Tile secures $40 million to take on Apple AirTag with new products

Tile, the maker of Bluetooth-powered lost item finder beacons and, more recently, a staunch Apple critic, announced today it has raised $40 million in non-dilutive debt financing from Capital IP. The funding will be put towards investment in Tile’s finding technologies, ahead of the company’s plan to unveil a new slate of products and features that the company believes will help it to better compete with Apple’s AirTags and further expand its market.

The company has been a longtime leader in the lost item finder space, offering consumers small devices they can attach to items — like handbags, luggage, bikes, wallets, keys, and more — which can then be tracked using the Tile smartphone app for iOS or Android. When items go missing, the Tile app leverages Bluetooth to find the items and can make them play a sound. If the items are further afield, Tile taps into its broader finding network consisting of everyone who has the app installed on their phone and other access points. Through this network, Tile is able to automatically and anonymously communicate the lost item’s location back to its owner through their own Tile app.

Image Credits: Tile

Tile has also formed partnerships focused on integrating its finding network into over 40 different third-party devices, including those across audio, travel, wearables, and PC categories. Notable brand partners include HP, Dell, Fitbit, Skullcandy, Away, Xfinity, Plantronics, Sennheiser, Bose, Intel, and others. Tile says it’s seen 200% year-over-year growth on activations of these devices with its service embedded.

To date, Tile has sold over 40 million devices and has over 425,000 paying customers — a metric it’s revealing for the first time. It doesn’t disclose its total number of users, both free and paid combined, however. During the first half of 2021, Tile says revenues increased by over 50%, but didn’t provide hard numbers.

While Tile admits that the Covid-19 pandemic had some impacts on international expansions, as some markets have been slower to rebound, it has still seen strong performance outside the U.S., and considers that a continued focus.

The pandemic, however, hasn’t been Tile’s only speed bump.

When Apple announced its plans to compete with the launch of AirTags, Tile went on record to call it unfair competition. Unlike Tile devices, Apple’s products could tap into the iPhone’s U1 chip to allow for more accurate finding through the use of ultra-wideband technologies available on newer iPhone models. Tile, meanwhile, has plans for its own ultra-wideband powered device, but hadn’t been provided the same access. In other words, Apple gave its own lost item finder early, exclusive access to a feature that would allow it to differentiate itself from the competition. (Apple has since announced it’s making ultra-wideband APIs available to third-party developers, but this access wasn’t available from day one of AirTag’s arrival.)

Image Credits: Tile internal concept art

Tile has been vocal on the matter of Apple’s anti-competitive behavior, having testified in multiple Congressional hearings alongside other Apple critics, like Spotify and Match. As a result of increased regulatory pressure, Apple later opened up its Find My network to third-party devices, in an effort to placate Tile and the other rivals its AirTags would disadvantage.

But Tile doesn’t want to route its customers to Apple’s first-party app — it intends to use its own app in order to compete based on its proprietary features and services. Among other things, this includes Tile’s subscriptions. A base plan is $29.99 per year, offering features like free battery replacement, smart alerts, and location history. A $99.99 per year plan also adds insurance of sorts — it pays up to $1,000 per year for items it can’t find. (AirTag doesn’t do that.)

Despite its many differentiators, Tile faces steep competition from the ultra-wideband capable AirTags, which have the advantage of tapping into Apple’s own finding network of potentially hundreds of millions of iPhone owners.

However, Tile CEO CJ Prober — who joined the company in 2018 — claims AirTag hasn’t impacted the company’s revenue or device sales.

“But that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re making things harder for us,” he says of Apple. “We’re a growing business. We’re winning the hearts and minds of consumers… and they’re competing unfairly.”

“When you own the platform, you shouldn’t be able to identify a category that you want to enter, disadvantage the incumbents in that category, and then advantage yourself — like they did in our case,” he adds.

Tile is preparing to announce an upcoming product refresh that may allow it to better take on the AirTag. Presumably, this will include the pre-announced ultra-wideband version of Tile, but the company says full details will be shared next week. Tile may also expand its lineup in other ways that will allow it to better compete based on look and feel, size and shape, and functionality.

Tile’s last round of funding was $45 million in growth equity in 2019. Now it’s shifted to debt. In addition to new debt financing, Tile is also refinancing some of its existing debt with this fundraise, it says.

“My philosophy is it’s always good to have a mix of debt and equity. So some amount of debt on the balance sheet is good. And it doesn’t incur dilution to our shareholders,” Prober says. “We felt this was the right mix of capital choice for us.”

The company chose to work with Capital IP, a group it’s had a relationship with over the last three years, and who Tile had considered bringing on as an investor. The group has remained interested in Tile and excited about its trajectory, Prober notes.

“We are excited to partner with the Tile team as they continue to define and lead the finding category through hardware and software-based innovations,” said Capital IP’s Managing Partner Riyad Shahjahan, in a statement. “The impressive revenue growth and fast-climbing subscriber trends underline the value proposition that Tile delivers in a platform-agnostic manner, and were a critical driver in our decision to invest. The Tile team has an ambitious roadmap ahead and we look forward to supporting their entry into new markets and applications to further cement their market leadership,” he added.

#airtag, #airtags, #android, #apple, #apple-inc, #apps, #bluetooth, #ceo, #computing, #dell, #find-my, #fitbit, #funding, #gadgets, #hardware, #intel, #iphone, #mobile, #plantronics, #recent-funding, #sennheiser, #skullcandy, #smartphone, #startups, #tc, #technology, #tile, #u1-chip, #ultra-wideband, #united-states

The Station: Apple car shakeup, how Sept. 11 changed travel, and a pledge from airlines

The Station is a weekly newsletter dedicated to all things transportation. Sign up here — just click The Station — to receive it every weekend in your inbox.

Hi readers: Welcome to The Station, your central hub for all past, present and future means of moving people and packages from Point A to Point B.

Twenty years and one week ago, I was riding the monorail system at the Newark airport and pointed to the twin skyscrapers looming in the distance. “I can’t believe you’ve never been to the top of the World Trade Center,” I said to my then fiancé and now husband. Days later, I would walk into a restaurant in a Slovenian town and see a report on the TV about a plane crashing into one of those towers. Like so many of us, we spent the rest of that day watching the news and wondering what would happen next.

In all, four aircraft were hijacked the morning of September 11, two of which crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth in a field in Pennsylvania. In all, 2,996 people were killed.

The September 11 terrorist attacks triggered a series of events that would change the world forever, including how we move about it. My September 6, 2001 flight to Newark and then onto to Europe was the last time I would experience what now seems unimaginable: getting to an airport less than 45 minutes before my plane took off.

My trip home from Europe provided a forecast of what air travel would look and feel like, although some measures like when we were separately interviewed two different times prior to boarding, ended up being temporary.

Within months of my arrival home, passenger screening and security at airports would be handled by a new federal agency called the Transportation Security Administration. Security wasn’t the only aspect of air travel that changed.

The airline industry experienced skyrocketing losses that sparked a wave of cost-cutting, new fees for travelers and consolidation. According to the GAO, the U.S. airline industry lost $23 billion between 2001 and 2003 and some of the nation’s biggest airlines including USAir and United Airlines filed for bankruptcy.

The airline industry would suffer financial losses during the Great Recession of 2008, causing more bankruptcies and consolidation. Today, most domestic flights are controlled by four airlines: American, Delta, Southwest and United.

After recovering and stringing together a few years of profitability, the airline industry (and how we travel) would get hit again: this time from the COVID-19 pandemic.

p.s. Thanks to co-worker and cybersecurity editor Zack Whittaker for the photo (featured as the main image for the post) he snapped yesterday.

As always, you can email me at kirsten.korosec@techcrunch.com to share thoughts, criticisms, opinions or tips. You also can send a direct message to me at Twitter — @kirstenkorosec.

Micromobbin’

We’ve talked before about the possibilities of shared micromobility to help cities create more equitable and accessible transit ecosystems. Shared operators have expanded this idea to support activism.

Agencies and operators provided free or discounted trips for demonstrators to get to events, according to the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association’s 2020 report on the state of the shared micromobility industry, Many even donated or fundraised for racial justice nonprofits.

Not only are they aiding the fight on the ground, the report also shows that nearly three-quarters of all operators stated that diversity was a part of every hiring decision, and 69 percent reported that women and POC are represented at all levels of the organization.

Operator update

Lime is back in Oakland with 500 scooters and plans to scale up to 1,000 over the coming weeks. The company pulled out of the city last year during the pandemic. This time, it’s focusing on “Communities of Concern” as designated by the city, and will deploy half its fleet to these neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved by transportation.

Tier is hooking up with Irish computer vision startup Luna. Tier is adding Luna’s cameras and smart city technology to its shared e-scooter fleets across Europe and the Middle East. To handle the increase in work, Luna is hiring 15 new staffers to cover computer vision/AI, hardware, IoT and project management roles in Ireland. Interestingly, the partnership comes from an Ireland trade mission to Germany to better understand how the two countries could work together within the e-mobility and automotive industry. Luna just recently launched a pilot with Voi in England, and Ford-backed micromobility operator Spin is slowly pushing out Drover AI’s similar tech on scooters in the United States.

Speaking of Voi, the Swedish company is working with the UK government’s Kickstart Scheme to help create jobs for people ages 16 to 24 years old on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment. Voi is recruiting 25 young people across the country to work as Warehouse Operatives and Fleet Specialists. The young ones will be ensured a job for at least six months and will hopefully learn a thing or two about a growing transport industry.

Bird has tweaked its branding. It recently announced its scooters and bikes will now be made in “Electric Sky” blue, as opposed to its black, white and silver color scheme. The color evokes eco-friendly transportation, clear skies and cheerful days. It’s reminiscent of Revel’s blue mopeds and Swapfiets’ bikes.

Taking liberties with the term “micromobility”

Chinese EV maker Xpeng says it’s going to make a robot unicorn for children to ride. The quadruped will navigate multiple types of terrain, recognize objects and provide “emotional interaction.” The robot pulls from Xpeng’s experiences with AI and automated driving development. The rendering looks cute and soft, for a metal beast, but the horn could be a bit longer IMO. Bonus: it’s not creepy-looking like Xiaomi’s robot dog.

Dutch startup Squad Mobility has introduced details for its small, low-cost electric city car that’s equipped with solar panels which drip feed the battery throughout the day. The company hopes to come out with a prototype for the solar-assisted quadricycle by October this year and begin deliveries by the end of next year. While it would be a fun passenger vehicle for city folks, the end game is to get in good with one of the car-sharing or shared micromobility operators and sell fleets of the Squad car for shared use.

At the Munich Motor Show, BMW revealed a couple of electric bike concepts that look pretty wicked. The Motorrad Vision AMBY looks like a motorcycle, but is probably more along the class of off-road motorbike, complete with fat tires and a seat-to-footrest ratio that brings to mind all the shredding that can be had. The i Vision AMBY is more of a traditional road e-bike, but maybe one that’s inspired by Back to the Future, such is its retrofuturistic vibe and, I’ll say it, postal service-beige frame.

