Grading the rumors — assessing Apple’s possible releases at the Chicago event on March 27

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With a new Apple event just days away, the rampant speculation has begun. AppleInsider weighs in on the current crop of rumors and reports, and discusses possibilities for the unusual event, happening far away from Apple’s new campus.
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Assessing three pressing cyber threats for IoT in 2018

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Every year we see new pressing cyber threats, from new targets for hackers to new issues cropping up in the cybersecurity space. 2018 will be no different. One area that has recently got a lot of attention is IoT devices, as the use of such devices has increased in both the public and private sectors. Here at Silobreaker we are keen to highlight three pressing cyber threats to IoT devices that we believe enterprises need to be aware of:

Industrial take-downs

By 2020 it is expected that 25% of cyber-attacks will target IoT devices, many of which will be deployed in industrial environments. Infection and covert usage of IoT devices to mine cryptocurrencies or conduct DDoS attacks is a trend that isn’t slowing down, and one that is especially problematic in the industrial space because Industrial IoT devices tend to be both poorly secured and difficult to patch, especially across a distributed environment such as manufacturing.

It’s true that Mirai, and variants such as Okiru and Satori, pose a major risk to manufacturing, where the reduction of a connected device’s processing power can seriously impact safety or disrupt processes. But there is also the potential for untargeted, collateral damage in this space. The prospect of motivated attackers leveraging destructive malware such as BrickerBot to wipe devices is highly concerning, but such ‘attacks’ need not even be targeted to cause damage. A wormable exploit such as the one used by WannaCry could cause widespread infection of industrial IoT devices –  to devastating effect – quite regardless of the original intentions of the attacker. We expect to see a major event of this kind take place in 2018.

Bringing in the professionals

Another pressing threat for 2018 is a dearth of skills and resources. Humans are still the weakest link in the security chain, but hiring and training people who can understand and respond to issues in the threat space is only becoming more difficult. Demand is rising much faster than supply, with 3.5 million unfilled positions in the cyber security field expected by 2021. At the same time, the eternal catch-up game played between criminals and analysts continues, with threats becoming more sophisticated and widespread every day.

As we further integrate IoT technology into our lives and into sectors such as manufacturing and critical infrastructure, this problem is not going to go away – it is going to get worse. The skills we need to protect ourselves: analysing information, separating intelligence from noise, and understanding the motivations of threat actors, are in short supply. They need to be cultivated. And to some extent this is happening; we’re simply not doing it fast enough. If this skills gap widens too fast, and too quickly, it won’t matter how much companies are willing to pay to fill these vital positions; we will all become victims.

To mitigate this issue, we need to put more effort than ever into hiring, training and retaining the next generation of cyber security experts. Information security is increasingly being viewed as more than an IT-only problem, which is a big step, but budgets don’t always scale with intentions. Yes, working to improve the “cyber hygiene” of employees is important, but no organisation is unbreachable. And we need many more skilled people if we want to be prepared for when the worst happens.

The most tantalising treasure is data

Theft and manipulation of personal information from IoT devices is a growing concern for 2018. With IoT machines becoming ever more popular with consumers, we need to come to terms with the idea that our personal information is more at risk than ever. Devices such as Amazon’s Echo and other virtual assistants allow us to (often unwittingly) sacrifice convenience for security – as we learned when a researcher used malware to stream audio to a remote server. Or when a Bluetooth vulnerability rendered Echo, Google Home and billions of other devices vulnerable to hijacking. We don’t know all the potential methods by which our personal information – what we say and do in our own homes – can be used against us, because having one’s personal life potentially exposed in this way is brand new. Identity theft and the resale of shopping habits are all perfectly possible, but this data can also enable crime in the physical world. If you’ve suddenly stopped ordering your weekly groceries, maybe there’s nobody at home? Assuming such information can be accessed, it will certainly be sold.

Mitigating data theft from devices like Echo is both a manufacturer issue and a consumer one. The more these devices are sold and used, the more attractive targeting them becomes for criminals. At the same time, the longer consumers wait before purchasing, the more tried and tested (and secure) this technology becomes. Purchasing from quality vendors will also reduce the risk of security ‘oversights’ and make sure that vulnerabilities are patched. Fundamentally, it also comes back to the very personal question of convenience versus security; to what extent are the risks worth the rewards? Caveat emptor. Latest from the homepage

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Assessing 2017 in the Internet of Things, AI and connected cars – and what 2018 has in store

It won’t come as much surprise that 2017 was a major year for the Internet of Things (IoT). Nor will it come as any surprise that 2018 is expected to be another banner year. Here, IoT News looks at the key trends of last year, and asks a series of experts what they expect to see in the coming 12 months.

