InZiv raises $10M; Tower president joins the board

Jerusalem-based InZiv, developer of nanometric testing and inspection system for flat panel displays, has completed a raise of $10M in a Series A1 round led by BlueRed Partners, a Singapore based venture capital fund, together with the Israeli OurCrowd and some other Asian investors. The company has also announced that Itzhak Edrei, President Emeritus of Tower Semiconductor, will be joining the Board of Directors. 

InZiv was founded in 2018 by CEO David Lewis and CTO Rimma Dechter, both earned their PhD in Applied Physics at Hebrew University with specialization in optical nanometric. The company has developed verification and quality control system based on optical and metrological technology in nano scale. This technology is intended to be used by flat panel display (FPD) manufacturers, such the ones used in smarthphones, and AR smart glasses.    

The significant improvement in resolution and sharpness of advanced displays currently in the market, such as MicroLED, OLED and QLED is achieved due to the pixels minimization, which are the smallest controllable elements of a picture represented on the screen. As pixels are smaller, more of them can be condensed in the screen, bringing much better quality to the picture displayed. In past generations’ screens, pixels’ size was hundreds of microns, while today we see screens with pixel size minimized to few microns only. This minimization trend, initiated by the smartphones industry, is expected to get boost by the AR/VR glasses industry, since in this area highest resolution is required due to the near-eye concept.

See within the pixel itself

However – as pixels are shrinking, they are more sensitive to defects in the production process. A grain of dust in the production line or microscopic discoloration may be the cause to a significant decrease in the quality of the finished product. This situation poses a complicated challenge to quality testing of the screens during production. Current testing equipment, which is based on standard microscopic optics, may detect defects at 1 micron (1000 nanometer) scale, something that highly limit these system’s capabilities to detect defects at the pixel level.

This technological flaw is ultimately reflected in a lower yield for the manufacturer, who has to discard the damaged screens and higher costs for the consumer. In an interview to Techtime at early 2019, right after the first fund raising, CEO and co-founder David Lewis talked about the current challenge in the market: “Current inspection equipment is fairly limited in the level of optical information it produces, making it difficult to locate defects and  comprehend the origin of the fault. Our inspection system, based on optical nanometric and precise metrological  implementations, makes it possible to achieve a 100 nanometer resolution. Since the resolution is higher, the manufacturer is capable of identifying defects in the early production phases and to detect the production flaw caused these defects. In more advanced screens, some of the defects are originated from within the pixel itself, something our system can detect”.

BMW launched series 7 with Innoviz’s sensor inside

Following joint efforts lasted 4 years, Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor arrives to the market with the new BMW 7 series. Last week, the German car maker launched the new generation of its luxury cars, expected to be available at November 2022. The new series includes gas-powered cars, hybrid cars and – for the first time – an all electric model, BMW i7, equipped with a battery expected to range to 300 miles at each charge.  

Starting at 2023, the new 7 series will be BMW’s first to incorporate the Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor, a sensor defined by BMW as “the most powerful sensor in the industry”. BMW market the new models as the cutting edge technology, regarding driver safety and assistance applications, autonomous driving, integrated augmented reality and digitization. Innoviz’s sensor is considered a key component in the sensors array that support these applications, together with full-range radar with vertical separation, and an eight-megapixel windshield camera.   

In March 2022, Omer Keilaf, Innoviz’s CEO, revealed that the sensor developed for BMW has reached to the design freeze phase, after successfully passing all examinations. This means that from that moment, no changes are allowed to the BMW approved plan, and it will be produced in its current design. Mass production is expected already at 2022.

The car drives better than you

As part of its pre-launch marketing, BMW invited bloggers and leading automotive reporters for a test drive of the new models, which led to reviews and columns in leading industry websites such as Drive, Which Car, HT Auto, Forbes and more. One of the testers was “The Drive” reporter Chris Tsui. In its article “BMW Joins the Hands-Free Driving Fight”, Tsui was impressed by the ADAS and the autonomous driving systems relied on Innoviz’s sensor, and summarized the experience: “BMW’s latest flagship sedans are probably better at driving than you are”. He also noted that the semi-autonomous tech and improved self-parking capabilities make the car “more like a machine driver rather than a machine meant to be driven”.

