eXtensions - Saturday 11 March 2017
Cassandra: Saturday Review - IoT Security Risks, Components and Chips from Apple-Linked Companies, some Patent News and More
By Graham K. Rogers
She surprised me while talking when she said that she had not actually seen me to begin with, but rather the AirPods: "They are so big". I had not really thought of this as I just wear them and don't notice once the music starts playing. I saw an additional comment on the AirPods today in Vogue, of all publications, where Maria Ward, comments on Kirsten Stewart, wearing AirPods, who had likened her Apple in-ear devices to new earrings. I may have short hair like Kirsten Stewart but I don't do earrings (or tattoos).
By coincidence, I follow someone on Twitter who is deeply interested in IoT devices and he posted a link to an online article that examines how good some devices should be (Bill McCabe, IoT Recruiting). While steps are being taken to ensure better security for medical devices, the picture is not totally clear, although the involvement of Federal agencies in the USA (at least so far), leads the author to believe we should be OK.
While blood pressure, heart-rate and blood-glucose checks are not critical, there are also devices that monitor and provide input, such as the pacemaker and if these could be tampered with, a patient could be at risk. The picture appears to be that all those with interest (from doctors to law enforcement) are keeping an open mind while watching for any problems with security.
Earlier in the week I my attention was caught by another item from IoT Recruiting: a discussion on IoT and motorcycles. While cars have had computerised systems for a while and Apples CarPlay is widespread, motorbikes are always the poor relations, although several BMW K-series bikes I owned all had solid-state electronics, which caused no end of problems here as no one knew how to fix them and random wire-cutting seemed the best solution. Although I learned a lot about the wiring, to actually fix one bike, I had to take it to Malaysia, twice, to have the correct parts installed.
The item by Bill McCabe however, takes things a step further and examines the relationship of bikes with IoT connections. Both racing cars and bikes depend on transponders to send and receive data while on track, but the development he reports on allows users to configure a motorcycle using an app and - in a similar way to health apps - can send information directly to a manufacturer.
Another former giant is Toshiba who used to make some of the best laptop computers for PC platform, and still have a good reputation with certain devices like TVs. They are overshadowed somewhat by Korean giants like LG and Samsung, but I am sitting in front of a Toshiba TV now.
As the company has unfortunately contracted, so its significant chip manufacturing business is likely to be sold off, but there is a problem. The output has a strategic value and the Japanese government is not likely to let it be snapped up by China. Reporting on Patently Apple, Jack Purcher outlines the steps being taken to lock out companies like TSMC and Foxconn - both major suppliers for Apple - who had already taken Sharp. They intend that any sale should be to a US company because of the risk to the US semiconductor industry.
There is a slight problem in the raw materials, however. Silicon is abundant, a number of other materials are used in electronics these days and for some of these, especially rare earths, the only usable source is China, with some also being found in Malaysia. Lithium is mainly sourced from South America.
Watching outside moves is also useful and Mike Wuerthele (AppleInsider) has noted that some of the possible suppliers for the next iPhone - General Interface Solution, and TPK Holding - have spent rather a lot of money on plant for the "more complex manufacturing process" that will be required.
Wuerthele does note the sometimes-unreliable source of DigiTimes when reporting about Apple specifically, but capital expenditure is another ball game.
Another hint at a possible future technology use comes in a note from Christian Zibreg on iDownloadBlog who mentions that a company called Lite-On Semi was mentioned recently with regard to being a possible supplier of wireless charging parts. As has been rumoured, Apple has been looking at wireless charging, although some reports suggested this was on the back burner for now.
The Apple Pencil is not cheap and the loss of one is not only expensive in cash terms but for some it is a productivity tool and any loss affects output. Patently Apple reports on several related patents, one of which deals with a combined magnetic attachment and charging system. Fingers crossed.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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