2017 – three key areas

Industrial IoT: According to Grand View Research, the global industrial IoT market is expected to reach $ 933 billion by 2025. Yet a lot of the research which came this publication’s way in 2017 focused on the limitations enterprises are facing. A March study from Tripwire found that the vast majority of IT professionals believed an increase in IIoT cybersecurity attacks was imminent, while in February Alex Vilner wrote of the importance for technology firms in getting the basics right before approaching manufacturers.  

Despite this, plenty of good work is taking place in a variety of industries as the below articles show, from the oil and gas sector, to healthcare, to pharmaceutical.

May: How a pharmaceutical supply chain company is taking advantage of the Internet of Things
July: Smart cities and the Internet of Things – and the role of a smart supply chain in their success
July: Five ways healthcare firms can get ahead in the race to the Medical Internet of Things
August: Oil and gas 4.0: Making excellence operational

Connected cars: Opinion was divided across the media as to what 2017 would hold in the connected car space. Autoblog opined in January that 2017 ‘will be the year the connected car becomes a reality.’ VentureBeat proffered in March that 2017 ‘won’t be the year of the connected car.’

Whichever opinion you end up agreeing with, plenty of developments took place over the past 12 months. The initiative between Intel, BMW, and Mobileye progressed frequently; firstly with Intel acquiring Mobileye, then Delphi and Fiat Chrysler joining the project. Intel said in May it had “unwavering confidence” in its success, unveiling an innovation centre for autonomous driving in the same breath.

NVIDIA made moves too – alongside an AI project with Volkswagen, Audi’s A8 was the first vehicle in production to ship with ‘Level 3’ self-driving technology – while a study from Juniper Research in September prophesised that drivers for platforms such as Uber and Lyft will double over the next five years.

Then there were the investments. Among others, Jaguar Land Rover invested $ 25 million into Lyft, while Uber bought tens of thousands of Volvos in order to boost its driverless push.

AI: In a presentation towards the end of 2017, Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans analysed four emerging technological S-curves; of those four, autonomy was stuck in the gate where the goal was to get the technology to work; cryptocurrency was where the tech worked but the right product market needed to be found; and mixed reality was somewhere between the two. AI, however, was in the ‘pour on rocket fuel’ stage.

Naturally, a lot of this innovation is in the automotive realm. This publication reported in May that Milton Keynes was using artificial intelligence to help reduce gridlock during rush hour traffic jams, while in February Ford announced plans to invest $ 1 billion into an AI startup. Indeed, the UK appears to be well-placed. Chris Bishop, lab director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, posited in December how the UK could be a leader in the sector but fears losing out in the talent race, while Oxford Insights found in the same month that the UK was ranked top of the tree for international governments’ readiness towards artificial intelligence.

Yet plenty remains to be done, not least to sate fears – primarily propagated by Elon Musk – that AI will be a threat to humanity. As Evans noted, AI is picking up spatial reasoning, while an opinion piece from June around Facebook’s bots which appeared to be conversing in their own language made for particularly interesting reading. “Pattern matching is just one part of general intelligence,” this publication wrote. “We’re only beginning to understand spatial reasoning ourselves, but we know it consists of a deep set of algorithms honed to improve our chances of survival.

“Implementing spatial awareness for AI is the next big step, but when – like with pattern matching – it surpasses humans, that’s when it’s time we accepted our intelligence no longer gives us an edge over the machines.”

2018 trends

Below are a series of predictions from executives in the space around what 2018 will hold:

Whurley, chair, IEEE Quantum Computing Working Group

“In 2018 mainstream developers will dive into learning how to program quantum computers. This emerging technology will start to capture developer mindshare especially in areas like data science, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

“Advances made in 2017 will see a wealth of new tools, and languages available to the average developer. This combined with more generally available hardware simulators and emulators, open source, and cloud-based quantum computers will all provide developers with the platform required to start coding new and exciting applications.”

Chad Steelberg, CEO and chairman, Veritone

“For the sake of tomorrow, AI needs to be used on both the offence and the defence, because in the near future we’ll be looking at an AI vs. AI combat zone for the first time. There will be a transition where warfare in general will move from traditional state actors and humans engaging in the process, to AI leading the front.