The i7 model includes Level 2 hands-on Assisted Driving applications, assuring rendition of adaptive cruise with lane-keep. Below 85 mph, hands-off semi-autonomous highway cruising mode can be used, similar to Tesla’s Autopilot mode. In this mode, the car performs the steering, accelerating, and braking activities autonomously, with the driver required to keep looking at the road without holding the wheel. The system is also capable of autonomously move from one lane to the other. When approaching a highway exit, the driver may instruct the system to automatically move gradually from one line to the other, as long as the traffic is not too heavy or the exit is too close.   

Self navigation into your home garage

BMW announced that in the future it will provide the level-3 autonomy at these models, at up to 37 mph, and also in non-highway roads. For this type of autonomy, the Innoviz’s LiDAR sensor is essential. Commentators from the automotive industry estimate that this capability will be highly attractive at the Chinese market, where the average speed within urban areas is relatively low due to traffic loads.  

Tsui go on and reviews the new model’s autonomous parking capabilities, and says he never encountered such superior capabilities. Although the BMW 7 series vehicles are fairly large, the orientation and maneuvering capabilities allow the car to park even in challenging parking spots. In addition, it is possible to program a route in advance, so the car will automatically navigate, for example, from the gate through the driveway and park itself in the garage. This function can be performed even when the driver is outside the car. “This could very well become among the best in the business, a more-than-worthy competitor to GM’s Super Cruise and Tesla’s Autopilot”. 

Cape Air to purchase 75 all electric commuter aircrafts from Eviation

Regional carrier Cape Air Company have signed Letter of Intent (LOI) with the Israeli Eviation Aircraft Company for the purchase of 75 all electric Alice commuter aircraft, which can accommodate nine passengers and two crew. This engagement is part of Cape Air’s efforts to set up an unparalleled regional electric fleet and reduce its Carbon Footprint. Already in 2019, Cape Air announced its intentions to purchase several Alice aircrafts. At the time, Eviation’s CEO and co-founder Omer Bar-Yohay noted that its company is going to deliver their aircrafts to Cape Air at a $4 million each. Last August, Eviation has reported a purchase order of 12 aircrafts by DHL, the international shipping company.   

Massachusetts-based Cape Air is one of the largest commuter airlines in the United States. The company flies more than 400 regional flights a day to nearly 40 cities in the Northeast, Midwest, Montana and a direct line to the Caribbean. The company’s fleet contains about 100 Cessna, Britten-Norman and Tecnam aircrafts.

Electric aviation revolution

Eviation was founded in 2015 by CEO Omer Bar-Yohay and Chairman Aviv Tzidon, with an ambitious vision of to revolutionize the Global aviation industry with an innovative all-electric plane powered by thousands of Lithium batteries and capable of of transferring passengers to distant places, with faster schedules and lower costs. Three years ago, at the Paris Air Show, Eviation presented its first Alice prototype. It was designed for nine-sitters plus 2 crew members, and could fly for 625 miles with a single battery charge.

The plane is activated by 70,000 Lithium batteries scattered in its body, also serve for the purpose of balancing the frame. The total capacity of the batteries is 980 kWh, which allows for a 800 kilometers distance at a 480 KPH speed. The plane is equipped by 2 electric motors from the Seattle-based MagniX.

In 2017, the Singapore-based Clermont Group purchased Eviation, which announced its commitment to transform Eviation’s vision of electric flight into a commercial reality. Clermont’s owner is the New Zealand-born billionaire and philanthropist Richard Chandler, which carries the flag of promoting electric aviation globally.

