MIPI’s first spec for vehicles is based on Valens

The international organization MIPI Alliance, that develops interface specifications for the mobile industrie and includes most of the leading names in the electronics and chip industry, has released a new spec called MIPI A-PHY v1.0, which for the first time standardized the interface between the sensors and monitors in the vehicle and the computing units. The spec is designed to ensure the reliability of the in-vehicle safety and infotaiment systems. MIPI is mainly focuses on mobile interfaces, and A-PHY is the first spec it devised for the vehicle market, due to the importance of data link between in-vehicle systems.

The specification provides a common base for chip companies, camera and sensor manufacturers, software companies and auto-makers, for the development of integrated solutions in a uniform standard. The new standard is based entirely on the technology of the Israeli company Valens, which participated in the working group that formulated the standard. The group included about a dozen companies, selected from the roughly 330 members in the organization. Among the prominent companies in the group are Intel, Sony, Tectronics, ST, ON Semiconductor and others.

16Gbps along 15 meters

Valens’s VP of Marketing, Dana Zelitzki (a participant on behalf of the company in one of MIPI’s subgroups), explained to TechTime that the new standard is of great significance for MIPI and the industry as a whole. “MIPI dominates the mobile world, and it now wants to gain a similar footing in the automotive world. The goal is to produce a collection of solutions for all communication protocols in the vehicle environment. There are now working groups that are already working on additional standards.”

The A-PHY standard defines an architecture for fast and reliable asymmetric communication between vehicle systems on a single cable. Given the safety and performance requirements in the automotive world, the specification requires that the communication will have an ultra-low packet error rate (10-19 per communication package), ultra-high immunity to electromagnetic interference (EMC effects), and a data rate of 2-16 gigabits per second (Gbps) to a reach of up to 15 meters, with a future road map of up to 48Gbps in the future.

Zelitzki: “This standard will help simplify the interior architecture of the vehicle. Instead of having to use conversion components between different manufacturers’ hardware, manufacturers will be able to integrate the specification into the product during development, and ensure compatibility with all other products.”

The first product on the market that complies with the spec

In fact, the specification reflects the technology developed by Valens. The company’s communication chips enable to transmit uncompressed video and audio content, and data in various formats and protocols such as USB and Ethernet, at ultra-fast speeds and over a single Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) for up to 15 meters. This accommodates major hardware issues in the car, such as the excessive weight of cables in the vehicle and electromagnetic interferences that can impair signal quality.

Zelitzki: “This constitutes a very significant achievement for us, and also a great business potential. The whole industry is looking at MIPI, because it is the first standard that provides a solution for the interface between the vehicle and the sensors and cameras in it.” The standard is also compatible with Valens’s next-gen family of chips, VA7000, which is expected to hit the market in 2021 and provide uncompressed in-vehicle communications at speeds of up to 16Gbps.

The VA7000 chips are also designed to connect the sensory systems – such as cameras, LiDAR and radar – to the in-vehicle computing units. “The standard gives us a significant market advantage. The industry knows that the first product on the market that complies with the standard will be ours. We are focused now on execution in order to get the chips out to the market on schedule, and in building the ecosystem of companies such as camera and monitor manufacturers, that support the new standard.”

Daimler’s S-Class includes the previous Valens chip

Valens was founded in 2006 by a group of entrepreneurs from the company Mysticom and employs about 350 people, most of them in Hod Hasharon and the rest in the United States, Germany and East Asia. The technology was originally developed for the consumer electronic market. However, in January 2016 the company made a business shift and decided to adapt its technology to the needs of in-vehicle communications.

In late 2016, Valens announced a partnership with Daimler, which selected its previous chip, the VA6000, to provide the communication infrastructure for the entertainment and telematics systems in its cars. The 2021 S-Class models, launched a few weeks ago, already include Valens’s chips.

Leo Messi Will Promote OrCam’s Low Vision Aid Device

OrCam, a company that develops wearable technologies for visually impaired people, has announced that the renowned soccer player Leo Messi will serve as the company’s ambassador and lead a project to advance the company’s technologies. As part of the joint project, Messi will meet with blind and visually impaired people and award them the OrCam MyEye device. The first meetings of the project took place in Barcelona shortly before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which Messi met 12 blind and visually impaired people from different countries.

