Skylo and Sony introduced a Satellite Terminal for IoT

Above: Skylo Hub communications terminal. Cheap and accessible satellite communications

Skylo and Sony Semiconductor Israel (formerly Altair), have developed a new type of technology that allows to connect to IoT devices at very remote sites, using a combination of cellular and satellite technologies, and to implement fifth-generation narrowband communication protocol (5G-ready NB-IoT). The development has taken place in the last two years as part of a collaboration between Sony Semiconductor Israel and Skylo’s Israeli Development Center.

This technology allowed Skylo to launch a unique communications network that connects IoT devices to satellite communications using simple cellular modems and NB-IoT protocol. The concept addresses the need to connect IoT devices located in remote sites and without access to a cellular network. Skylo’s VP of Engineering and the director of its R&D center in Israel, Moshe Noah, told Techtime: “Satellite communications is an exclusive [a high-class] and expensive commodity. Our solution brings it to the consumer level”.

Cellular communication was designed for Humans – not machines

Founded in 2017 by a group of researchers led by Dr. Andrew Kalman, Skylo has developed compact 8×8 inch communications terminals which serve as a kind of hot spot through which IoT devices are connected to the company’s satellite communications network. “Through our network, any sensor can be connected to the satellite, and from there to the cloud.”

Monitoring a truck in the heart of a desert. An illustration of the need for the new solution
Monitoring a truck in the heart of a desert. An illustration of the need for the new solution

The solution is based on the NB-IoT protocol implemented by Altair cellular IoT chip set. Through this collaboration, the two companies have been able to create a bridge between cellular communications and satellite communications. According to Skylo, it reduces satellite connectivity costs by 95%: the price of the Skylo’s satellite communications terminal, Skylo Hub, is only $100, and its usage fee is $1 per connected device.

Vice President of Sony Semiconductor Israel, Dima Feldman, said that the collaboration resulted in “an entirely new IoT category in the field of connectivity between machines.” According to Noah, “The topology of cellular communications was built around people, but it fails to provide a continuous communications infrastructure when it comes to machines or sensors that monitor, for example, gas pipelines or fishing vessels.”

Siklu upgrades Pelephone’s Mobile Network Backhaul

Above: Siklu Gigabit Wireless Access point in Haifa, Israel

The Israeli mobile operator Pelephone has selected the mmWave Gigabit Wireless Access (GWA) technology developed by Siklu to migrate lower capacity microwave backhaul links to much-higher capacity Gigabit mmWave equipment. Pelephone’s legacy transmission network consists of point to point microwave solutions (18, 23GHz) used to backhaul their cell sites. While roughly 70% are connected with fiber for backhaul, 30% were using microwave for a total of more than 500 microwave links.

As the Radio Access Network added capacity with the introduction of LTE and the latest 5G NR, the microwave links began running out of capacity. Three years ago the Israel government opened the E-Band (70/80GHz) to operators, and Pelephone started its gradual upgrade. E-Band radios can support anywhere from 1Gbps full duplex up to 10Gbps full duplex. A massive increase over microwave capacities.

Initially Pelephone chose Siklu’s EtherHaul 1200 series, a carrier grade 1Gbps mmWave radio. One year later they started deploying the EtherHaul 2500, with 2Gbps full duplex capacity. All microwave links under 5km will eventually be replaced, with an expected 350-400 links total being upgraded.

Next Step: 60GHz V-Band

The EtherHaul 1200 and 2500 offer an integrated 4 port switch. This small but critical addition means less equipment to be mounted, maintained and integrated. With an initial roll out of 250 E-Band links replacing existing microwave systems, Pelephone started with gigabit connections and a roadmap to multi gigabit as 5G is deployed.

Today Pelephone has over 2 million LTE subscribers. Future plans include the Siklu 600 series carrier-class V-Band (60GHz). Founded in 2008, Siklu provides wireless backhaul solutions based on military mmWave technologies. Its products operate in the free 60GHz-70GHz/80GHz frequency bands and are based on unique antenna technology and dedicated silicon. These bands are attractive for 5G, since there is over 24GHz of available spectrum in these bands.

“We have seen the traffic levels on our network experience huge growth with each new cellular technology,” said Pelephone’s Transmission Network Senior Director, Yaniv Shahar.  “We believe that mmWave, and specifically Siklu mmWave, is a must for our Mobile Backhaul network to support the data tidal wave.”

Tower hit by cyber attack, some production disrupted

Tower Semiconductor’s IT security systems identified a security incident on some of its systems as a result of a cyber attack. The company announced that as a preventive measure, it had halted certain of its servers and proactively held operations in some of its manufacturing facilities, and has done so in a gradual, organized manner.