“For example, AI could be directed to attack foreign states and corporations at a veracity that humans cannot defend. Now is the time to discuss purpose-driven AI for good so we can work to protect our society.”

John D’Ambrosia, chairman of the board, Ethernet Alliance

“As autonomous cars inch closer to reality, it cannot be understated how intertwined the true potential of this vision and the connected car are. Of course, this means that the bandwidth demands fuelling the applications empowering the connected driverless car and its passengers must be considered.

“With 117 million cars forecasted to be produced for 2019, the potential bandwidth demands will reverberate through the entire networked ecosystem, and only grow from there.”

Jeremy Hand, managing partner, Lyceum Capital

“From chatbots to more obscure AI algorithms deployed on machinery, AI is becoming more and more embedded in our working lives. Even more interesting is how the rise of AI has led to the proliferation of data – now, everybody owns data, whether you are an OTT player or a supermarket. Companies are becoming more and more creative in the way they use data to their own ends.

“We will see real-life IoT use cases for both business and consumers emerge. IoT will make home automation more prevalent. From your dishwasher and washing machine, through to your fridge and car – everything will become connected and operational, using a simple app.”

Roberto Saracco, head of industrial doctoral school, EIT Digital

“There is a growing presence of autonomous systems in our daily life, from autonomous vacuum cleaners, to drones, from self-driving cars, to robots on the manufacturing floor. We’ll find ourselves in a world where many objects are self-aware and behave accordingly. There will be a smooth, nearly imperceptible evolution, much like the increase in autonomous capabilities in cars such as self-parking, lane cruising, and braking assistance.

“As drones move closer to becoming standard photographic equipment, 2018 will bring us things like smart tripods. These are but a few examples of the growing pervasiveness of autonomous systems that we’ll see in 2018.” Latest from the homepage

Assessing a sustainable IoT future: Why security and connectivity barriers must be overcome

What will the connected world look like in 2030? According to a new report from Wipro Digital, a sustainable future will be achieved but only if certain barriers are conquered first.

The report, developed together by Wipro and non-profit organization Forum for the Future, found that although 98% of business leaders are sure that data and connectivity will contribute to a sustainable future, only 50% of them utilise them to support such efforts.

According to the study, the future vision for an IoT driven connectivity can be achieved when business leaders overcome some barriers associated with IoT, data and connectivity. Some of the barriers highlighted in the report include security risks and lack of necessary governance for artificial intelligence and IoT.

The business leaders industry experts surveyed for preparing the report have highlighted some concrete examples in which IoT, data and connectivity can help in driving a sustainable future. These examples include the use of technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality to help in understanding global challenges and empathising in situations that are distant from the individual; and use of data to inform and empower citizens to express their views and ideas to create the future of their dreams.

Jayraj Nair, VP and global head of IoT at Wipro Limited, said: "IoT, data and connectivity are changing the way we live and work – disrupting industries and reshaping the social landscape. To ensure these advances have a positive impact on the future, grow our economies and drive sustainable efforts, we must successfully and efficiently harness these technologies. The Vision 2030 report imagines a world where we can do just that, and offers suggestions on how to make those visions a reality."

Elsewhere, a report from Navigant Research projected that the global combined cumulative revenue for IIoT devices, software and services will surpass $ 1 trillion by 2027. Latest from the homepage

Transformers: Assessing the connected car revolution – and what is coming next

In recent years, developments in the automotive industry combined with trends in transportation have evolved the car from an underutilised machine that delivers its owner from A to B, to a dynamic hub capable of delivering a variety of services to a wide variety of passengers.

This is similar to the way that Apple’s arrival in the world of mobile telephony disrupted the status quo for handset OEMs and, in doing so, transformed an entire industry. The arrival of Tesla, Google and, of course, Apple in the automotive world has set alarm bells ringing in the boardrooms of the major automakers around the world. Which is why manufacturers – with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT) – are innovating and transforming their businesses back into the growth industry inspired by Henry Ford. And this has led us to a modern day automotive revolution.

Converging roadmaps

Two of the most interesting developments in automotives revolve around the advent of affordable ride sharing services (particularly in metropolitan areas) such as Uber and Lyft and the autonomous vehicle. These two disciplines are both distinct, but overlapping.

Car ownership among millennials has been declining for some time for a whole host of reasons. But the chief driver was ushered in by the arrival of the smartphone. Jeremy Rifkin, author and economist, stated that, “25 years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership an anomaly.” Car sharing services are changing how people think about car ownership. Car ownership costs the average Londoner £250 per month and yet they spend less than half an hour per day using it. And you can guarantee most of that half hour will be spent sitting in traffic jams.