Today, about 300 million people across the world live with blindness and visual impairment. The OrCam MyEye device is designed to improve their quality of life. It is a compact wireless device that identifies text from any surface and reads it to the user’s ear in real-time. It is based on artificial vision technology that allows reading texts from newspapers, books, computer and smartphone screens, menus, supermarket products and street signage. The product is equipped with face recognition technology and even allows to scan barcodes and identify banknotes and colors.

OrCam MyEye weighs only 22.5 grams; its size is roughly that of a finger and it attaches to the user’s eyeglass frame using a magnet. It is the only wearable artificial vision technology that is operated by using an intuitive pointing motion or by tracking the user’s gaze, without the need for a smartphone or internet connection. Both of these benefits enable real-time voice communication while fully protecting user privacy. OrCam was founded in 2010 by Prof. Amnon Shashua and Mr. Ziv Aviram, the founders of Mobileye, which is today owned by Intel.

Japan has developed an appetite for Israeli Technologies

Above: Value of Deals Involving Japanese Investors

Israeli high-tech industry has became a major attraction for Japanese investors. Since 2010, Japanese investment deals in almost all types of Israeli high-tech companies have continued to grow, while the number of investment deals involving Japanese investors in the second half of the decade has nearly tripled compared to the first half. A new market research, Japanese Investments in Israeli High-Tech Companies, predicts that regardless the COVID-19 pandemic – 2020 is expected to be a record year in Japanese activity in Israel.

The newly released study was made by IVC-Online,  Meitar Law Offices and Magenta Venture Partners. The researchers estimate that based on information for the first half of 2020, “Japanese investors’ activity in Israeli hightech companies remained at least at the same level as in 2019, which was a peak year during which Israeli companies raised over $1.5 billion in investment deals involving Japanese investors.”

From 2017, there has been increasing diversity in the types of Japanese investors, including car manufacturers, financial institutions, insurance companies and VCs. Based on H1/2020 data, the upward trend in the number of Japanese investors appears to be continuing. In the years 2010–2019, there were 10 M&A deals and buyouts of Israeli companies by Japanese acquirers, with a total value of $2.34 billion.

The acquisition of NeuroDerm by Mitsubishi Tanabe in 2017 for approximately $1.1 billion, is the largest M&A deal in Israel by a Japanese entity. Recent Investments Led by Japanese Investors include the Hailo’s $60 million raising (led by NEC) in March 2020, Cybereason’s fifth round of $200 million (led by SoftBank) in August 2019, and Lemomade’s $300 million funad raising, also led by SoftBank, from April 2019.

Digi-Key Electronics to Distribute NI T&M Products

Above: NI’s USB X Series Multifunction DAQ is now available through Digi-Key Electronics

Digi-Key Electronics announced that it has expanded its product portfolio to include certain NI software-connected test and measurement products. This initiative greatly expands Digi-Key’s overall offerings in automated test. Engineers using Digi-Key’s global distribution channel will now have quick access to NI’s PC-based test and measurement tools that will help them accelerate the verification and production of their products.

“Connecting engineers to the right tools when and how they need them accelerates productivity,” said Jim Ramsey, vice president of the Global Partner program at NI. “Offering our products through Digi-Key allows us to meet their customers where they are through the processes they’re accustomed to and gives us new avenues to equip more engineers with the tools they need.”

“We’re very proud to be able to offer NI products to our customers,” said David Stein, vice president of global supplier management at Digi-Key. “NI’s automated test and measurement products will help our customers to advance their projects faster by helping them analyze the data from their systems in real time.” For more information about NI and to order from their product portfolio, including USB and PCI DAQ solutions, please visit the Digi-Key website.

About Digi-Key Electronics

Digi-Key Electronics, headquartered in Thief River Falls, Minn., USA, is an authorized global, full-service distributor of electronic components, and provides access to unlimited adjacent products and technologies through their online Marketplace. They offer more than 11 million components, with over 2.6 million in stock and available for immediate shipment, from over 1,300 quality name-brand manufacturers.

For more information visit www.digikey.com and on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Aurora Labs raised $23 Million for Automotive Software

Above: Zohar Fox, Aurora Labs’ Co-founder and CEO. “The name of the game is Zero Downtime”

Toyota Group, VW Group and LG Group are looking for new ways to manage their software programs  in a much cost effective and secured manner compared with current methods. For the car manufacturers among them, this issue is urgent. Today’s semi autonomous in-vehicle’s systems are run by complicated multi-million lines software systems, that need to be frequently updated while fully comply with strict standards and regulations such as UNECE WP.29.