Tower has notified relevant authorities and is working closely with law enforcement organizations and with a team of experts, coordinated with its insurance providers, in order to recover the impacted systems as soon as possible. The Company has implemented specific measures to prevent the expansion of this event.

Tower Semiconductor provides manufacturing services for integrated circuits (ICs) in process platforms such as SiGe, BiCMOS, mixed-signal/CMOS, RF CMOS, CMOS image sensor, non-imaging sensors, integrated power management and MEMS. It operates two manufacturing facilities in Israel (150mm and 200mm), two in the U.S. (200mm), and three facilities in Japan (two 200mm and one 300mm).

In September 10, Tower announced that all of its manufacturing sites are operational, targeting full capability within the next few days. “Tower is confident of the functional quality of the work in progress and production line inventories, with Company and customer data remaining protected. Due to the manufacturing disruption, the Company expects some level of impact to its third quarter results.”

Semiconductor’s Industry under Attack

Cyber attacks pose a big risk to the highly connected semiconductor’s production lines. On May, 2020, the US-based MaxLinear discovered a security incident affecting some of its systems and immediately took all systems offline. On August, 2018, TSMC, a supplier for Apple’s SoC components and a major manufacturer for Qualcomm, fell victim to a variant of the WannaCry ransomware. The infection caused the company to stop production for two days. The shutdown was believed to have cost the company roughly $250 million USD and shipment delays.

According to the Taiwanese cyber security firm CyCraft, multiple organizations along Taiwan’s high-tech ecosystem were victims of an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack , which originated in the semiconductor industry and still continues to be a threat today. “APTs are professional cyber espionage actors that typically receive direction and support from nation-states and often target organizations with high-value information, such as national defense, financial, energy, or now, the manufacturing of semiconductors.”


Elbit Systems Awarded $79 Million Contract to Supply Hand Stations for the Bradley IFV

Elbit Systems announced that its subsidiary Elbit Systems of America, was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity contract by the Defense Logistics Agency Land to supply the U.S. Army with gunner hand stations, commander hand stations and circuit cards for the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The contract, with a maximum value of up to approximately $79 million, will be performed over a 5-year period.

An initial purchase order of approximately $26 million under the contract followed by a second purchase order of approximately $12 million have been issued to be executed over a three-year period. The gunner hand stations enable crew members to target and fire accurately and work in collaboration with the commander hand stations that drive the IFV’s turret and initiate signals to the turret fire control systems. The circuit cards provide processing and power supply to the hand station units.

This is a follow-on order: In October 2016 it received a $7.3 million contract to supply the Bradley’s Hand Station. The Gunner’s Hand Station provides Bradley vehicle gunners the ability to acquire their target and fire accurately. Working in collaboration with the Commander’s Hand Station, the Gunner’s Hand Station is used to drive the rate of movement of the Bradley turret and to initiate control signals to the turret fire control systems in the Bradley M2A3/M3A3 vehicle.

In addition to the Gunner’s Hand Station, Elbit Systems of America also provides the Commander’s Hand Station and the Turret Processing Unit for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

AI Chipmaker Hailo opens Japan Subsidiary

The AI chipmaker from Tel Aviv, Hailo, announced international expansion with the establishment of Hailo Japan located in Tokyo. Hiro Uchida, a former Sony executive, has been appointed President to lead the operation. The new company answers the growing demand from Japanese customers developing products requiring AI technology at the edge, in sgments such as automotive, smart cities, smart retail, smart homes, industry 4.0, and beyond.

The expansion comes in the wake of Hailo’s $60 million Series B funding round, in which NEC  joined as a strategic investor. Hailo also recently established  key partnership with Foxconn and the Japanese Socionext, a provider of SoC solutions for video and imaging systems. Foxconn has combined its high-density, fan-less, edge computing solution, BOXiedge™, with Socionext’s parallel processor “SynQuacer™” SC2A11, and the Hailo-8™ deep learning processor.

Hailo’s specialized Hailo-8™ Deep Learning Processor delivers up to 26 Tera Operations Per Second (TOPS). The chip is built with an innovative architecture that enables edge devices to run sophisticated deep learning applications that could previously only run on the cloud. “There is no doubt that deep learning at the edge will be embedded in almost all of the products and services we use on a daily basis,” said Hiro Uchida.

Hiro Uchida brings 30+ years of experience, including helping build Sony’s Corporate Venture Capital fund. Orr Danon, CEO of Hailo, said that the Asia-Pacific region continues to show significant growth in the AI secto. “Our new subsidiary in Japan will enable us to strengthen collaborations with our Japanese-based customers and partners. Many of the world’s leading companies integrating Artificial Intelligence into their edge devices are based in Japan.”