ADAS in scooters

The desire to keep shared electric scooters off sidewalks has driven the development of advanced technology in the micromobility industry. Once the province of geofencing, scooter companies are so eager to get a leg up on the competition that they’re now implementing technology similar to advanced driver assistance systems usually found in cars. Check out my story in Extra Crunch that digs into this trend.

Micromobility America event

The folks who write our other favorite micromobility newsletter are going to be hosting a micromobility event in the SF Bay Area. On September 23, a range of experts, founders, investors and builders will be sharing top insights about the world of lightweight electric vehicles and their potential to disrupt transportation, including:
Brazilian racing driver Lucas Di Grassi, American entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, senior writer at Wired Lauren Goode, analyst and founder of the term “micromobility” Horace Dediu

Register now, if you still can. Space is limited.

— Rebecca Bellan

Deal of the week

money the station

Investors continue to sink money into ride-hailing companies. Cao Cao Mobility, the ride-hailing unit of Chinese automaker Geely Automobile Holdings, is the latest example.

The company raised $589 million (RMB 3.8 billion) in a Series B round led by Suzhou Xiangcheng Financial Holding Group, an investment company backed by the Xiangcheng district government of Suzhou. Suzhou High-Speed Rail New City Group and three other state-controlled enterprises also participated.

The raise brings the company’s total funding to around $773.2 million (RMB 5 billion).

As TechCrunch reporter Rebecca Bellan notes, Cao Cao is positioned for further growth and a larger market share, as long as the Chinese government believes the company is operating fairly. Its competitors Didi Global and Amap have come under increased government scrutiny that has hurt their business, while giving Cao Cao a boost.

A cybersecurity investigation prompted the Chinese government to temporarily remove Didi Global from Chinese app stores. As a result, Cao Cao, which is currently available in 62 cities in China, saw ride volume increase 32% in July.

Other deals that got my attention this week …

Accure, the Aachen, Germany-based battery safety software company raised $8 million in a Series A round led by Blue Bear Capital. Capnamic Ventures and 42CAP also participated.

BP Ventures, the investing arm of oil and gas giant BP, made a €10 million ($11.9 million) investment in Ryd, a German in-car digital payments provider. The funds will be used to help Ryd expand its service into international markets and build out its offering.

Delhivery, the Indian logistics firm, courted Lee Fixel’s Addition as an investor before its expected IPO in the next two quarters: The Gurgaon-headquartered firm disclosed in a regulatory filing that Addition invested $76.4 million in the startup as part of a Series I round. Delihivery hasn’t disclosed the total raise or other investors.

Delimobil, the Russian car sharing company, has chosen banks to organize its IPO listing and is seeking to raise around $ 350 million, Reuters reported.

Skydweller Aero, the U.S.-Spanish aerospace startup, received an additional $8 million in oversubscribed funding led by Leonardo S.p.A, Marlinspike Capital and Advection Growth Capital. The funds were added to its Series A round, which had previously reached $32 million. The company said it has also partnered with Palantir Technologies to use its Foundry analytics platform to process information at-scale and onboard the aircraft designed for telecommunications, government operations and emergency services.

Tritium Holdings, the Australian developer of DC fast-charging technology for electric vehicles, raised A$40 million  ($29.4 million) from the investment arm of Cigna.

WattE, a company trying to develop a network of truck stops and run a fleet of 12,000 electric trucks to share, will receive a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission. The grant is for the construction of the state’s first electric truck stop. The company also recently closed a $6 million Series A round led by Canon Equity.

A little bird

blinky cat bird green

I hear things. But I’m not selfish. Let me share what the little birds are telling me.

You likely spotted the widespread coverage, including by TechCrunch, that Ford Motor hired Doug Field, the engineering executive who was VP of Apple’s special projects team and its secret, not-very-secret car program.

Field, who also once worked as senior vice president of engineering at Tesla, was named as Ford’s chief advanced technology and embedded systems officer. Soon after the news broke, reports came out that Kevin Lynch, who led development on the Apple Watch, had taken over Field’s role on the car project.

All of this had TC readers wondering (at least according to my DMs and emails) whether Apple’s car program was at risk. I reached out to some folks and one source told me that Apple employees were in Korea meeting with battery manufacturers as early as last week, which suggests that the game is on. You might recall, The Korea Times reported back in early August a team from Apple was visiting battery manufacturers LG Chem, SK, and Hanwha as part of “early talks.”

It seems those talks are still happening.

Policy corner

the-station-delivery

Welcome back to policy corner! Big news out of the aviation industry this week, as major airlines pledged to make 3 billion gallons of “sustainable aviation fuel” available to aircraft carriers by 2030, in line with a federal goal of reducing aviation emissions by 20% by the start of the next decade.

The announcement was made by industry group Airlines for America (A4A), whose members include United Airlines, Delta, American Airlines and Southwest. The group had previously set a target of 2 billion gallons by 2030 back in March. (Also yesterday, United made a separate announcement that it would purchase 1.5 billion gallons of SAF from startup Alder Fuels, pending certain conditions are met. Check out my story on the deal here.

A4A stressed the importance of federal action to support the development of SAF, including a “blender” tax credit for SAF mixed with conventional fuel and public-private research partnerships into SAF tech.

But this would be just the beginning, if President Joe Biden has his say; his administration wants a “fully zero-carbon aviation sector by 2050,” according to a White House fact sheet released Thursday. Aviation accounts for 11% of the country’s transportation-related emissions, the fact sheet says. Plus, while 3 billion gallons of fuel certainly sounds like a lot, a United spokesperson told TechCrunch that the airline consumes around 4 billion annually, and the White House says demand overall could be as high as 35 billion gallons per year by 2050.

To meet that demand, Biden said he is seeking that SAF incentives be included in the $3.5 trillion spending bill currently being debated by Congress, including a tax credit and $4.3 billion earmarked for funding SAF projects.

It’s important to note two things: one, as it currently stands, SAF is more expensive than conventional jet fuel, itself a considerable cost for airlines. Two, the above goals on behalf of the airlines are non-binding, voluntary agreements. Taken together, that means (in my humble opinion) that a tax incentive or something like it will be necessary for SAF to achieve cost parity with conventional fuel — and for airlines to actually adopt it.


The other policy items that caught my eye this week come from the great state of New York. The first is out of New York City, which set a target to install 40,000 public Level 2 chargers and 6,000 DC fast chargers by 2030. This buildout, outlined in the Department of Transportation’s EV plan, will be necessary for the city to reach its target of being fully carbon neutral by 2050.

Finally, the New York State House signed a bill into law requiring all passenger vehicles sold in-state to be zero-emission by 2035, making it the second state (after California) to introduce a set deadline to phase out internal combustion engine cars. It’s hard to know whether this is the start of a sea change in state policy or whether NY and California are anomalies, but I can see this type of legislation becoming more popular in the coming years.

— Aria Alamalhodaei

Notable news and other tidbits

Autonomous vehicles

Anthony Levandowski, the controversial and presidentially pardoned autonomous vehicle technology engineer, sat down with The Information for an interview that included details about his company’s pivot from big rigs to dump trucks.

Aurora co-founder Sterling Anderson laid out the autonomous vehicle company’s development process in a blog post this week. Aurora collaborated with half a dozen OEMs and has integrated its self-driving system into eight distinct vehicle platforms. Anderson wrote that the outcome “is a highly refined Driver-vehicle interface and a structured process for the design, development, and launch of vehicles designed for it that we call the Aurora Driver Development Program.” Side note: Aurora has made its Pittsburgh office its official headquarters.

Intel subsidiary Mobileye and rental car giant Sixt SE announced plans to launch a robotaxi service in Munich next year. As I noted in my article, the robotaxi service will leverage all of Intel’s, and more specifically Mobileye’s, assets that have been in development or purchased in recent years, including the $900 million acquisition in 2020 of Moovit, an Israeli startup that analyzes urban traffic patterns and provides transportation recommendations with a focus on public transit.

Through the partnership, riders will be able to access the robotaxi service via the Moovit app. The service will also be offered through Sixt’s mobility ONE app, which gives customers the ability to hail a ride, rent, share or subscribe to vehicles. Caveat: this won’t be a large-scale service in the beginning; it will start small and operate similarly to other early rider programs first modeled by nuTonomy and Waymo.

WeRide, a Chinese autonomous vehicle technology company, unveiled its first cargo van. The company said it will work with Chinese automobile manufacturer Jiangling Motors and Chinese express delivery company ZTO Express to commercialize its first self-driving van at scale. The “robovans” will be based on JMC’s battery electric vehicle model with a fully redundant vehicle platform, combined with WeRide’s full-stack software and hardware autonomous driving (AD) solutions.

Electric vehicles (and batteries)

GM extended a shutdown at its Orion Assembly Plant by another two weeks due to a battery pack shortage related to the widespread Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV safety recall. GM said the extended downtime at the Orion plant will last through September 20. Orion Assembly Plant in Michigan has been shut down since August 23.

Ford has hired six senior-level executives to its newly minted commercial vehicles and services business unit as the automaker prepares to bring to market the E-Transit cargo van and the F-150 Lightning Pro pickup truck — two electric vehicles it’s betting will become commercial customers’ new workhorses.

Sila Nanotechnologies’ next-generation battery technology made its commercial product debut in the new Whoop fitness tracker, a milestone that caps a decade of research and development by the Silicon Valley startup. This matters because Sila Nano has joint battery ventures with BMW and Daimler to produce batteries containing the company’s silicon-anode technology, with the goal of going to market in the automotive industry by 2025.

Solid Power, a battery developer backed by Ford and BMW, is preparing to start pilot production of its solid state batteries early next year. A new production facility will be dedicated to manufacturing a sulfide-based solid electrolyte material and pilot production of its commercial-grade, 100 ampere battery cells. Those pouch cells are expected to go to Ford and BMW for automotive testing in early 2022.

Meet Squad Mobility and learn about its vision of the perfect urban vehicle. Here’s a hint: it’s small, cheap, electric and includes solar.

Tesla set the official record for electric vehicles at Nürburgring with a Tesla “Model S Plaid,” that driven by Andreas Simonsen circumnavigated the 20.8-kilometre. (12.9-mile) Nordschleife loop in 7:35.579, according to a statement from the motorsports complex.

Toyota Motor said it will oppose a proposal by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to give union-made electric vehicles in the United States an additional $4,500 tax incentive, Reuters reported. The company said the proposal discriminates “against American autoworkers based on their choice not to unionize.”

Volta Trucks, a full-electric commercial vehicle manufacturer, said its first vehicles will be manufactured in Steyr, Austria, by Steyr Automotive, formerly MAN Truck and Bus Austria.