Napino Group forges licensing agreement with EVR Motors in India

Napino Auto & Electronics Ltd., India’s premier Tier 1 automotive component manufacturing company, has forged a commercial licensing agreement with EVR Motors, an Israeli start-up with a newly designed and patented motor topology: the Trapezoidal Stator – Radial Flux Permanent Magnet (TS – RFPM) topology. The strategic partnership will see Napino partner with EVR to develop and manufacture motors for electric two wheelers in India. 

Napino is a Tier 1 supplier for almost all of India’s motorcycle and scooter manufacturers and has global partnerships with companies such as Continental and Shindengen.

The TSRF technology is distinctive because of its lightweight and compact design. The proprietary TS topology has a unique trapezoidal tooth shape core structure, which improves flux distribution, reduces leakage, and gives superior heat dissipation with good thermal capacity. The TS topology can be tailored for a wide variety of requirements and enable multiple variations based on the same design and tooling. The air-cooled motor for the two wheelers application weighs under 7 kgs, has a diameter of 130mm, and is a perfect fit for Indian two-wheeler electric vehicles. The voltage range is modular, between 48V and 96V.

The new collaboration with EVR for TSRF motors will give a new shape to the electric vehicle (EV) industry, with lower cost and better performance while maintaining the advantages of traditional RFPM motors. Thanks to this technology, the motor is significantly lighter, smaller, and more efficient than conventional electric motors.

EVR and Napino will bring together the expertise of designing and manufacturing the all-new TSRF motors at their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.

Mr. Vaibhav Raheja, Joint Managing Director of Napino, commented, “This partnership will help us build a stronger electric vehicle portfolio.  These high-performance motors of up to 17KW would allow us to cater to the premium EV segment.  We are excited about bringing these products into the EV space.”

Commenting on the partnership, Mr. Naveen Kumar, Group CEO of Napino said, “Our partnership with EVR for manufacturing their high class power and torque density electric motors is a practical solution for the Indian market. The TSRF motor offers enhanced flux density, thus reducing the motor size and related costs without compromising performance.”

Opher Doron, CEO of EVR Motors commented, “We’re excited about our strategic partnership with Napino, a leading Tier 1 supplier, to manufacture and commercialize EVR’s motors for the Indian market. Meeting the growing demand for electric motors and accelerating EV adoption in India is only possible when joining hands with a leading automotive player. Combining our unique technology with Napino’s engineering and manufacturing excellence will make a real difference in making our world more sustainable and improving the quality of life in India.”

Napino Group, a technology conglomerate and a leader in the automotive and electronics space, is a Tier 1 supplier of proprietary solutions to global OEMs. A USD 230 Million group, Napino is rapidly diversifying into new business segments and expanding its footprints with growing market share across all its product lines. Napino is one of the first few industrial players today to have etched their mark in supplying EV electronic components to leading OEMs in India. Few chargers, motors and controllers are also being developed jointly with leading OEMs and our technology partner. It endeavours to maintain its reputation to deliver high technology and quality products to its customers.

Considering the present global conditions, India is emerging as a lucrative destination for electronic manufacturing services. With its long history of excellence, demonstrable investment in technology & people, robust supply chain and a commitment to exemplary customer service, Napino is already working with many of the world’s leading Automotive, Consumer Goods and Healthcare OEMs.

The State of the Underground in 2021

By Cybersixgill

The headline story of 2021 was ransomware. While also a hot topic in 2020, in 2021 ransomware was even bigger, solidifying its standing as the highest impact cyberthreat in that countless organizations worldwide were disrupted and even debilitated by attacks. The damages caused by ransomware attacks were as devastating as its victims were diverse – affecting organizations both large and small across many different verticals, including software vendors, schools, governments, broadcasters, a major meat processing plant, and a critical US oil pipeline.

Indeed, only seven months into the year, the FBI reported that it had already “received 2,084 ransomware complaints with over $16.8M in losses, a 62 percent increase in reporting and 20 percent increase in reported losses compared to the same time frame in 2020.”