The majority of the time, a personal vehicle is parked. In the sharing economy, a connected car could broadcast itself as being available for use at various times of day. For example, the owner of an electric BMW drives into work in Frankfurt at 7am. They need to take the vehicle back home at 4pm. This vehicle is now available from 8am (charging time one hour) till 3 pm (to charge again for use at 4pm). It broadcasts its availability with a range that it can be driven for a fee. IoT connectivity is key to enable that vehicle to be remotely opened by the person reserving the car, to track where the car is and provide reminders about return time, etc. Now that car becomes a source of potential revenue for its owner, just like Airbnb for dwellings.

The transportation industry is being disrupted by ride sharing services, and it is adapting by bringing IoT into the vehicle to enable a host of new services of its own. Automakers, as well as the likes of technology companies such as Uber, Google and Apple, are already looking at what it takes to get to autonomous. In India, its estimated that 20% of new vehicle sales will go to companies like Ola and Uber by 2020, in a market with increasing vehicle sales. The OEMs are actively getting into this space as well – GM with Maven and Daimler with Car2Go. These are all playing a role in car ownership and one’s driving experience.

Autonomous vehicles will create tremendous amounts of free time for commuters. That 60 minute journey to the office becomes a time to catch up on work or domestic admin, or the latest TV series. Autonomous cars also promise to make our journeys safer and, thanks to superior route planning, faster. But making truly autonomous cars a mass market reality will take years according to most experts – though often the water is muddied by how people choose to define ‘autonomous’.

Volvo, Daimler, GM, are all preparing to deploy small fleets in controlled environments. This is not a technology that can be tested in a laboratory. We need to drive in real world conditions to see how the systems perform.

Once truly autonomous vehicle technology becomes a reality, that technology will be blended with ride sharing. This will deliver unprecedented levels of disruption to the car industry.

The green light

The two converging developments in the automotive industry of ride sharing and the autonomous vehicle are supported by, but not reliant upon, the push to go green. This represents an entire subset of the automotive revolution and is indirectly pushing an autonomous future. Uptake of electric cars is slow at present though since they’re are relatively expensive. But the costs are coming down. Furthermore, technical hurdles such as range are improving, in addition to recharging times. Meanwhile, greater supporting infrastructure is slowly but surely being rolled out.

Tesla and other EV companies have the advantage of being “new” companies with no legacy technologies, thinking or processes. They are able to apply the latest technology from various industries and disrupt the traditional OEM business. So they have been able to apply the latest technologies to get their cars to be autonomous.

The push by Electric Vehicle OEMs to attain Autonomous gets put on the “Green bandwagon” since they are environmentally better, due to their non-dependence on fossil fuels.

Ride-sharing also reduces wasted trips, parking and other unnecessary costs within the car transportation eco-system, by allowing cars to be used more. No more driving around to find parking – which saves time and space.

Navigating connectivity in the here and now

In Europe, the basic services that will first come to market due to eCall will be safety and security that will be triggered with automatic crash notification. This is not new in other markets like North America, but a majority of the OEMs in Europe are yet to launch eCall. Beyond consumer applications, there are also safety implications for fleet drivers, with new services that help prevent them from falling asleep while driving. Electronic log books will keep track of the number of hours a fleet driver has been awake and driving and provide alerts when it is time to rest, helping to prevent potential accidents due to drowsy driving.

Over-the-air software/firmware updates are going to play a crucial role in a world where cars are digitally controlled. A connected car designed with upgradeable electronic component units will bring forth a revolution on what is considered a new car versus a new-feature car. OEMs will be able to update software features on the vehicle on a regular basis. New age OEMs treat cars like another IT asset which needs the latest software updates to be delivered automatically. This will allow for cars to be kept fresh for much longer.

Security as a service is also a key consideration. There are several mechanisms in place to protect against manipulations/hacking of connected cars, as connected car are more vulnerable than their non-connected counterparts. Some steps that can be taken include restricting the connections to and from the vehicle to trusted end-points, ensuring core vehicle operations are not corruptible without authentication, encryption of data, automatic anomaly detection and remediation, and many other well-known security applications and practices already used in the IT world.