Delivery and sharing

DoorDash, Caviar, Grubhub, Seamless, Postmates and Uber Eats have sued the City of New York over a law that would permanently limit the amount of commissions the apps can charge restaurants to use their services. The companies are seeking an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing the legislation, unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Plentywaka co-founder and CEO Onyeka Akumah was interviewed by TechCrunch as part of its ongoing founders Q&A series.

Misc. stuff

Hyundai Motor Group laid out its hydrogen strategy, announcing it will provide hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028. Hyundai’s goal is to achieve cost competitiveness comparable to that of EV batteries by 2030. The company also shared details about its high-performance, rear-wheel drive hydrogen sports car, the Vision FK, with a targeted range of 373 miles. Hyundai did not share when the vehicle would go into production.

GM unveiled the 2022 Chevrolet Silverado, a full-sized pickup truck that received a major technology upgrade, including its hands-free Super Cruise advanced driver assistance system and an infotainment system with embedded Google services, as well as an overhauled interior.

David Zipper wrote a piece for Slate examining the growing problem of infotainment systems.

#airlines, #anthony-levandowski, #apple, #apple-car, #automotive, #bmw, #cao-cao-mobility, #caviar, #delta-airlines, #doordash, #ford, #grubhub, #intel, #mobileye, #postmates, #seamless, #tesla, #transportation, #united-airlines

Intel’s Mobileye, rental giant Sixt to launch a robotaxi service in Germany next year

Intel subsidiary Mobileye and rental car giant Sixt SE plan to launch a robotaxi service in Munich next year, the CEOs of the two companies announced Tuesday during the IAA Mobility show in Germany.

The robotaxi service is leveraging all of Intel’s, and more specifically Mobileye’s, assets that have been in development or purchased in recent years, including the $900 million acquisition in 2020 of Moovit, an Israeli startup that analyzes urban traffic patterns and provides transportation recommendations with a focus on public transit.

Through the partnership, riders will be able to access the robotaxi service via the Moovit app. The service will also be offered through Sixt’s mobility ONE app, which gives customers the ability hail a ride, rent, share or subscribe to vehicles.

This will not be a large-scale commercial service in the beginning. The Mobileye robotaxis are expected to begin with an early-rider test program on Munich streets in 2022. If that mimics other early rider programs, the service will likely invite and then approve small groups of riders and then scale from there. The fleet will then move from test to commercial operations upon regulatory approval, the companies said.

Intel and Mobileye plan to scale the service across Germany and into other European countries later this decade. The companies chose Germany, a country where Mobileye is already testing its autonomous vehicle technology, because of a recently enacted law that permits driverless vehicles on public roads,.

“Germany has shown global leadership toward a future of autonomous mobility by expediting crucial AV legislation,” Intel CEO Gelsinger said Tuesday at IAA.  “Our ability to begin robotaxi operations in Munich next year would not be possible without this new law.”

During the IAA keynote, Mobileye also unveiled the vehicles branded with MoovitAV and SIXT. These vehicles, which are equipped with Mobileye’s self-driving system, will be produced in volume and used for the robotaxi service in Germany, the companies said.

While Mobileye is perhaps best known for supplying automakers with computer vision technology that powers advanced driver assistance systems — a business that generated nearly $967 million in sales last year — the company has also been developing automated vehicle technology.

The self-driving system, now branded as Mobileye Drive, is made up of a system-on-chip based compute, redundant sensing subsystems based on camera, radar and lidar technology, its REM mapping system and a rules-based Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) driving policy. Mobileye’s REM mapping system essentially crowdsources data by tapping into more than 1 million vehicles equipped with its tech to build high-definition maps that can be used to support in ADAS and autonomous driving systems.

That data is not video or images but compressed text that collects about 10 kilobits per kilometer. Mobileye has agreements with six OEMs, including BMW, Nissan and Volkswagen, to collect that data on vehicles equipped with the EyeQ4 chip, which is used to power the advanced driver assistance system. On fleet vehicles, Mobileye collects data from an after-market product it sells to commercial operators.

#automotive, #autonomous-vehicles, #germany, #iaa-mobility, #intel, #mobileye, #munich, #sixt, #tc

US giants top tech industry’s $100M+ a year lobbying blitz in EU

The scale of the tech industry’s spending to influence the European Union’s tech policy agenda has been laid out in a report published today by Corporate Europe Observatory and Lobbycontrol — which found hundreds of companies, groups and business associations shelling out a total of €97 million (~$115M) annually lobbying EU institutions.

The level of spending makes tech the biggest lobby sector in the region — ahead of pharma, fossil fuels, finance, and chemicals — per the report by the two lobbying transparency campaign groups.

The EU has a raft of digital legislation in train, including the Digital Markets Act, which is set to apply ex ante controls to the biggest ‘gatekeeper’ platforms to promote fair competition in the digital market by outlawing a range of abusive practices; and the Digital Services Act, which will increase requirements on a swathe of digital businesses — again with greater requirements for larger platforms — to try to bring online rules in line with offline requirements in areas like illegal content and products.

Tackling online disinformation and threats to democratic processes — such as by updating the EU’s rules for political ads running online and tighter regulation of online ad targeting more generally is also being eyed by Brussels-based lawmakers.

The bloc is also in the process of agreeing a risk-based framework for applications of artificial intelligence.

Data reuse is another big EU regulatory focus.

At the same time, enforcement of the EU’s existing data protection framework (GDPR) — which is widely perceived to have been (mostly) weakly applied against tech giants — is another area where tech giants may be keen to influence regional policy, given that uniformly vigorous enforcement could threaten the surveillance-based business models of online ad giants like Google and Facebook.

Instead, multiple GDPR complaints against the pair are still sitting undecided on the desk of Ireland’s Data Protection Commission.

A small number of tech giants dominant EU lobbying, according to the report, which found ten companies are responsible for almost a third of the total spend — namely: Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Huawei, Amazon, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm and Vodafone — who collectively spend more than €32M a year to try to influence EU tech policy.

Google topped the lobbying list of Big Tech big spenders in the EU — spending €5.8M annually trying to influence EU institutions, per the report; followed by Facebook (€5.5M); Microsoft (€5.3M); Apple (€3.5M); and Huawei (€3M).


Unsurprisingly, US-based tech companies dominate industry lobbying in the EU — with the report finding a fifth of the companies lobbying the bloc on digital policy are US-based — although it suggests the true proportion is “likely even higher”.

While China (or Hong Kong) based companies were only found to comprise less than one per cent of the total, suggesting Chinese tech firms are so far not invested in EU lobbying at anywhere near the level of their US counterparts.

“The lobbying surrounding proposals for a Digital Services pack, the EU’s attempt at reining in Big Tech, provides the perfect example of how the firms’ immense budget provides them with privileged access: Commission high-level officials held 271 meetings, 75 percent of them with industry lobbyists. Google and Facebook led the pack,” write the pair of transparency campaign groups.

The report also shines a light on how the tech industry routinely relies upon astroturfing to push favored policies — with tech companies not only lobbying individually but also being collectively organised into a network of business and trade associations that the report dubs “important lobby actors” too.

Per the report, business associations lobbying on behalf of Big Tech alone have a lobbying budget that “far surpasses that of the bottom 75 per cent of the companies in the digital industry”.

Such a structure can allow the wealthiest tech giants to push preferred policy positions under a guise of wider industry support — by also shelling out to fund such associations which then gives them an outsized influence over their lobbying output.

“Big Tech’s lobbying also relies on its funding of a wide network of third parties, including think tanks, SME and startup associations and law and economic consultancies to push through its messages. These links are often not disclosed, obfuscating potential biases and conflicts of interest,” the pair note, going on to highlight 14 think tanks and NGOs they found to have “close ties” to Big Tech firms.

“The ethics and practice of these policy organisations varies but some seem to have played a particularly active role in discussions surrounding the Digital Services pack, hosting exclusive or skewed debates on behalf of their funders or publishing scaremongering reports,” they continue.

“There’s an opacity problem here: Big Tech firms have fared poorly in declaring their funding of think tanks – mostly only disclosing these links after being pressured. And even still this disclosure is not complete. To this, Big Tech adds its funding of SME and startup associations; and the fact that law and economic experts hired by Big Tech also participate in policy discussions, often without disclosing their clients or corporate links.”

The 14 think tanks and NGOs the report links to Big Tech backers are: CERRE; CDI, EPC, CEPS, CER, Bruegel, Lisbon Council, CDT, TPN, Friends of Europe, ECIPE, European Youth Forum, German Marshall Fund and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies.

The biggest spending tech giants were contacted for comment on the report. We’ll update this article with any response.

We have also reached out to the European Commission for comment.

The full report — entitled The Lobby Network: Big Tech’s Web of Influence in the EU — can be found here.

#amazon, #apple, #big-tech, #brussels, #digital-markets-act, #europe, #european-union, #facebook, #huawei, #ibm, #intel, #lobbying, #online-disinformation, #policy, #qualcomm, #united-states, #vodafone

Intel inks deal with Department of Defense to support domestic chip-building ecosystem

Intel has signed a deal with the Department of Defense to support a domestic commercial chip-building ecosystem. The chipmaker will lead the first phase of a program called Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes – Commercial (RAMP-C), which aims to bolster the domestic semiconductor supply chain.

The chipmaker’s recently launched division, Intel Foundry Services, will lead the program.

As part of RAMP-C, Intel will partner with IBM, Cadence, Synopsys and others to establish a domestic commercial foundry ecosystem. Intel says the program was designed to create custom integrated circuits and commercial products required by the Department of Defense’s systems.

“The RAMP-C program will enable both commercial foundry customers and the Department of Defense to take advantage of Intel’s significant investments in leading-edge process technologies,” said Randhir Thakur, president of Intel Foundry Services, in a statement. “Along with our customers and ecosystem partners, including IBM, Cadence, Synopsys and others, we will help bolster the domestic semiconductor supply chain and ensure the United States maintains leadership in both R&D and advanced manufacturing.”

Intel recently announced that it plans to invest approximately $20 billion to build two new factories in Arizona, as it aims to become a major provider for domestic foundry customers. The company says the factories will support expanding requirements for its products.

The chipmaker’s partnership with the Department of Defense comes amid the ongoing global semiconductor shortage, which is due in part to the pandemic and its impact on the global supply chain. The company is among other tech and auto giants in continuous talks with the White House regarding possible solutions for the shortage. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger met with Biden administration officials last month to discuss plans to build more chip factories and to appeal for subsidies.

In a new statement regarding RAMP-C, Gelsinger states that “one of the most profound lessons of the past year is the strategic importance of semiconductors, and the value to the United States of having a strong domestic semiconductor industry.”

“When we launched Intel Foundry Services earlier this year, we were excited to have the opportunity to make our capabilities available to a wider range of partners, including in the U.S. government, and it is great to see that potential being fulfilled through programs like RAMP-C,” Gelsinger added.

Gelsinger came on board as CEO in January with the aim to turn around the chipmaker and pursue new strategies for manufacturing and selling chips. A few months ago, Intel was rumoured to be in talks to buy chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries for $30 billion, but there’s been no news on that front.