The cybercriminal underground provides the perfect environment for the development, expansion, and proliferation of ransomware attacks and their extortionist aftermaths. First, it provides a platform for the planning and execution of the attacks, where ransomware groups can advertise calls on cybercriminal forums for affiliates (operational partners) to support their operations. In addition, operators can purchase access to a vast array of compromised systems in illicit initial access markets, which provide the first entry point from which to launch their attacks. Secondly, after executing the attack and infiltrating their victims’ systems, ransomware groups use their dark web-hosted dedicated leak sites (DLS) to extort victims, threatening to publicly share their stolen confidential data should they refuse to comply with the hackers’ ransom demands.

Cybersixgill’s sources demonstrate a tremendous expansion in the underground ransomware economy during 2021. Throughout the year, access to 4,286,150 compromised endpoints was sold on the underground, a whopping 457% compared to 2020. Evidently, vendors on access markets increased their supply capacity to match the exploding demand. Similarly, in 2021 we collected 3,264 posts on ransomware groups’ dedicated leak sites (each post roughly signifying an attack), which was more than double the total collected in 2020 (1,509).

In addition to the dramatic rise in ransomware, analysis of the underground activity throughout 2021 produced another major insight of value: while the total number of posts in forums and on messaging channels rose considerably (45% and 338%, respectively), the number of posts and participating actors decreased significantly in the ten most popular underground forums. This seems to suggest that the underground has become increasingly decentralized. Accordingly, analysts can no longer rely on the top forums as the lone source of their intel. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of underground developments and compile an accurate intelligence picture, analysts must expand their investigative search to include as many sources as possible.

Looking ahead to 2022

While many may assume that ransomware will follow its upward trajectory in 2022, such a projection is an oversimplification, and in our mind, not entirely accurate.

In 2021, two significant developments generated difficult headwinds for large ransomware groups. First, in mid-May, multiple underground forums banned activity advertising ransomware or affiliated partnership programs, cutting ransomware operators off from their main platform for recruitment, partnerships, and promotion of their activities.

Second, the US Federal government took aggressive action against several prominent ransomware groups and cryptocurrency exchanges that processed ransomware payments.

If anything, this showed that ransomware attackers have become victims of their own success. While profiting from exorbitant ransom payments, they now suffer the repercussions of their notoriety. Accordingly, we assess that in 2022 ransomware groups will be more selective when choosing their targets, largely eschewing attacks on sensitive or prominent targets (and perhaps avoiding targeting US-based organizations altogether) in favor of lower-profile targets, so as to avoid the wrath of a federal response. Some ransomware groups may choose to shut down their dedicated leak sites—designed to generate publicity—instead choosing to carry out their ransom attacks and negotiations over private channels. Overall, we assess that ransomware groups will adopt a more discreet modus operandi instead of aiming for splashy attacks.

This ought to encourage remote access markets to up their game. If ransomware operators demand a broader menu of potential targets, the markets will be driven to step up accordingly to provide the supply.

Furthermore, we expect that the increased distribution and decentralization of the underground ecosystem will persist. The largest forums can be too noisy, inundated with spam and raucous chatter, and due to their popularity, often attract the scrutiny and attention of law enforcement officials, researchers, and otherwise curious observers. It is therefore reasonable to expect that the threat actors of the underground will branch out to new forums and messaging channels, perhaps seeking out platforms that are more focused on a single subject matter in place of the larger, broad-based forums that deal with everything – from hacking to recipes for cooking.

Concerning the rapidly evolving cyberthreat landscape and continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on digital security to support the remote workforce, one thing remains certain: cybercriminals are fast innovators, quickly adapting and retooling their tactics to maximize their profits at their victims’ expense. It is therefore imperative that organizations maintain vigilance, staying aware of the developments in the underground to enable proactive cyber defense. Fortunately, no matter where malicious actors choose to set up shop – be it new sites, messaging apps, forums or other platforms – Cybersixgill will be there with eyes in the underground, making sure you know what’s out there.