According to IDC, the Global Worldwide Artificial Intelligence market maintain a steady growth rate annually through 2023, approaching $98.4 billion in revenue at a CAGR of 28.5%.

Mahindra to explore REE’s platform for a new EV

Tel Aviv-based REE Automotive and the Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra will examine a joint production of an electric commercial vehicle based on REE’s modular  vehicle platform. The two companies announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore the prospects of producing 200-250 thousand electric vehicles. “Having a partner like Mahindra joining our growing OEM partners network will allow us to drive our EV technology faster and at scale,” said REE’s CEO and co-founder Daniel Barel.

Mahindra manufactures approximately 40,000 internal combustion engine cars per month. The MOU is a part of its strategic shift toward EV. REE has developed a concept of a chassis in which the subsystems – suspension, engine, steering system, brakes, sensors, control systems and all of the electronic systems – are integrated within the wheels themselves. The battery occupies the center of the vehicle along its entire length and width.

This allowed developing a flat and modular platform that reduces costs and gives considerably more freedom in designing the vehicle. It can be adapted to different types of vehicles, with a low center of gravity that gives the vehicle increased stability. In September 2019, Japanese auto-maker Musashi Seimitsu unveiled a new electric vehicle platform which was developed based on REE’s technology.

Electrifying the Automotive Industry

REE was founded by the founders of SoftWheel, Daniel Barel and Avishai Sardes. SoftWheel began operating in 2011 and has developed a smart wheel for wheelchairs and bicycles, which includes 3 suspension arms instead of the traditional spokes. However, the company’s real goal was to design a new wheel for the automotive industry. In September 2018, SoftWheel raised $25 million in a funding valuing the company of approximately $140 million. Both Musashi and Mitsubishi participated in the funding round.

In June 2019, the wheels operations were spin-off from SoftWheel’s into REE. Along with a possible collaboration with Mahindra (an industrial conglomerate worth more than $20 billion) and the existing collaboration with Musashi, REE has to date also reported on additional agreements with Mitsubishi and the American automotive manufacturer Tenneco.

The electric vehicle market is growing. The research firm Allied Market Research estimates that electric vehicle sales in 2019 totaled at about $162 billionm and it expected to grow at an annual rate of 22.6% to reach $803 billion in 2027.

Reinke to use CropX Irrigation Technologies

Israel-based CropX and the Nebraska-based Reinke have announced recently a strategic partnership, in which Reinke will offer growers across the US a new solution that incorporates CropX’s smart irrigation scheduling platform into Reinke irrigation systems. The agreement between the two companies also includes an investment in CropX by Reinke. CropX eyes the US Agriculture market. Earlier this year it acquired the agricultural analytic company CropMetrics, also based in Nebraska.

Reinke is one of the leading manufacturers of center pivot irrigation systems in the US, and is operating in roughly 40 countries. The most commonly used irrigation method among growers in the US is central pivotal irrigation, in which the irrigation system is situated in the center of the crop and sprinkles the water in a circular motion. This way, the sprinkler is able to cover a very large circular area of ​​several hundred acres. These systems are cheaper than deploying drip irrigation and require less maintenance and manpower.

Smarter irrigation

Speaking to TechTime, CropX CEO Tomer Tzach points out the main disadvantage of pivotal irrigation systems. “These systems cover large areas, but they shower  the water uniformly throughout the radius, like rain. Agricultural areas are not always homogeneous, and uniform irrigation may result in a waste of water”.

CropX has developed a platform that includes sensors that are embedded in the soil and measure the degree of moisture in the soil. The sensors are able to analyze the type of soil and transmit the data to a smart control system, which gives the farmer accurate information on the irrigation status at each point in the cultivated area, and schedule the irrigation and fertilization plans in a more efficient and data-driven manner. The platform also takes into account information from external sources such as weather forecasts, maps and aerial photos.

Through the partnership, growers using both systems will have access to CropX’s enhanced irrigation data-driven prescriptions that they can incorporate into their Reinke irrigation control system. “Our technology makes these irrigation systems smarter. The integration will make it possible to plan the use of the system based on the agronomic information obtained from our sensors and in accordance with the weather and forecast data.”

This partnership introduces Reinke to the world of digital agriculture, which has been growing rapidly in recent years. “It’s important for them to expand from a manufacturer of equipment to a company that provides an added value to farmers in the field of digital agriculture. CropX will provide the digital layer to their  solutions.”