#chip-makers, #department-of-defense, #intel, #tc

Intel Foundry Services gets a boost from $100M Pentagon award for US-made chips

Intel Foundry Services gets a boost from $100M Pentagon award for US-made chips

Enlarge (credit: ony Avelar/Bloomberg)

Intel announced Monday that it has been awarded a contract for foundry services through a Department of Defense program intended to support leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing in the US. 

Though Intel’s share of the estimated $100 million award wasn’t disclosed, it is certain to boost Intel’s fledgling Foundry Services division that was announced in March as a part of the company’s IDM 2.0 strategy. The company will be working alongside IBM and electronic design automation companies Cadence and Synopsys. The program, known as “Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes—Commercial or RAMP-C,” seeks to expand the Pentagon’s access to trusted, secure, and reliable chips from sub-7 nm process technology.

“One of the most profound lessons of the past year is the strategic importance of semiconductors and the value to the United States of having a strong domestic semiconductor industry,” Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said. “When we launched Intel Foundry Services earlier this year, we were excited to have the opportunity to make our capabilities available to a wider range of partners, including in the US government, and it is great to see that potential being fulfilled through programs like RAMP-C.”

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#department-of-defense, #intel, #pentagon, #policy, #semiconductors, #tsmc

Intel provides more details on its Arc GPUs, which will be made by TSMC

Promotional image for computer components.

Enlarge / Intel disclosed a few more details about the Xe-HPG architecture underpinning its upcoming Arc GPUs. (credit: Intel)

Earlier this week, Intel announced Arc, the branding for the new gaming GPUs that will face off with Nvidia’s GeForce and AMD’s Radeon cards when they launch early in 2022. Today, Intel provided a few additional details on Arc, its underlying Xe-HPG architecture, its graphics drivers, and the “XeSS” upscaling technology that will work with both Intel’s GPUs as well as GPUs from Nvidia and AMD.

The HPG in Xe-HPG stands for “high-performance gaming,” and it builds on the Xe-LP (“low-power”) graphics tech included in Intel’s 11th-generation Tiger Lake laptop processors and the low-end DG1 dedicated GPU. At a high-level, Xe-HPG will support all of the features in DirectX 12 Ultimate, just like Nvidia’s RTX 2000- and 3000-series GPUs and AMD’s RDNA2-based Radeon RX 6000-series cards. This includes, most notably, support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing, variable rate shading, and mesh shaders.

Since at least 2006, Intel has talked about its GPU hardware in terms of “execution units,” or EUs. The company is doing away with that terminology for Xe-HPG, replacing it instead with the concept of the “Xe-core.” Each Xe-core is composed of 16 vector engines and 16 matrix (or XMX) engines, as well as L1 cache and some other hardware. Four Xe-cores combine with ray-tracing units and other fixed-function hardware to form a “render slice,” which is the bare minimum any Xe-HPG GPU will need to function (along with L2 cache and a memory interface).

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#alchemist, #gaming-culture, #intel, #tech, #xe-hpg

Intel leaks show next-gen desktop CPUs with hybrid “big.little” design

It's a bit too early for photos of Alder Lake-S CPUs, much less Raptor Lake-S—so here's a gorgeous photo of an alder tree on the shore of Llyn Gwynant, in North Wales' Snowdonia National Park.

Enlarge / It’s a bit too early for photos of Alder Lake-S CPUs, much less Raptor Lake-S—so here’s a gorgeous photo of an alder tree on the shore of Llyn Gwynant, in North Wales’ Snowdonia National Park. (credit: R A Kearton via Getty Images)

It looks like big.little CPU design—an architecture that includes both fast, power-hungry cores and slower, more power-efficient cores—is here to stay in the x86_64 world, according to unverified insider information leaked by wccftech and AdoredTV.

Intel’s big/little designs enter round two

At Intel’s 2021 Architecture day, the company confirmed that its upcoming Alder Lake (12th generation) processors will use a mixture of performance and efficiency cores. This brings the company’s discontinued 2020 Lakefield design concept firmly into the mainstream.

Big.little designs run time-sensitive tasks on bigger, hotter performance cores while running background tasks on slower but much less power-hungry cores. This architecture is near-universal in the ARM world—which now includes Apple M1 Macs as well as Android and iOS phones and tablets—but it’s far less common in the x86_64 “traditional computing” world.

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#alder-lake, #cpu, #intel, #leaks, #raptor-lake, #tech

Actuator: Stop making sense

First of all, we’ve got a fancy new name. While “Robotics Roundup” was nothing if not very technically accurate, it lacked the kind of panache one ought to strive for when rounding up robotics. Actuator, on the other hand — that’s a mover and shaker.

It’s a name you can take to the bank (or at least run by the legal department for clearance). To mark this momentous occasion, we employed our resident graphic design genius Bryce to sketch up something befitting our rebrand.

We’re also using the opportunity to announce that Actuator will be coming soon to an inbox near you as a free TechCrunch newsletter. All of this fun change seems extra fitting, given that this happens to be the 25th edition of the roundup. You can find all of the older updates under our Actuator tag if you want to catch up.

If you’ve been following for a while, you’ve got the gist of what the newsletter is about: a digestible look into the week’s robotics news. We cover all of the startups making waves and the big companies impacting the industry, along with the most fascinating updates in the world of robotic research, as well as dives into labor concerns and various ethical issues stemming from automation and AI.

If all of that sounds good, you can sign up here to get Actuator in your inbox as soon as the first issue hits. I’m told you may have to prove you’re not a robot, so apologies in advance to all of the robots reading this. But hey, if you’ve gotten this far, you’ll figure it out.

Image Credits: Intel

Following an earlier report from CRN, Intel has since confirmed with TechCrunch that it will be winding down its 3D imaging platform, RealSense. It’s always a shame to see these sorts of forward-looking initiatives go away. And certainly Intel has been leaning pretty heavily on the division as a leading indicator of its efforts to remain relevant as the industry evolves.

Over the years, we’ve covered RealSense’s involvement in drones, robotics and AR/VR. In June of last year, we covered the platform’s embrace of 5G connectivity.

Image Credits: Intel

“We are winding down our RealSense business and transitioning our computer vision talent, technology and products to focus on advancing innovative technologies that better support our core businesses and IDM 2.0 strategy,” the company said in a statement offered to TechCrunch. “We will continue to meet our commitments to our current customers and are working with our employees and customers to ensure a smooth transition.

Translation: The company is choosing to focus its core competency. IDM 2.0 refers specifically to the new chipmaking strategy into which the company is pumping $20 billion. Understandable, but it’s always hopeful to see big companies like Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm really go all in on such forward-facing technologies.

Boston Dynamics, meanwhile, made news this week, ostensibly for another slick viral video, this one featuring the Hyundai-owned company’s humanoid Atlas robot. By now we’re all well aware of the fact that the company makes impressive robots and highly effective YouTube videos that launch a million Black Mirror and Terminator jokes on Twitter.

I’ve seen Atlas do some really impressive stuff in person at BD’s headquarters, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s currently capable of. So, while Atlas is extremely cool, I didn’t find the recent parkour video especially shocking. What did catch me off guard, however, was the fact that the company also used the opportunity to essentially publish some outtakes from the film.

Image Credits: Boston Dynamics

A six-minute, behind-the-scenes video featured a montage of Atlas falling on its face. Like any great skateboarding video, there are a few gratuitous shots included that demonstrate that, regardless of how advanced the system is, there are still going to be some face-planting, gasket-blowing falls that leave its chest scuffed in a pool of its own fluid. The company notes:

During filming, Atlas gets the vault right about half of the time. On the other runs, Atlas makes it over the barrier, but loses its balance and falls backward, and the engineers look to the logs to see if they can find opportunities for on-the-fly adjustments.

That’s probably enough news of shuttered divisions and bodily robot harm for this week. A couple of fundraising rounds are worth noting.

First is Rapid Robotics, which has been on a fundraising tear of late. The new $36.7 million Series B values the manufacturing robotics company at $192.5 million and marks its third(!) fundraising round in a year that started with a seed raise.

Image Credits: Rapid Robotics

CEO Jordan Kretchmer cites pandemic-fueled manufacturing bottlenecks as a big source of interest in the company:

We hear a lot about the semiconductor shortage, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Contract manufacturers can’t produce gaskets, vials, labels — you name it. I’ve seen cases where the inability to produce a single piece of U-shaped black plastic brought an entire auto line to a halt

Image Credits: Diamond Age

Rapid will be making its robotic systems available through the increasingly popular RaaS (robotics as a service) model also being employed by Diamond Age. The fellow Bay Area-based firm announced its own $8 million seed round this morning for an intriguing mix of robotics and 3D printing designed at speeding up house construction. The company is still in its early stages, but it claims its technology can dramatically reduce the need for manual labor and shrink house construction time from nine months to 30 days.

Image Credits: Picnic

Following its own recent funding back in May, Picnic this week announced that it’s finally selling its modular robotic pizza maker. Pizza is, of course, a popular target for food robotics companies, because Americans eat a ton of it — reportedly 100 acres a day, as of 2015. It’s also relatively uniformly constructed as far as self-contained meals go, and is therefore easier to automate.

Nuro-validation test

Nuro team on test track during early validation in Arizona, before first-ever public road deployment in Arizona. Image Credits: Nuro

And speaking of pizza robots, before we leave you this week, a note to check out the EC-1 on Nuro. Here’s a fun anecdote from Domino’s chief innovation officer that seems to ring true across the robotic spectrum:

One of the things we laugh about is how customers constantly talk to the bot. It’s almost like they think it’s ‘Knight Rider.’ It’s very common for customers to thank it or say goodbye, which is great because that indicates we’re creating an engaging experience that they’re not frustrated by.

#actuator, #boston-dynamics, #intel, #nuro, #picnic, #robotics, #robotics-roundup

Ransomware recovery can be costly, and not just because of the ransom

Ransomware is rarely out of the headlines. Just last week, IT consulting giant Accenture was hit by the LockBit ransomware gang, days after Taiwan-based laptop maker Gigabyte also fell victim to an apparent ransomware attack, leading the hackers to leak gigabytes of confidential AMD and Intel data.

Unsurprisingly, ransomware — which has rocketed in activity during the pandemic — remains among the most costly to businesses, with large U.S companies losing an average of $5.66 million each year to ransomware. But new findings show that is not for the reason you might think.

While we often hear of multimillion-dollar ransom payments made by hackers, research from Proofpoint and the Ponemon Institute found that ransom payments typically account for less than 20% of the total cost of a ransomware attack. Of that $5.66 million figure each year, just $790,000 accounts for ransom payments. Rather, the research shows businesses suffer the majority of their losses through lost productivity and the time-consuming task of containing and cleaning up after a ransomware attack.