Ception unveils new AI-based system to improve safety and productivity of heavy equipment  

Israeli startup Ception has unveiled an AI-based system that reduces accidents and improves productivity and profitability of heavy equipment at construction sites, mines, quarries, and industrial plants. The system is set to lower operation costs and contribute to sustainability in these demanding work environments.

Equipment such as articulated trucks, haul trucks, loaders, bulldozers, and excavators, is involved in severe accidents on a daily basis. Accidents include collisions, overturning, and falling into chasms, costing lives, and damaging property. Moreover, operations without advanced technological equipment are inefficient, incurring heavy and unnecessary costs, and prolong the time needed to complete projects.

MineCept – full situational awareness

To tackle the heavy equipment challenges, Ception developed MineCept. The system is based on a SaaS business model, which offers the customer a collection of apps via the same hardware kit and supports a wide range of scenarios in the field. The system uses advanced real-time high-definition 3D mapping and precise positioning technology, based on visual feed rather than GPS, to provide full situational awareness of the machine’s surrounding environment by cross-referencing information from different sensors and a range of image processing algorithms and deep learning.

MineCept, which is installed on the heavy vehicles, provides operators, site managers and safety managers real-time information and insights to improve safety and operational efficiency in general.

MineCept includes three parts. The first is a modular hardware kit that is easily installed on heavy equipment and is OEM-agnostic. It includes a compute unit, communications component, and sensors. The basic kit includes cameras with an option of adding Lidar and radar sensors based on the application and the user requirements The second part is an assistance system for the machine’s operator. It includes a display screen installed in the operator’s cabin. This system provides visual and sound alerts, as well as support for different operational tasks. The third part is the site management system, which includes real-time information and insights about what is happening at the site.

MineCept’s management system obtains a comprehensive holistic picture of all the operational and safety parameters and summarizes the hazards (potholes, puddles, rocks, etc.) and events at the site for the manager in an accessible way. Above this level, the artificial intelligence tools provide insights and enable the forecasting of bottlenecks in the different processes and safety failure points before they occur (preventative safety).

For example, if heavy vehicles or a heavy vehicle and a person get too close, an alarm is immediately sent to the operators so they can avoid a collision, or if a heavy equipment operator is momentarily distracted, causing him to go off the road or move in reverse towards a chasm, he will get a life-saving warning.

The system contributes to streamlining operations by supporting diverse apps, such as performance monitoring, comparing planning to execution in the field, measuring the volume of stockpiles, and monitoring cycle times. At the same time, MineCept verifies that the site is operating in compliance with regulatory safety instructions, such as continuous measurement of the height of safety berms.

Successful deployments

Ception’s system is used by leading mining and construction companies in various projects and industrial sites in Israel and over the globe. In the mining industry, MineCept is used by ICL Group, one of the world’s leading fertilizers producers, which operates heavy equipment at its phosphate mine in southern Israel. In the field of construction and infrastructure, MineCept was used by Netivei Israel, the national transport infrastructure company, as a part of a project aimed at improving the safety and efficiency of heavy equipment.

Ception has been selected the building materials giant Cemex as one of the top 50 startups in the construction technology sector. At the same time, Ception is collaborating with Cemex’s Israeli subsidiary, Readymix Industries. The startup also won a recent workforce technologies competition, where leading construction companies such as Bouygues, Suffolk and Limak acted as judges, and will represent Israel in the global competition later this year.

The company is in advanced negotiations for collaboration with one of Israel top construction companies. As part of the agreement, the building company will invest in Ception and deploy its systems in the company’s heavy equipment.

Solving acute safety, efficiency, and sustainability problems

Tal Israel, Co-Founder and CEO of Ception, says, “The construction, building materials, mining and quarrying industries are huge markets that suffer from acute safety, efficiency, and sustainability problems and are always looking for innovative solutions. There is currently a gap of technological solutions in this discipline. Some of the solutions are geared towards a high level of automation, but suffer from various barriers, including technological limitations, high prices, and regulatory restrictions. Conversely, solutions that rely on basic technologies do not offer an adequate response and suffer from serious reliability problems.”

