit only three times in those six months; most of the ransomware attacks targeted city, county, and town governments, the company’s report states.

Phishing emails regularly purport to come from Microsoft, PayPal, and Facebook, according to a report by Vade Secure. Rounding out the top 10 phony sources are Netflix, Bank of America, Apple, CIBC, Amazon, DHL, and DocuSign. “Over the course of the [last] quarter, our AI engine detected a staggering 20,217 unique Microsoft phishing URLs, for an average of more than 222 per day,” Vade Secure notes.

Researchers at the SafeBreach security firm say there is a vulnerability in the BitDefender Antivirus Free 2020 software that could allow malicious hackers to take control of a Windows PC. Romania-based BitDefender issued a security advisory and a patch to fix the flaw, while also noting that the flaw is found only in the free tool version.

Automotive/Mobility
China’s Pony.ai will work with Toyota Motor on safe mobility services, incorporating autonomous driving technology. The companies next month will begin a pilot program on public streets in Beijing and Shanghai. Meanwhile, Toyota and Suzuki Motor announced that they will take small equity stakes in each other, as they jointly develop next-generation automotive technology.

For the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Toyota will deploy a fleet of 3,700 vehicles, many of them electric vehicles, including about 500 fuel-cell vehicles, 850 battery-powered EVs, and dozens of self-driving shuttles.

Corey Levandowski, formerly of Waymo and Uber Technologies, was criminally charged Tuesday with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft from Google. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and posted $2 million in bail. The automotive engineer was ordered to wear an ankle bracelet. Levandowski simultaneously stepped down as CEO of Pronto.AI, his latest startup. Pronto’s chief safety officer, Robbie Miller, took over the CEO position.

With a change in CEOs and an underperforming initial public offering, Uber no longer seems to have the same corporate swagger it exhibited for so many years, this analysis notes.

China is taking a slow and steady approach to the testing of autonomous vehicles, Echo Huang writes in this essay.

Waymo vehicles are disrupted in operation by severe weather, and by dust, fog, smoke, and other conditions. “Challenging [environmental] conditions, which affect human driver and vehicle performance, are one of the leading contributors to crashes on our roads … Poor perception creates significant risk for other road users including pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicle occupants,” Waymo chief safety officer Debbie Hersman wrote in a blog post. “Waymo is working hard to master a variety of weather scenarios as part of our mission to improve road safety.”

Tip money intended for Dashers, the meal delivery people used by DoorDash, will now go directly to those workers, according to the company.

Ferdinand Piëch, who had a long career in management at Porsche and Volkswagen, thanks to his family’s ownership in those car companies, died on Sunday at the age of 82.

Once 5G connectivity is established in self-driving cars, C-V2X communications technology may finally win out over the Dedicated Short-Range Communications protocol, which has been under development for two decades, this analysis notes. Proponents of C-V2X say the technology will make cars smarter and driving safer.

A Ford Motor executive in an interview with The Telegraph in London, England, said self-driving cars will be like taxicabs in having a relatively short life. He predicts autonomous vehicles will need replacement after four years, compared with the nearly dozen years the average U.S. owner will keep a vehicle.

M&A
KKR seeks a buyer for Austin, Texas-based Epicor Software, a provider of enterprise resource planning software, Reuters reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The acquisition may be worth about $5 billion.

Syncsort of Pearl River, N.Y., agreed to acquire the Software Solutions business of Pitney Bowes for $700 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.

Cisco Systems bought Customer Analytics Technologies, known as CloudCherry, a Salt Lake City-based customer analytics startup, previously funded by Microsoft and other investors. This is Cisco’s fifth known acquisition of the year. This analysis looks at the company’s recent acquisition record.

Airship, a customer engagement company, purchased San Francisco-based Apptimize, a provider of A/B testing and optimization tools for applications.

Suitable Technologies sold Beam, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based developer of telepresence robots, to Blue Ocean Robotics of Denmark.

Accenture acquired Fairway Technologies, an American provider of engineering services. The firm will become part of the Accenture Product and Platform Engineering Services practice.

DXC Technology, an IT services company based in Tysons, Va., acquired Syscom, a Norwegian provider of service management solutions and security consulting. Syscom was founded in 1987.

Sony will sell its 5% stake in Olympus back to the medical equipment company for $762.88 million. The move was prompted by pressure from activist investor Daniel Loeb.

Finance
Megvii Technology, the Chinese AI startup known for the Face++ facial recognition platform, filed for an IPO in Hong Kong, seeking to raise from $500 million to $1 billion in the offering.

Peloton filed for a $500 million IPO. The connected fitness company reports a net loss of $196 million on revenue of $915 million for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019. The S-1 filing reveals that hardware revenue is much greater than software revenue for its stationary bicycles and treadmills.

Denver-based Ping Identity, an identity management software supplier owned by Vista Equity Partners, filed for a $100 million IPO. It plans to trade as PING on the Nasdaq. Goldman Sachs is the lead underwriter. Ping reports a net loss of $3 million on revenue of $113 million for the first half of 2019.

Datadog of New York, a provider of cloud app monitoring, filed for a $100 million IPO. It plans to trade as DDOG on the Nasdaq. Morgan Stanley is the lead underwriter. The company reports a net loss of $13 million on $153 million in revenue for the first half of this year. Datadog raised almost $150 million in venture capital funding. Index Ventures owns 20.1% of the company prior to the offering, while OpenView Venture Partners holds 16%, Iconiq Capital 11.3%, and RTP Ventures 8.2%.

Bloomberg reports McAfee hired Morgan Stanley and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to lead its forthcoming IPO. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that the cybersecurity company may seek to raise about $1 billion on a valuation of $5 billion. McAfee is owned by TPG Capital, Thoma Bravo, and Intel.

TeamViewer, a German provider of business collaboration software, plans an IPO on the Frankfurt exchange this year, Bloomberg reports. Permira, a private equity firm, owns the company. The offering may value TeamViewer at €4 billion to €5 billion (about $4.4 billion to $5.5 billion).



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