They may found a  solution: A combination of embedded software program and a cloud service developed by Aurora Labs from Tel Aviv, that continuously collect actionable data, enabling pre-error detection of line-of-code faults, software error fixes on-the-go and cost-effective OTA updates without downtime for the user. Aurora Labs announced that it has secured $23 million funding from top strategic investors, including LG Technology Ventures, Porsche SE, Toyota Tsusho, a member of Toyota Group and UL Ventures, the investment arm of the global safety certification company UL.

Line-Of-Code Behavior Technology

This announcement is a follow-up to a recent Porsche SE announcement that Aurora Labs’ technology is entering serial implementation within the next two years. Founded in 2016 by Zohar Fox (CEO) and Ori Lederman (COO), Aurora Labs invented  a new technology called Line-Of-Code Behavior protected by 22 registered patents. It provides remote software management, remote diagnostics and over-the-air software updates to guarantee that devices are always-on and to predict and fix software problems, including cybersecurity attacks.

“As auto manufacturers plan for new regulations and all manufacturers prioritize software in their product development, Aurora Labs becomes a strategic partner,” said Zohar Fox, Aurora Labs’ Co-founder and CEO. But the company plans to gain a foothold in other markets as well. Fox told Techtime that following the raising round, Aurora will enter new markets such as Industry 4.0, Robotics, Smart Metering and Automated Warehouses.

Fox: “Our vision is to enable Self Healing Smart Devices. Any software-based device will be able to detect malfunctions, isolate them, fix them and to perform an automatic recovery process. The systemS will never crash and will always be available. The name of the game is Zero Downtime, and that’s a real game changer.”

BMW to Equip its Vehicles with Tactile Mobility Road Sensing Technology

Haifa-based Tactile Mobility announced earlier this week a commercial agreement paving its way to the heart of the global car industry: The car manufacturing giant BMW will incorporate Tactile’s road-sensing software in all of the car models it will produce starting in mid-2021. Techtime was the first to report Tactile negotiations with a German carmaker. BMW has selected so far three ground-breaking Israeli technologies for its next-generation models: Mobileye’s ADAS system, Innoviz’ LiDAR sensors, and Tactile’s road sensors .

This is Tactile Mobility’s first commercial agreement with an OEM, and BMW is the first car manufacturer to adopt such road sensing technology, and in such extent. In 2019, BMW sold a record 2.5 million vehicles. Tactile founder Boaz Mizrahi told TechTime that BMW didn’t hesitate to adopted the technology even though it is a new type of technology in the automotive world. “They are known as an early adopters of new technologies. We’ve invented a new kind of technology in the automotive world, and they wanted to be the first to leverage it.”

Tactile Mobility provides a software suite which utilizes vehicles’ built-in, non-visual sensors to collect and analyze data about vehicle and road dynamics, enabling smart and connected vehicles to analyze the road surfaces below their tires as well as modeling vehicle systems performance and road conditions. In-vehicle, real-time data includes attributes such as available grip level, which signifies the specific vehicle and road traction limits.

The missing piece for Autonomous Driving

Noteably, the solution was initially intended to supplement autonomous driving systems, as the company claims autonomous driving cannot be based solely on visual sensors like cameras and LiDAR, as they do not percieve other “sensory” factors such as tire condition and road conditions. Nevertheless, the collaboration with BMW illustrates that the technology has great value in non-autonomous vehicles as well. According to Mizrahi, the software will provide all of the vehicle’s systems with a new dimension of data that will improve the functionality of all other systems in the vehicle.

“This data will improve the functionality and safety of many in-vehicle systems. Take for example vehicle-to-vehicle distance measurement systems: when the road is slippery you should maintain a larger distance from the vehicle ahead as when the road conditions is optimal, but a visual sensor measures only the distance and does not take into account the condition of the road. The same goes for steering and other functions”

The company’s platform consists of two components: VehicleDNA is an anonymized representation of each vehicle’s systems characteristics, including suspensions, powertrain, braking efficiency, tire health and more, and SurfaceDNA is a bundle of mapping layers of road attributes, conditions and distresses that offers an in-depth view of driving environments to better anticipate road conditions ahead and pre-configure vehicle systems.