More than a machine

In some respects, the connected car has very much arrived. However, we’re years from a time when car ownership will disappear to be replaced by self-driving vehicles picking up and dropping off passengers in and around our cities. This is a utopian vision for some, but a dystopian nightmare for others. It could well be a generational issue. For Generation X and the Baby Boomers cars represent freedom. They’re more than just a machine. People have emotional bonds with their cars, they modify and customise the look and the feel, they sometimes give them names. The Model T which helped kicked off the revolution was available in any colour as long as it was black, but once people got their hands on affordable vehicles, they wanted them to look and perform differently from the one their neighbour owned.

But millennials, at least in bigger cities, are demonstrating that car ownership is not a guaranteed aspiration. Once autonomous cars do arrive, there will be less of a demand in terms of what the car looks like. The post-millennial generation are starting to come of age and the world they live in will be much the same as that of their predecessors. Things could be markedly different for Gen Alpha though (those born after 2011). The transformation for this group has the potential to be akin to the move from horse drawn carriages to cars.

In this brave new world, the revenue for automakers will not be derived solely from the margin on the finished product. Thanks to connectivity, the automaker has a connection to the customer way beyond the point of sale, and the ability to continuously improve the driving experience over time. Latest from the homepage

KITT is no longer a fantasy: Assessing the rise in infotainment for connected cars

Back in 1982, when intelligent assistant KITT from the hit TV show Knight Rider first hit our screens, the most sophisticated info-entertainment tech inside your car was probably a radio and cassette deck.

We’ve come a long way in the past 35 years. According to research firm Gartner, by 2020 there will be 250 million connected cars on the world’s roads. But just how far off are we from having our own KITTs installed in those connected vehicles?

KITT was able to drive as well as provide Michael Knight with all the information he needed through a voice interface. While we’ll undoubtedly find autonomous vehicles hitting our roads en masse sometime soon, the immediate future will see more and more car manufacturers pre-installing increasingly sophisticated intelligent assistant software. Rather than commenting on full-blown self-driving vehicles, this article aims to look at the features of those in-car intelligent assistants that are designed to make the driver’s life easier, safer and more enjoyable.

This year has already seen a spate of announcements from carmakers who have been clamouring to sign up intelligent assistants. Amongst the deals being made, Microsoft will supply Cortana to cars made by BMW and Nissan, Ford has reached a deal with Amazon to equip some of its vehicles with Alexa, while Hyundai has announced that it will make its cars partially voice controlled using Google Assistant. Toyota has announced a concept car that features its own intelligent assistant called Yui too.

My company, Sherpa, has also recently reached an agreement with a major car manufacturer to install our intelligent assistant into their connected cars.

So what kind of functionality will this AI-powered software have, and what tasks can we expect it to be able to carry out?

While some manufacturers already have smartphone apps and in-built touch screen functionality, it’s clear that voice control will be the major player. The adoption of voice in other sectors – such as office environments – is more intrusive, but the hermetic space of the car makes it the perfect place to speak to your virtual assistant and the added bonus of creating safer driving experiences further enhances the likelihood of mass adoption.

It is however important to point out that voice recognition, although now highly advanced in the English language, still only offers varying support for other languages. Although this is coming, it’s a major factor to take into consideration for car manufacturers.

As for the tasks we should expect our assistants to perform, the limits are really only in our imaginations. In general terms, a dedicated automotive assistant that has a deep understanding of your car and your driving-related activity will undoubtedly mitigate distraction and enhance the overall driving experience.

An in-car intelligent assistant should be able to answer not only any question a driver has about their vehicle, but also queries about the environment surrounding it, as well as being able to provide information and recommendations to the occupants.

It could help schedule a service when needed or tell the driver about tyre wear, for example. It would also allow drivers to the ability to start their car from a distance, turn on the heating (no more scraping ice on those frosty mornings!), adjust air conditioning, lock the vehicle doors – and check they’re locked, or open your garage door.

As well as providing directions and traffic updates – something we now take for granted – the in-car assistant would inform about places of interest nearby, find and book a table at a restaurant, tell you about good nearby parking, or let attendees know if you’re running later for a meeting.

On top of carrying out a variety of tasks, the assistant will also learn from your actions and interests, being able to recommend restaurants that serve food you like, or play music by your preferred artists. And with the inevitable arrival of autonomous cars, the automotive assistant will eventually provide a full-blown info-entertainment experience.

“In the very long play we can see vehicles becoming a real entertainment space – an extension of people’s lounges,” says Jack Wetherill, a tech analyst at Futuresource Consulting. “The real endgame is we all put our feet up and watch movies, the digital assistant does the driving.” Latest from the homepage