Israel concludes: “The automation and Industry 4.0 revolutions have brought immense technological advances in edge computing, sensing technologies, artificial intelligence, deep learning, and other fields. Ception is not waiting for the automation revolution to be complete and is applying these innovative technologies to provide precise and reliable solutions at good prices.”

“Power Companies recognize the potential of our technology”

Six month after announcing joint pilot, Israel Electric Company (IEC) announced a strategic investment in Prisma Photonics Company from Tel-Aviv, the developer of fiber based monitoring solutions. No further details were given regarding the extent of the investment, but it is estimated at millions of dollars.

Prisma Photonics’ technology is based on a physical phenomenon in which part of the photons within the light pulse are being scattered, and a small fraction of the traveling pulse’s energy is reflected back, holding information about the fiber’s environment. The solution used by the IEC is capable of detecting maintenance and safety events along the power lines, such as attempts of equipment sabotaging, people climbing on power towers, partial discharges, short circuits and even weather conditions that endanger the power lines such as wildfire, strong winds or lightning strikes.  

Till now, within this pilot, which was officially announced six months ago but has actually been going on for more than a year, the IEC uses the solution to monitor several segments of its network, in a total length of more than 100 km. Aside from the financial aspect, this investment marks an expansion of the cooperation between the two companies.

Eitan Elkin, Prisma Photonics’ Director of Marketing, says to Techtime that during the pilot, the system successfully identified in real time faulty components and problems related to the insulation between high voltage lines, and to locate the exact power tower. “It is about great saving in time, manpower and resources. The immediate detection assists also in preventing power outages and further damage. The intention now is to expand the coverage. IEC is highly advanced, technology-wise, and most of its power lines are already accompanied with optical fibers, which is an optimal situation for our solution”.

“Having your strategic customer as your strategic partner is the strongest vote of confidence a company can hope for,” added Dr. Eran Inbar, Prisma Photonics’ CEO. “As an innovative corporation, IEC started collaborating with us six months ago. The current investment supports its commitment to advancing Israel’s power supply industry through innovation. To date, our system has transformed the optical fiber infrastructure deployed on IEC’s high-voltage grids into a sequence of extremely sensitive sensors that identify issues and track their precise location down to the nearest power tower level in real-time and with no need for placing additional sensors along the transmission lines”.

The cooperation with the IEC is added to similar cooperation with New York Power Authority, who also uses Prisma Photonics’ solution, and to other investment made by the German E.ON global electric utility. “Power companies recognize the potential and added value which Prisma Photonics’ technology offers”, says Elkin.

“Listen” to the fiber

Prisma Photonics’ technology is based on a physical phenomenon in which part of the photons within the light pulse are being scattered, and a small fraction of the traveling pulse’s energy it reflected back, holding information about the fiber’s environment. This way, the fiber is used as an active sensor and detector. Analyzing the scattered energy allows for detection of environmental events, similar to the way radar works. The main challenge is that the back-scattered signal is very low – typically, as low as 1 billionth of the transmitted pulse, makes it hard to differentiate between different signals and build a clear picture of the outside environment. This is the reason why most solutions currently in the market are having problems to reduce false positive and negative alarms.

Prisma Photonics’ solution uses patented laser-based optical interrogator for ultra-sensitive and intelligent-learning detection, producing “acoustic signature” of each event, later used for a smart event identification and classification.

According to the company, its solution is 100 times more sensitive than the other solutions currently in the market. It can identify changes in pressure, temperature and vibrations outside the fiber at resolution of one millionth of a millimeter, and build a precise detailed picture of the events based of these changes, providing dramatic reduction of false alarms.

Another advantage is the ability to monitor up to 100 KM using a single Optical Interrogator unit. Based on this technology, Prisma Photonics developed a variety of solutions for the infrastructure world, such as locating leacks and theft attempts from oil & gas pipes, damages and sabotage attempts to submarine cables, hazards and people crossing railways, peripheral defense and detecting trespassers along border lines.