Tactile Mobility was founded by Mizrahi in 2011. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Technion university. In the late 1990s, he founded Charlotte Web Networks, which was purchased in 2002 by MRV Communications for an estimated $700 million.

Gilat’s Attorneys: “Comtech is sabotaging the Merger”

A judge in the Delaware Court of Chancery, Texas, issued earlier this month a temporary injunction order against Comtech, following information presented by Gilat’s lawyers, according to which Comtech’s representatives met many times during the recent months with officials from the Federal Antimonopoly Service of Russia, without informing Gilat of the meetings, Bloomberg News revealed.

According to the information, Comtech members held about 17 “secret calls” with Russian officials, contrary to the agreement between the companies, which requires that representatives from both companies be present or informed at any “significant” meeting related to the merger transaction. Gilat’s lawyers claim that the very act of conducting these meetings and their concealment indicate that Comtech made steps behind Gilat’s back that were meant to delay the approval of the merger in Russia until after the deadline set in the agreement (October 23).

After receiving the information, Judge Joseph Slights issued an injunction order requiring Comtech to provide Gilat with a notification 24 hours before any meeting or conversation with the Russian authority. The trial between the two companies will begin on October 5. The injunction order issued by the judge is a hard blow to Comtech, as the new information debunks its claim that Gilat is the one who tried to sabotage the obtaining of an approval from Russia.

Comtech’s Original Sin: Excessive Leverage

Gilat is a satellite networking technology, solutions and services provider. At the end of January 2020,  Comtech Telecommunications Corp. and Gilat signed a deal under which Comtech would acquire Gilat for $577 million: 70% of them in cash and the rest in shares. The merger was supposed to create a company with annual revenues of about $1 billion. Even then, however, question marks arose concerning the financial basis of the deal.

Oppenheimer Israel analyst, Assaf Handley, told Techtime that he had already warned at the time of signing of the agreement that the capital structure of the deal was problematic, since it required Comtech to incur a debt of $500 million. “Such a debt represents a leverage that is four times larger in relation to the EBITDA of the merged company.

“It is a very high leverage for this industry, since the satellite communications market is very volatile. Companies of this type don’t take on large leverage since the volatility in quarterly earnings is very high, and cancellation of even a single order could cut a significant portion of the revenue and cash flow – and jeopardize repayment ability.”

Were the Russians merely an excuse?

If 2020 had been a normal year, Comtech would have been able to handle the debt burden, but COVID-19 shuffled the deck: the revenues of both companies fell sharply in the first half of 2020. Gilat ended its first quarter with a 23% drop in sales and a loss of $11.7 million. In the second quarter, sales fell by 35% and the company reported a loss of $4 million. Comtech reported a 20% drop in sales in the fiscal quarter that ended late April and a loss of $4 million.

Both companies attributed the deterioration in business to delays in orders in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Comtech’s share has been cut by more than half  – a major blow to the merger, since approximately third of the deal was supposed to be paid for in shares. Could it be that Comtech has decided to withdraw from the deal due to this reason? Unilateral cancellation of the agreement involves payments of tens of millions of dollars in compensation. According to Gilat’s attorneys, this is the reason why Comtech had decided to find an excuse to renege the agreement.

The injunction order is not reassuring for Comtech

In July 2020, Comtech filed a lawsuit in the Delaware Court of Chancery, alleging that Gilat had made structural changes to its subsidiary in Russia and thereby jeopardized the approval of the merger. A few days later it filed a revised lawsuit in which it sought a declaratory ruling that would determine that the COVID-19 crisis had inflicted a “significant adverse harm” to Gilat’s operations, and that this constitutes a ground for rescinding the agreement.

Gilat responded in a counterclaim in which it claims that Comtech is deliberately trying to sabotage the approval of the deal, and is looking for an excuse to shake off the merger. Handley believes that regulatory proceedings in Russia were simply an excuse. “If Comtech really wanted a deal, they would simply waive the Russian approval.

“In any case, Gilat’s activity in Russia is negligible. The injunction order issued by the judge, which in fact supports Gilat’s claims, is not reassuring for Comtech. It is hard to believe that in the current circumstances the deal will be executed, but there may be a real basis for Gilat to sue for compensation due to the substantial damages it suffered.”