Proofpoint says that the remediation process for an average-sized organization takes on average 32,258 hours, which when multiplied by the average $63.50 IT hourly wage totals more than $2 million. Downtime and lost productivity is another costly consequence of ransomware attacks; the research shows that phishing attacks, for example, which were determined as the root cause of almost one-fifth of ransomware attacks last year, have led to employee productivity losses of $3.2 million in 2021, up from $1.8 million in 2015. 

“In the wake of a ransomware attack, communication and interaction between employees and any effected external parties must increase massively, causing many teams to have to drop all existing work as part of their ‘day job’ immediately and focus on this urgent matter, for potentially days, weeks or even months,” Proofpoint’s Andrew Rose told TechCrunch.

“They automatically face more scrutiny from customers, regulators and have to increase reliance on third parties. This may include a significant increase in external audits by customers and regulators, which again increases workload cost. There’s also the potential of regulatory fines, or class action lawsuits from customers,” said Rose.

This isn’t all businesses have to contend with from a financial point of view; organizations hit by ransomware are also likely to face an increase in cyber insurance costs, hefty IT expenditure and likely will have to cough up for PR teams, legal staff, customer services and external specialists. There’s also the brand and reputational fallout from such attacks: recent research from Cybereason shows that more than half of U.S. companies reported their brand was tarnished as a result of a ransomware attack. 

“For public organizations, there is also the potential for the share price to fall,” Rose adds. “Customers can also lose trust in a business once they know their data may have been at risk, which may in turn cause them to jump ship to a competitor, costing revenue.”

#crime, #cyberattacks, #cybercrime, #intel, #phishing, #ransomware, #security

Apple, AMD, and Intel shift priorities as chip shortages continue

Cartoon hands reach for a cartoon computer processor being dangled above them.

Enlarge / Sure, it’s cheaply produced clip art… but it’s also a disturbingly accurate picture of the current state of supply and demand in the semiconductor product market. (credit: tommy via Getty Images)

2021’s infamous chip shortages aren’t only affecting automakers. In a post-earnings conference call Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “We’ll do everything we can to mitigate whatever circumstances we’re dealt”—a statement that likely means the company will ration its chip supplies, prioritizing the most profitable and in-demand items such as iPhones and AirPods, at the expense of less profitable and lower-demand items.

CFRA analyst Angelo Zino told Reuters that Cook’s somewhat cryptic statement “largely reflects the timing of new product releases”—specifically, new iPhone releases in September. Counterpoint Research Director Jeff Fieldhack speculates from the flip side of the same coin, saying the company will likely direct supply chain “pain” to its least lucrative products. “Assuming Apple prioritizes the iPhone 12 family, it probably affects iPads, Macs, and older iPhones more,” Fieldhack said.

Processor manufacturer AMD has also been carefully managing its supply chain in response to pandemic-induced shortages. With flagship products that finally outperform rival Intel’s, AMD is focusing on the more profitable high end of the market while leaving the economy segment—until a few years ago, its strongest performer—to Intel. “We’re focusing on the most strategic segments of the PC market,” CEO Lisa Su told investors on a conference call.

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#amd, #apple, #chip-shortage, #intel, #pandemic, #supply-chain, #tech

Intel’s foundry roadmap lays out the post-nanometer “Angstrom” era

Earlier this year, Intel got a new CEO and kicked off a new business plan that would open its foundries to other chip-design firms, just like how TSMC and Samsung Semiconductor operate. At its “Intel Accelerated” event today, the company laid out a roadmap for its future as a for-hire foundry. Besides the future of ever-smaller process nodes, the company also announced it has scored one of the world’s biggest chip designers, Qualcomm, as a future foundry customer.

As part of entering the foundry market, Intel will start naming its process nodes more like its rivals. The process-node numbers used for chips like “5nm” started out life as a measurement of transistor size, but eventually the marketers got hold of them and companies started cheating down their numbers to look more advanced. Intel says its new naming scheme will better align with how TSMC and Samsung talk about their foundry technologies. Gone are the days of “Intel 10nm Enhanced Super Fin”—instead, the node is called “Intel 7.” It should have a comparable density to the TSMC and Samsung 7 nm nodes and will be ready for production in Q1 2022 (TSMC and Samsung are currently shipping “5nm” products). “Intel 4″—which Intel previously called “7nm”—is now said to be equivalent to TSMC and Samsung’s 4 nm node, and it will begin manufacturing products in 2023.

If you’re wondering what happens when we run out of “nm” numbers, Intel’s sales pitch for that is the “Angstrom” era, a unit of measurement that is one-tenth of a nanometer. In 2024, the company wants to ramp up the “Intel 20A” process node (so a “2nm” equivalent, but Intel was calling this node “5nm” previously, but remember these are marketing numbers and not really units of measurement). In early, 2025 the company will be working on “Intel 18A.”

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#intel, #qualcomm, #tech

Intel rumored to be in talks to buy chip manufacturer GlobalFoundries for $30B

When it comes to M&A in the chip world, the numbers are never small. In 2020, four deals involving chip companies totaled $106 billion led by NVidia snagging ARM for $40 billion. One surprise from last year’s chip-laced M&A frenzy was Intel remaining on the sidelines. That would change if a rumored $30 billion deal to buy chip manufacturing concern GlobalFoundries comes to fruition.

The rumor was first reported by the Wall Street Journal yesterday.

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategies, who watches the chip industry closely, says that snagging GlobalFoundries would certainly make sense for Intel. The company is currently pursuing a new strategy to manufacture and sell chips for both Intel and to others under CEO Pat Gelsinger, who came on board in January to turn around the flagging chip maker.

“GlobalFoundries has technologies and processes that are specialized for 5G RF, IoT and automotive. Intel with GlobalFoundries, would become what I call a “full-stack provider” that could offer a customer everything. This is in full alignment with IDM 2.0 (Intel’s chip manufacturing strategy) and would get Intel there years before it could without GlobalFoundries,” Moorhead told TechCrunch.

It would also give Intel a chip manufacturing facility at a time when there are global chip shortages and huge demand for product from every corner, due in part to the pandemic and the impact it has had on the global supply chain. Intel has already indicated it has plans to spend more than $20 billion to build two fabs (chip manufacturing plants) in Arizona. Adding GlobalFoundries to these plans would give them a broad set of manufacturing capabilities in the coming years if it came to pass, but would also involve a significant investment of tens of billions of dollars to get there.

GlobalFoundries is a worldwide chip manufacturing concern based in the U.S. The company was spun off from Intel’s rival chip maker AMD in 2012, and is currently owned by Mubadala Investment Company, the investment arm of the Government of Abu Dhabi.

Investors seem to like the idea of combining these two companies with Intel stock up 1.59% as of publication. It’s important to note that this deal is still in the rumor stage and nothing is definitive or final yet. We will let you know if that changes.

#chips, #enterprise, #globalfoundries, #hardware, #intel, #ma, #pat-gelsinger, #tc

Windows 11 is much more than a new theme slapped onto Windows 10

The latest Windows focuses heavily on improved task management, prettier UI, and a much more ambitious Microsoft Store.

Enlarge / The latest Windows focuses heavily on improved task management, prettier UI, and a much more ambitious Microsoft Store. (credit: Microsoft)

Earlier this morning, we got our first official look at Windows 11 by way of Microsoft’s What’s New For Windows event. The new OS offers several significant, functional changes to what we’ve become accustomed to in Windows 10—this isn’t just the same old operating system with a fresh coat of paint.

However, Windows 11 absolutely does get that fresh coat of paint. Its new desktop environment makes heavy use of translucent window dressing with rounded corners, an effect which brings to mind panes of frosted glass. In many ways, the new look is reminiscent of compiz-based Linux desktop environments circa 2010—but with significantly higher resolution and a more coherent overall theme.

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay ties the new look to eyebrow-raising statements about emotion: “We understand the responsibility of [functionality and practicality] more than ever before, but it must also be personal—and maybe most importantly, it must feel emotional.”

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#amazon, #android, #android-apps, #intel, #microsoft, #tech, #windows, #windows-11

Clop ransomware gang doxes two new victims days after police raids

The notorious Clop ransomware operation appears to be back in business, just days after Ukrainian police arrested six alleged members of the gang.

Last week, a law enforcement operation conducted by the National Police of Ukraine along with officials from South Korea and the U.S. saw the arrest of multiple suspects believed to be linked to the Clop ransomware gang. It’s believed to be the first time a national law enforcement group carried out mass arrests involving a ransomware group.

The Ukrainian police also claimed at the time to have successfully shut down the server infrastructure used by the gang. But it doesn’t seem the operation was completely successful.

While the Clop operation fell silent following the arrests, the gang has this week published a fresh batch of confidential data which it claims to have stolen from two new victims — a farm equipment retailer and an architects office — on its dark web site, seen by TechCrunch.

If true — and neither of the alleged victims responded to TechCrunch’s request for comment — this would suggest that the ransomware gang remains active, despite last week’s first-of-its-kind law enforcement sting. This is likely because the suspects cuffed included only those who played a lesser role in the Clop operation. Cybersecurity firm Intel 471 said it believes that last week’s arrests targeted the money laundering portion of the operation, with core members of the gang not apprehended.

“We do not believe that any core actors behind Clop were apprehended,” the security company said. “The overall impact to Clop is expected to be minor although this law enforcement attention may result in the Clop brand getting abandoned as we’ve recently seen with other ransomware groups like DarkSide and Babuk.”

Clop appears to still be in business, but it remains to be seen how long the group will remain operational. Not only have law enforcement operations dealt numerous blows to ransomware groups this year, such as U.S. investigators’ recent recovery of millions in cryptocurrency they claim was paid in ransom to the Colonial Pipeline hackers, but Russia has this week confirmed it will begin to work with the U.S. to locate cybercriminals.

Russia has until now taken a hands-off approach when it comes to dealing with hackers. Reuters reported Wednesday that the head of the country’s Federal Security Service (FSB) Alexander Bortnikov was quoted as saying it will co-operate with U.S. authorities on future cybersecurity operations.

Intel 471 previously said that it does not believe the key members of Clop were arrested in last week’s operation because “they are probably living in Russia,” which has long provided safe harbor to cybercriminals by refusing to take action.

The Clop ransomware gang was first spotted in early 2019, and the group has since been linked to a number of high-profile attacks. These include the breach of U.S. pharmaceutical giant ExecuPharm in April 2020 and the recent data breach at Accellion, which saw hackers exploit flaws in the IT provider’s software to steal data from dozens of its customers including the University of Colorado and cloud security vendor Qualys.

#accellion, #chief, #colorado, #computer-security, #crime, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #head, #intel, #law-enforcement, #moscow, #qualys, #ransomware, #russia, #security, #security-breaches, #south-korea, #united-states

SiFive’s brand-new P550 is one of the world’s fastest RISC-V CPUs

sifive design families

Enlarge / SiFive’s “Essential” family is stripped down to the minimal configurations and performance necessary for standard microcontroller duty. “Intelligence” adds AI/ML acceleration, and the new “Performance” family offers just what it says on the tin. (credit: SiFive)

Today, RISC-V CPU design company SiFive launched a new processor family with two core designs: P270 (a Linux-capable CPU with full support for RISC-V’s vector extension 1.0 release candidate) and P550 (the highest-performing RISC-V CPU to date).

A quick RISC-V overview

For those not immediately familiar with RISC-V, it is a relatively new CPU architecture which takes advantage of Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) principles. RISC-V is an open standard specifically designed to be forward-looking and evade as much legacy cruft as possible. One example of this design is RISC-V’s dynamic width vector instruction set, which allows developers to execute vector instructions on data of arbitrary size with maximum efficiency.

In traditional processor designs, a vector instruction has a fixed width tied to the hardware register size of the processor—for example, SSE and SSE2 allow use of a Pentium III’s 128-bit registers, while making full use of an i7-4770’s 256-bit registers requires a completely separate instruction set (AVX2) for the same mathematical operations. Moving up to an i7-1065G7’s 512-bit registers requires yet another instruction set, AVX-512—again, for the same underlying mathematical operations.

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#horse-creek, #intel, #risc-v, #sifive, #tech

These macOS Monterey features won’t work on Intel Macs

A page on Apple’s website has revealed that several features of macOS Monterey, the new version of the software that runs on Macs, won’t work on legacy Macs with Intel processors.

Rather, those features will require the Apple-designed M1 chip (or presumably its upcoming successors) found in new Macs the company has introduced since late last year.

That means that the following Macs in Apple’s lineup will be needed to use the features in question:

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#apple, #apple-m1, #apple-silicon, #intel, #m1, #macos, #macos-monterey, #tech, #wwdc-2021

Here’s why TSMC and Intel keep building foundries in the Arizona desert

In 2020, Intel partnered with the National Forest Foundation in Phase III of a project replacing invasive Arundo and Tamarix weed species with native flora and revegetating burned-off areas. This phase of the project aims to restore 79 million gallons of fresh water per year.

Enlarge / In 2020, Intel partnered with the National Forest Foundation in Phase III of a project replacing invasive Arundo and Tamarix weed species with native flora and revegetating burned-off areas. This phase of the project aims to restore 79 million gallons of fresh water per year. (credit: Intel)

Two of the world’s leading chip manufacturers—Intel and TSMC—are increasing their US-based manufacturing presence by building new plants in Arizona.

Chip foundries are critically dependent on water, and Arizona is one of the driest states in the nation. Arizona gets only 13.6 inches of annual rainfall (compared with 50-60 inches in most of the Deep South, or 30.3 inches average for the USA as a whole). But as Forrester research director Glenn O’Donnell told CNBC, chip-fabrication plants are similar to indoor swimming pools—”you need a lot to fill it, but you don’t have to add much to keep it going.”

Counterintuitively, the famously thirsty industry can even improve the local water supply due to a focus on reclamation and purification—Intel has funded 15 water restoration projects in the Grand Canyon State with a goal of restoring 937 million gallons per year, and it expects to reach net positive water use once the projects are completed.

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#arizona, #chip-fabrication, #chip-foundries, #intel, #tech, #tsmc

Fujifilm becomes the latest victim of a network-crippling ransomware attack

Japanese multinational conglomerate Fujifilm has been forced to shut down parts of its global network after falling victim to a suspected ransomware attack.

The company, which is best known for its digital imaging products but also produces high tech medical kit including devices for rapid processing of COVID-19 tests, confirmed that its Tokyo headquarters was hit by a cyberattack on Tuesday evening.

“Fujifilm Corporation is currently carrying out an investigation into possible unauthorized access to its server from outside of the company. As part of this investigation, the network is partially shut down and disconnected from external correspondence,” the company said in a statement posted to its website.

“We want to state what we understand as of now and the measures that the company has taken. In the late evening of June 1, 2021, we became aware of the possibility of a ransomware attack. As a result, we have taken measures to suspend all affected systems in coordination with our various global entities.

“We are currently working to determine the extent and the scale of the issue. We sincerely apologize to our customers and business partners for the inconvenience this has caused.”

As a result of the partial network shutdown, Fujifilm USA added a notice to its website stating that it is currently experiencing problems affecting all forms of communications, including emails and incoming calls. In an earlier statement, Fujifilm confirmed that the cyberattack is also preventing the company from accepting and processing orders. 

Fujifilm has yet to respond to our request for comment.

While Fujifilm is keeping tight-lipped on further details, such as the identity of the ransomware used in the attack, Bleeping Computer reports that the company’s servers have been infected by Qbot. Advanced Intel CEO Vitali Kremez told the publication that the company’s systems were hit by the 13-year-old Trojan, typically initiated by phishing, last month.

The creators of Qbot, also known as QakBot or QuakBot, have a long history of partnering with ransomware operators. It previously worked with the ProLock and Egregor ransomware gangs, but is currently said to be linked with the notorious REvil group.

“Initial forensic analysis suggests that the ransomware attack on Fujifilm started with a Qbot trojan infection last month, which gave hackers a foothold in the company’s systems with which to deliver the secondary ransomware payload,” Ray Walsh, digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, told TechCrunch. “Most recently, the Qbot trojan has been actively exploited by the REvil hacking collective, and it seems highly plausible that the Russian-based hackers are behind this cyberattack.”

REvil, also known as Sodinokibi, not only encrypts a victim’s files but also exfiltrates data from their network. The hackers typically threaten to publish the victim’s files if their ransom isn’t paid. But a site on the dark web used by REvil to publicize stolen data appeared offline at the time of writing.

Ransomware attacks have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that they have become the biggest single money earner for cybercriminals. Threat hunting and cyber intelligence firm Group-IB estimates that the number of ransomware attacks grew by more than 150% in 2020, and that the average ransom demand increased more than twofold to $170,000.

At the time of writing, it’s unclear whether Fujifilm has paid any ransom to the hackers responsible for the attack on its systems.

#articles, #ceo, #computer-security, #crime, #crimes, #cyberattacks, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #dark-web, #digital-imaging, #fujifilm, #hardware, #intel, #ransomware, #security

Cybersecurity unicorn Exabeam raises $200M to fuel SecOps growth

Exabeam, a late-stage startup that helps organizations detect advanced cybersecurity threats, has landed a new $200 million funding round that values the company at $2.4 billion.

The Series F growth round was led by the Owl Rock division of Blue Owl Capital, with support from existing investors Acrew Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Norwest Venture Partners.

The announcement of Exabeam’s latest funding, which the company says will help it on its mission to become “the number one trusted cloud SeCops platform in the market”, coincides with the news that CEO Nir Polak, who co-founded the company in 2013, will be replaced by former ForeScout chief executive Michael DeCesare.

DeCesare is a big name in the cybersecurity space, with more than 25 years of experience leading high-growth security companies. He joined ForeScout as CEO and president in February 2015 after four years as president of McAfee, which at the time was owned by Intel. Under his leadership, ForeScout raised nearly $117 million in an upsized IPO that valued the IoT security vendor at $800 million.

Polak, meanwhile, will shift to a chairman role at Exabeam and “will continue on as an active member of the executive team and remain at the company,” according to the funding announcement.

“Nir has built an incredibly robust, diverse and inclusive culture at Exabeam, and I am committed to helping it flourish,” said DeCesare. “I’m thrilled to join Nir and the whole leadership team to help drive the company through its next phase of growth.”

Exabeam, which has now raised $390 million in six rounds of outside funding, says it expects to use the new money to fuel scale, innovate and extend the company’s leadership. “It gives us the opportunity to triple down on our R&D efforts and continue engineering the most advanced UEBA, XDR and SIEM cloud security products available today,” commented Polak.

The company adds that it has made significant investments in its partner program over the last 12 months, which now includes more than 400 reseller, distributor, systems integrator, MSSP, MDR and consulting partners globally. Exabeam also has more than 500 technology integrations with cloud network, data lake and endpoint vendors including CrowdStrike, Okta and Snowflake.

It’s clearly expecting these investments to pay off, describing its “outcome-based approach” to external security as perfectly suited to support organizations as they manage exponential amounts of data and return to the post-COVID workplace in a variety of hybrid scenarios. After all, hackers are already beginning to target employees who have started making a return to the office, and this threat is only likely to increase as more companies begin to dial back on remote working and start welcoming staff back into workplaces.

“Exabeam is poised to be the next-gen leader in the cloud security analytics, XDR and SIEM markets,” Pravin Vazirani, Blue Owl Capital’s managing director and co-head of tech investing, said in a statement. “We led this round of funding to provide the company with the resources necessary to support its sustainable, long-term growth and value creation.”

#acrew-capital, #ceo, #chairman, #cloud, #cloud-applications, #companies, #crowdstrike, #exabeam, #executive, #forescout, #funding, #intel, #leader, #lightspeed, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mcafee, #norwest-venture-partners, #okta, #president, #security, #software

Intel announces two new 11th-gen chips and a 5G M.2 laptop module at Computex

Intel kicked off this year’s virtual Computex by announcing two new 11th Gen U-Series chips for use in thin, lightweight laptops. It also unveiled its first 5G M.2 module for laptops, designed in a partnership with MediaTek (Intel sold its smartphone modem business to Apple in 2019).

Both of Intel’s new chips have Intel Irix Xe graphics. The flagship model is the Core i7-1195G7, which has base clock speed is 2.9 GHz, but can reach up to 5.0 GHz on a single core using Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0 tech. The other chip, called the Core i5-1155G7, has a base clock speed of 2.5GHzm and a maximum of 4.5GHz. Both chips have four cores and eight threads.

A comparison chart of Intel's new 11th-gen chips

A comparison chart of Intel’s new 11th-gen chips

The 5G M.2 module, called the “5G Solution 5000,” supports 5G NR midband, sub-6GHz frequencies and eSIM tech. Intel has partnerships with telecoms in North America, EMEA, APAC, Japan and Australia. The module is expected to be in laptops produced by Acer, ASUS, HP and other manufacturers by the end of this year, and OEMs are also working on 250 designs based on 11th Gen U-Series chips, expected to hit the market by the holidays.

Specs for Intel's new 5G M.2 module

Specs for Intel’s new 5G M.2 module

 

#5g, #chips, #computex, #cpus, #intel, #tc

Ampere prepares to launch its first custom data center chips

Ampere, the server startup that is betting on bringing Arm-based chips to the data center and edge, is hosting its annual media day today. With the 80-core Altara and 128-core Altra Max, the company already offers a platform that can rival and outperform those of competitors like Intel and AMD in many common scenarios — and Altra Max is now in production and shipping. Those chips are based on the standard ARM Neoverse N1 architecture, though. But now, it is about to launch its own custom  Ampere Cores, built on a 5nm process.

“Altra and Altra Max are based on the N1 core from Arm. We’re an architecture licensee as well as an IP licensee, so we’re going to talk about our own core [at our media day]: what we built, how we built it, why we built it,” Ampere CEO Renee James, who spent 26 years at Intel before founding Ampere, told me. “And what does a cloud-native processor look like? We like to think about it like you think about M1 for a PC from Apple, you would think about an Ampere Core for a cloud data center server.”

With the 128-core Altra Max, Ampere promises a chip that uses 50 percent less power per core compared to an AMD Rome CPU and performance gains of 1.6x for running the NGINX web server, for example. And all of those benchmarks look even better when compared to an Intel Cascade Lake Refresh CPU. AMD’s Rome launched in August 2019 and Intel’s Cascade Lake Scalable Performance Refresh CPU have been in the market since last Feburary.

“It’s all about developing that CPU that’s built for the cloud and making sure that we’re meeting the new — but not really not new anymore — but kind of the current and future needs of cloud-native workloads, that software development model, and that type of infrastructure deployment model,” Ampere’s CPO Jeff Wittich said. “Which for us really means developing a product that has high performance that’s very predictable across workloads across users and a very, very scalable platform for compute, memory, I/O, network, and that is very, very power efficient.”

Image Credits: Ampere

Wittich noted that Ampere had always planned to develop its own cores, in part because it offers a very specific product for a very specific use case. “We knew that from the start developing our own cores was going to be very, very important for us to innovate in the ways that we need to innovate,” he said. “I have to say the primary thing is that because we’re focused on cloud — and we’re not focused on a bunch of other markets, especially not client, and also not other markets, even within the server space — it means developing a core that’s specific to cloud is really important to us.”

Ampere’s cloud customers want certain built-in security features and manageability features for performance and power, for example. And as Wittich stressed, those have to be built in at the micro-architecture level to work properly (and this allows allow the company to optimize performance as well).

“We have to build our own cores to actually have a processor that does what the cloud wants,” he said. The Ampere Cores will, for example, feature high I/O memory bandwidth, for example, but optimized for cloud use cases, not high-performance computing use cases.

Image Credits: Ampere

James echoed this, noting that customers want these features and Ampere’s competitors will offer them. “The cloud business is pretty specific and the customers are very demanding,” she said. “So cadence is really important and we are competing against customers who have really very good products.”

It seems like this strategy is working out well for Ampere, which will now counts the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and Tencent Cloud among its customers. Rumor has it that Microsoft is working on its own Arm-based chips as well, but interestingly, the company is also using Ampere’s media day to talk about how it is readying Azure for Altra.

#advanced-micro-devices, #altra, #amd, #ampere, #california, #ceo, #cloud, #companies, #computers, #intel, #renee-james, #web-server

Intel’s Optane H20 is the latest attempt at “hybrid” laptop storage

The new Intel H20 looks like a standard NVMe SSD—but it packs both slow QLC NAND and ultra-fast Optane into separate chips on the same M.2 drive.

Enlarge / The new Intel H20 looks like a standard NVMe SSD—but it packs both slow QLC NAND and ultra-fast Optane into separate chips on the same M.2 drive. (credit: Intel)

Intel has a new consumer-targeted storage product, called Optane H20—as in H twenty, not water. The new device is an M.2 2280 format drive, using QLC (Quad Level Cell) NAND storage running behind an Optane cache layer.

This isn’t Intel’s first try at an Optane-backed hybrid SSD—the first, 2019’s Optane H10, made its way into a few consumer laptops but didn’t make much of a splash. H20 is a second try, with a significantly improved QLC SSD and NAND controller.

What’s a QLC?

Conventional NAND SSDs store data by maintaining charge levels in individual cells aboard a solid-state medium. How much data each individual cell stores is configurable and has dramatic impact upon the cost, performance, and longevity of the NAND as a whole:

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#3d-xpoint, #hybrid-ssd, #intel, #optane, #qlc, #ssd, #storage, #tech

TSMC is considering a 3 nm foundry in Arizona

In a few years, Phoenix residents will be seeing a lot more of this logo.

Enlarge / In a few years, Phoenix residents will be seeing a lot more of this logo. (credit: SOPA Images)

Reuters reports that TSMC—Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the chip foundry making advanced processors for Apple, AMD, and Qualcomm—is beefing up its plans to build factories in Arizona while turning away from an advanced plant in Europe.

Last year, TSMC announced that it would invest $10-$12 billion to build a new 5 nm capable foundry near Phoenix, Arizona. According to Reuters’ sources, TSMC officials are considering trebling the company’s investment by building a $25 billion second factory capable of building 3 nm chips. More tentative plans are in the works for 2 nm foundries as the Phoenix campus grows over the next 10-15 years as well.

US President Joe Biden called for $50 billion to subsidize US chip manufacturing facilities, and the US Senate may take action on the item this week. Strong domestic manufacturing capacity is seen as critical, since US chip firms such as Nvidia and Qualcomm rely on Asian manufacturing facilities. TSMC would be competing with Samsung and Intel to secure these Biden administration subsidies.

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#arizona, #chip-manufacturing, #intel, #samsung, #tech, #tsmc

Intel claims its new Tiger Lake-H CPUs for laptops beat AMD’s Ryzen 5000

Intel's new Core i9-11980HK leads the 11th-gen laptop CPU lineup.

Enlarge / Intel’s new Core i9-11980HK leads the 11th-gen laptop CPU lineup. (credit: Intel)

Intel today announced 10 new 11th-generation CPUs for high-performance laptops like those made for gamers or content creators. Built on the 10nm SuperFin process, the new chips are in the Core i9, Core i7, Core i5, and Xeon families, and they carry the label “Tiger Lake-H.”

New consumer laptop CPUs include the Core i9-11980HK, Core i9-11900H, Core i7-11800H—all of which have eight cores—plus the Core i5-11400H and Core i5-11260H, which each have six cores.

Naturally, Intel today put the spotlight on the fastest Core i9-11980HK chip. The company claims this CPU is able to beat its predecessor by several percentage points in games like Hitman 3 or Rainbow Six: Siege, depending on the game—anywhere from 5 percent to 21 percent, according to Intel’s own testing.

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#cpu, #intel, #tech, #tiger-lake-h

Tesla supplier Delta Electronics invests $7M in AI chip startup Kneron

Despite a persistent semiconductor shortage that is disrupting the global automotive industry, investors remain bullish on the chips used to power next-generation vehicles.

Kneron, a startup that develops semiconductors to give devices artificial intelligence capabilities by using edge computing, just got funded by Delta Electronics, a Taiwanese supplier of power components for Apple and Tesla. The $7 million investment boosts the startup’s total financing to over $100 million to date.

As part of the deal, Kneron also agreed to buy Vatics, a part of Delta Electronics’ subsidiary Vivotek, for $10 million in cash. The new assets nicely complement Kneron’s business as the startup extends its footprint to the booming smart car industry.

Vatics, an image signal processing provider, has been selling system-on-a-chip (SoC) and intellectual property to manufacturers of surveillance, consumer, and automotive products for many years across the United States and China.

Headquartered in San Diego with a development force in Taipei, Kneron has emerged in recent years as a challenge to AI chip incumbents like Intel and Google. Its chips boast of low-power consumption and enable data processing directly on the chips using the startup’s proprietary software, a departure from solutions that require data to be computed through powerful cloud centers and sent back to devices.

The approach has won Kneron a list of heavyweight backers, including strategic investor Foxconn, Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, Alibaba, and Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures.

Kneron has designed chips for scenarios ranging from manufacturing, smart homes, smartphones, robotics, surveillance and payments to autonomous driving. In the automotive field, it has struck partnerships with Foxconn and Otus, a supplier for Honda and Toyota.

Following the acquisition, Vatics executives will join Kneron to lead its surveillance and security camera division. The merged teams will jointly develop surveillance and automotive products for Kneron going forward. Image signal processors, coupled with neural processing units, are helpful in detecting objects and ensuring the safety of automated cars.

“This acquisition will allow us to offer full-stack AI solutions, along with our current class-leading NPUs [neural processing units], and will significantly speed up our go-to-market strategy,” said Kneron’s founder and CEO, Albert Liu.

#albert-liu, #alibaba, #apple, #apple-inc, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #automotive, #china, #computing, #foxconn, #honda, #horizons-ventures, #intel, #kneron, #li-ka-shing, #manufacturing, #qualcomm, #san-diego, #semiconductor, #sequoia-capital, #system-on-a-chip, #taipei, #tesla, #toyota

Lucid Motors taps Waymo, Intel veterans ahead of public listing

Lucid Motors is beefing up its executive and technical leadership team, hiring people from Waymo, Intel and Xperi as it prepares to become a publicly listed company. The automaker said Wednesday that Sherry House, who formerly worked at Waymo, will be its new chief financial officer.

House was at Waymo for four years, most recently as its as treasurer and head of investor relations. Prior to Waymo, she was vice president of corporate development at Visteon Corporation and managing director of technology, media and telecom at Deloitte Corporate Finance.

The electric vehicle automaker has also named Margaret Burgraff, who previously held positions at Apple and Intel, as vice president of software validation, Sanjay Chandra as vice president of Information Technology, and Jeff Curry as vice president of marketing and communications. Burgraff most recently served as vice president of global developer relations at Intel, where she was responsible for co-engineering and enabling global independent software vendors to work with Intel’s product portfolio. She was also a partner at Continuous Ventures, a global venture capital and private equity firm that primarily supports tech startups.

Chandra left his position as chief information officer and head of cloud of operations at TiVo/Xperi to join Lucid. He also worked a PayPal, Virgin Mobile and Workday. Curry most recently held a chief marketing level position at the Jaguar brand and had stints at Ferrari and Audi. Curry has also held marketing positions outside of automotive, including a vp-level at SiriusXM. He is the founding partner of brand strategy consultancy Mere Mortals.

The new hires comes just weeks before Lucid’s merger with special acquisition company Churchill Capital IV Corp. is expected to close, which officially make it a publicly traded company. The combined company, in which Saudi Arabia’s sovereign fund will continue to be the largest shareholder, will have a transaction equity value of $11.75 billion. Private investment in the public equity deal is priced at $15 a share, putting the implied pro-forma equity value at $24 billion. The private investment and cash from Churchill will provide roughly $4.4 billion in total funding to Lucid.

The public listing will provide Lucid the capital it needs to begin production of its first all-electric vehicle, the luxury Lucid Air. The company had originally intended to start production and the first deliveries in this spring, but pushed the date to the second half of the year. The Air will first come to North America, followed by Europe in 2022 and China in 2023.

Lucid is also aiming to bring a second vehicle, this time a performance luxury SUV called Gravity, to market in North America in 2023. The vehicles will be produced at its new factory in Casa Grande, Arizona. The initial phase of the $700 million factory was completed late last year and will have the capacity to produce 30,000 vehicles a year. Eventually, Lucid plans to expand the factory over another three phases to reach a production capacity of 365,000 units per year.

#apple, #automotive, #electric-vehicles, #intel, #lucid-air, #lucid-motors, #saudi-arabia-sovereign-fund, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #waymo, #xperi

Window Snyder’s new startup Thistle Technologies raises $2.5M seed to secure IoT devices

The Internet of Things has a security problem. The past decade has seen wave after wave of new internet-connected devices, from sensors through to webcams and smart home tech, often manufactured in bulk but with little — if any — consideration to security. Worse, many device manufacturers make no effort to fix security flaws, while others simply leave out the software update mechanisms needed to deliver patches altogether.

That sets up an entire swath of insecure and unpatchable devices to fail, and destined to be thrown out when they break down or are invariably hacked.

Security veteran Window Snyder thinks there is a better way. Her new startup, Thistle Technologies, is backed with $2.5 million in seed funding from True Ventures with the goal of helping IoT manufacturers reliably and securely deliver software updates to their devices.

Snyder founded Thistle last year, and named it after the flowering plant with sharp prickles designed to deter animals from eating them. “It’s a defense mechanism,” Snyder told TechCrunch, a name that’s fitting for a defensive technology company. The startup aims to help device manufacturers without the personnel or resources to integrate update mechanisms into their device’s software in order to receive security updates and better defend against security threats.

“We’re building the means so that they don’t have to do it themselves. They want to spend the time building customer-facing features anyway,” said Snyder. Prior to founding Thistle, Snyder worked in senior cybersecurity positions at Apple, Intel, and Microsoft, and also served as chief security officer at Mozilla, Square, and Fastly.

Thistle lands on the security scene at a time when IoT needs it most. Botnet operators are known to scan the internet for devices with weak default passwords and hijack their internet connections to pummel victims with floods of internet traffic, knocking entire websites and networks offline. In 2016, a record-breaking distributed denial-of-service attack launched by the Mirai botnet on internet infrastructure giant Dyn knocked some of the biggest websites — Shopify, SoundCloud, Spotify, Twitter — offline for hours. Mirai had ensnared thousands of IoT devices into its network at the time of the attack.

Other malicious hackers target IoT devices as a way to get a foot into a victim’s network, allowing them to launch attacks or plant malware from the inside.

Since device manufacturers have done little to solve their security problems among themselves, lawmakers are looking at legislating to curb some of the more egregious security mistakes made by default manufacturers, like using default — and often unchangeable — passwords and selling devices with no way to deliver security updates.

California paved the way after passing an IoT security law in 2018, with the U.K. following shortly after in 2019. The U.S. has no federal law governing basic IoT security standards.

Snyder said the push to introduce IoT cybersecurity laws could be “an easy way for folks to get into compliance” without having to hire fleets of security engineers. Having an update mechanism in place also helps to keeps the IoT devices around for longer — potentially for years longer — simply by being able to push fixes and new features.

“To build the infrastructure that’s going to allow you to continue to make those devices resilient and deliver new functionality through software, that’s an incredible opportunity for these device manufacturers. And so I’m building a security infrastructure company to support that security needs,” she said.

With the seed round in the bank, Snyder said the company is focused on hiring device and back-end engineers, product managers, and building new partnerships with device manufacturers.

Phil Black, co-founder of True Ventures — Thistle’s seed round investor — described the company as “an astute and natural next step in security technologies.” He added: “Window has so many of the qualities we look for in founders. She has deep domain expertise, is highly respected within the security community, and she’s driven by a deep passion to evolve her industry.”

#apple, #bank, #botnet, #california, #co-founder, #computer-security, #computing, #cybercrime, #cyberwarfare, #dyn, #fastly, #intel, #internet-of-things, #internet-traffic, #malware, #microsoft, #mirai, #science-and-technology, #security, #shopify, #soundcloud, #spotify, #startups, #technology, #true-ventures, #united-kingdom, #united-states

Huawei is not a carmaker. It wants to be the Bosch of China

One after another, Chinese tech giants have announced their plans for the auto space over the last few months. Some internet companies, like search engine provider Baidu, decided to recruit help from a traditional carmaker to produce cars. Xiaomi, which makes its own smartphones but has stressed for years it’s a light-asset firm making money from software services, also jumped on the automaking bandwagon. Industry observers are now speculating who will be the next. Huawei naturally comes to their minds.

Huawei seems well-suited for building cars — at least more qualified than some of the pure internet firms — thanks to its history in manufacturing and supply chain management, brand recognition, and vast retail network. But the telecom equipment and smartphone maker repeatedly denied reports claiming it was launching a car brand. Instead, it says its role is to be a Tier 1 supplier for automakers or OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).

Huawei is not a carmaker, the company’s rotating chairman Eric Xu reiterated recently at the firm’s annual analyst conference in Shenzhen.

“Since 2012, I have personally engaged with the chairmen and CEOs of all major car OEMs in China as well as executives of German and Japanese automakers. During this process, I found that the automotive industry needs Huawei. It doesn’t need the Huawei brand, but instead, it needs our ICT [information and communication technology] expertise to help build future-oriented vehicles,” said Xu, who said the strategy has not changed since it was incepted in 2018.

There are three major roles in auto production: branded vehicle manufacturers like Audi, Honda, Tesla, and soon Apple; Tier 1 companies that supply car parts and systems directly to carmakers, including established ones like Bosch and Continental, and now Huawei; and lastly, chip suppliers including Nvidia, Intel and NXP, whose role is increasingly crucial as industry players make strides toward highly automated vehicles. Huawei also makes in-house car chips.

“Huawei wants to be the next-generation Bosch,” an executive from a Chinese robotaxi startup told TechCrunch, asking not to be named.

Huawei makes its position as a Tier 1 supplier unequivocal. So far it has secured three major customers: BAIC, Chang’an Automobile, and Guangzhou Automobile Group.

“We won’t have too many of these types of in-depth collaboration,” Xu assured.

L4 autonomy?

Arcfox, a new electric passenger car brand under state-owned carmaker BAIC, debuted its Alpha S model quipped with Huawei’s “HI” systems, short for Huawei Inside (not unlike “Powered by Intel”), during the annual Shanghai auto show on Saturday. The electric sedan, priced between 388,900 yuan and 429,900 yuan (about $60,000 and $66,000), comes with Huawei functions including an operating system driven by Huawei’s Kirin chip, a range of apps that run on HarmonyOS, automated driving, fast charging, and cloud computing.

Perhaps most eye-catching is that Alpha S has achieved Level 4 capabilities, which Huawei confirmed with TechCrunch.

That’s a bold statement, for it means that the car will not require human intervention in most scenarios, that is, drivers can take their hands off the wheels and nap.

There are some nuances to this claim, though. In a recent interview, Su Qing, general manager for autonomous driving at Huawei, said Alpha S is L4 in terms of “experience” but L2 according to “legal” responsibilities. China has only permitted a small number of companies to test autonomous vehicles without safety drivers in restricted areas and is far from letting consumer-grade driverless cars roam urban roads.

As it turned out, Huawei’s “L4” functions were shown during a demo, during which the Arcfox car traveled for 1,000 kilometers in a busy Chinese city without human intervention, though a safety driver was present in the driving seat. Automating the car is a stack of sensors, including three lidars, six millimeter-wave radars, 13 ultrasonic radars and 12 cameras, as well as Huawei’s own chipset for automated driving.

“This would be much better than Tesla,” Xu said of the car’s capabilities.

But some argue the Huawei-powered vehicle isn’t L4 by strict definition. The debate seems to be a matter of semantics.

“Our cars you see today are already L4, but I can assure you, I dare not let the driver leave the car,” Su said. “Before you achieve really big MPI [miles per intervention] numbers, don’t even mention L4. It’s all just demos.”

“It’s not L4 if you can’t remove the safety driver,” the executive from the robotaxi company argued. “A demo can be done easily, but removing the driver is very difficult.”

“This technology that Huawei claims is different from L4 autonomous driving,” said a director working for another Chinese autonomous vehicle startup. “The current challenge for L4 is not whether it can be driverless but how to be driverless at all times.”

L4 or not, Huawei is certainly willing to splurge on the future of driving. This year, the firm is on track to spend $1 billion on smart vehicle components and tech, Xu said at the analyst event.

A 5G future

Many believe 5G will play a key role in accelerating the development of driverless vehicles. Huawei, the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker, would have a lot to reap from 5G rollouts across the globe, but Xu argued the next-gen wireless technology isn’t a necessity for self-driving vehicles.

“To make autonomous driving a reality, the vehicles themselves have to be autonomous. That means a vehicle can drive autonomously without external support,” said the executive.

“Completely relying on 5G or 5.5G for autonomous driving will inevitably cause problems. What if a 5G site goes wrong? That would raise a very high bar for mobile network operators. They would have to ensure their networks cover every corner, don’t go wrong in any circumstances and have high levels of resilience. I think that’s simply an unrealistic expectation.”

Huawei may be happy enough as a Tier 1 supplier if it ends up taking over Bosch’s market. Many Chinese companies are shifting away from Western tech suppliers towards homegrown options in anticipation of future sanctions or simply to seek cheaper alternatives that are just as robust. Arcfox is just the beginning of Huawei’s car ambitions.

#apple, #artificial-intelligence, #asia, #audi, #automotive, #bosch, #china, #continental, #eric-xu, #harmony, #harmonyos, #honda, #huawei, #intel, #nvidia, #nxp, #operating-system, #shanghai, #shenzhen, #supply-chain-management, #tc, #tesla, #transportation, #wireless-technology, #xiaomi

Intel, Nvidia, TSMC execs agree: Chip shortage could last into 2023

Intel, Nvidia, TSMC execs agree: Chip shortage could last into 2023

(credit: Intel)

How many years will the ongoing chip shortage affect technology firms across the world? This week, multiple tech executives offered their own dismal estimates as part of their usual public financial disclosures, with the worst one coming in at “a couple of years.”

That nasty estimate comes from Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who offered that vague timeframe to The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday. He clarified that was an estimate for how long it would take the company to “build capacity” to potentially address supply shortages. The conversation came as Intel offered to step up for two supply chains particularly pinched by the silicon drought: medical supplies and in-car computer systems.

In previous statements, Gelsinger pointed to Intel’s current $20 billion plan to build a pair of factories in Arizona, and this week’s interview added praise for President Joe Biden’s proposed $50 billion chip-production infrastructure plan—though Gelsinger indicated that Biden should be ready to spend more than that.

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Microsoft makes the Surface Laptop 4 official, offers choice of AMD or Intel

After recent leaks suggested an imminent arrival, Microsoft has officially launched the latest entry in its line of Surface PCs: the Surface Laptop 4.

The new laptop starts at $999 and will be available to purchase in the US, Canada, and Japan as of today, with shipping beginning on April 15. Microsoft says more markets will follow in the “coming weeks.” In the US, those who buy the Surface Laptop 4 through Microsoft or Best Buy before April 15 will get a pair of Surface Earbuds headphones bundled in at no extra cost.

Familiar hardware

As for the device itself, the Surface Laptop 4 is more of a refinement than a reinvention of the previous Surface Laptop 3, which launched in late 2019. That laptop’s build quality was generally well-regarded, and the design here is more or less identical to before.

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