Nokia CTO hung out to dry after BBC comments

Although they weren’t exactly the most sensible of comments, it seems expressing a personal opinion is an absolute no-no for any telco executives nowadays.

The interview in question was with Nokia CTO Marcus Weldon and focused on a report from US security firm Finite State. In the report, Finite State suggested 55% of the firmware images supporting 558 of Huawei’s enterprise networking products contained at least one potential backdoor.

The report itself gave a relatively scathing interpretation of Huawei’s security capabilities, effectively questioning the competence of the Chinese vendor.

Weldon’s comments could be interpreted as sloppy or a man on the offensive to capitalise on a wounded foe.

“Some of it seems to be just sloppiness, honestly, that they haven’t patched things, they haven’t upgraded,” said Weldon. “But some of it is real obfuscation, where they make it look like they have the secure version when they don’t.”

To date, Nokia and Ericsson have largely avoided being dragged into the Huawei saga. They have commented on the uncertainty created and the need to come to a conclusion sooner rather than later but have steered clear of any comments directed at their biggest competitor.

Weldon hasn’t here, and it seems the Finnish vendor saw it necessarily to disown its CTO and his thoughts on the industry.

“Nokia notes the comments made by a Nokia executive to the BBC on 27 June 2019 regarding the possible impact of the use of a competitor’s products on the security of UK telecom networks,” a statement reads.

“These comments do not reflect the official position of Nokia. Nokia is focused on the integrity of its own products and services and does not have its own assessment of any potential vulnerabilities associated with its competitors.”

Nokia has managed to avoid getting its hands dirty in this on-going saga and why would it want to. The US is doing a perfectly job of demonising Huawei through various propaganda campaigns without help from anyone else.

That said, we imagine this is little comfort for Weldon who must be feeling quite lonely at the moment.

UPDATE: 28.06.19: 16:15 – Huawei statement:

Nokia’s statement that one executive’s comments on Huawei do not reflect their official position is recognition that ill-informed loose talk does not help our customers or the industry more widely. We win new business by fair competition and on the basis of our technology and customer focus, not by denigrating our competitors. Huawei is the world leader in 5G because our technology is the most advanced, as our market position confirms, we’ve already won 50 5G contracts globally, well ahead of the competition. The best way to improve cyber security and ensure network resilience is for all vendors to agree to independent testing of their equipment and source code – just as we have done in the UK

Factory simulation software revenue will reach $4.1bn: What this means for the IoT

Simulation software applications have more upside growth potential across the globe. Industrial companies have already applied the software for use cases to build manufacturing systems, deploy new production lines, and evolve factory planning methodologies.

While no single manufacturing technology drives this transformation movement, simulation software now holds the potential to act as a significant catalyst for new Industry 4.0 platforms.

Simulation software market development

If simulation software can accurately predict the effects of other technologies on the core goals of manufacturers - i.e. more production, more uptime, improved time to market, improved quality, fewer delays, more efficiencies, greater utilisation of assets, all at lower costs -- then companies will deploy more technologies at scale with greater confidence.

The market for factory simulation software products will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent to reach $4.1 billion for over 172,000 users in 2030, according to the latest worldwide market study by ABI Research.

Vendor revenue includes software that uses computer modeling to analyse how production might work in any given factory or situation, and implement virtual commissioning to test proposed changes and upgrades before they're put into effect.

"Today, many manufacturing enterprises have started to use simulation software, but most have not yet realised the added benefits of using simulation software as part of a larger smart manufacturing platform or to virtually test other new technologies," said Nick Finill, principal analyst at ABI Research.

Cloud-based platforms can help to provide a similar user interface for simulations from the different points of view of process engineers, operations support managers, plant engineers, and control engineers.

Companies can assign user roles so that engineers only see and modify the details and information that they need for their job or level of expertise, and engineers in different locations can work on different parts of the same model.

The new research uncovered that this customisation process increases manufacturing data security, speeds up the simulation process, and makes the product easier to use.

Outlook for automotive simulation apps growth

According to the ABI assessment, the automotive industry represents the largest opportunity globally, with $1.8 billion in factory simulation software revenues forecasted for 2030.

"Automotive manufacturing leads the way for many transformative technologies and therefore has a higher demand to simulate those technologies. It also has an edge on most industries in sheer size and organisational transformation, with more holistic solution deployments due to cross-functional technology transformation teams," concludes Finill.

Read more: Ericsson to build fully automated smart factory in US

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Apple’s design chief decides to call it a day

Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, has announced that he is leaving the company at the end of the year and will set up LoveFrom, his own creative business, with Apple as its first client.

Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive has been instrumental in giving the world a string of iconic Apple products over the last two decades. Among them the most influential ones should be the iPod, which turned the recorded music industry upside down, the iPhone, which redefined what mobile handsets are and do, and the iPad, which practically created the tablet market. In addition, he was also behind the Mac computers and the Apple Watch, the success of which has been more muted.

Ive stressed that his departure from the company does not mean he will stop working with Apple. “While I will not be an [Apple] employee, I will still be very involved — I hope for many, many years to come,” Ive told the Financial Times in an interview. “This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change.” Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, believed the company would continue the success of the Ive era, and was looking forward to the collaboration with Ive’s new venture. “We get to continue with the same team that we’ve had for a long time and have the pleasure of continuing to work with Jony,” Cook told the FT. “I can’t imagine a better result.” Apple will not announce a successor to fill Ive’s CDO position immediately. Instead, the managers of the design teams will report to Jeff Williams, Apple’s COO.

Ive’s decision to leave should not appear to have come out of the blue to those that have followed the industry, and the company, closely. He was the late Steve Jobs’ closest ally and, among other things, had been an active presence at product debuts, through video links. After Jobs passed away this patterned continued, up to the point when the Apple Watch was launched. Ive would appear at the events on pre-recorded videos, unveiling the products, in particular talking about the details. That has not happened since. In a 2015 feature by the New Yorker magazine, Ive said he had been “deeply tired”. In May that year he was appointed CDO, a position that would rid him of the day-to-day responsibilities to run the design team.

More recently it appears Ive has expand his interest beyond sleek consumer products. For example, his team were heavily involved in designing Apple’s new headquarters. This is also a vision he gives his new business. “There are products that we have been working on for a number of years,” Ive told the FT. “I’m beyond excited that I get to continue working on those, and there are some new projects as well that I’ll get to develop and contribute to.” He also denied that the weakened appeal of the iPhone, which has not been helped by the trade war with China, is a contributing factor to his decision. To tell from his reduced involvement in products over the last few years, the decision seems to have been long in the making.

Before he was knighted for “services to design and enterprise” by the Queen in 2012, Ive had already been hailed by Stephen Fry as one of the two Englishmen alive to have the most profound impact on people’s lives. The other, according to Fry, is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

Europe gives Ofcom the greenlight for Dark Fibre plans

Having published new rules on Dark Fibre and ‘ducts and poles’ access in May, Ofcom has made no material changes following a review from the European Commission.

The rules are another attempt by Ofcom to encourage more competition in the fixed market and therefore increase investments made by the telcos in offering services in regions which could be deemed as less commercially attractive. Openreach might not be the happiest for the situation, but it is a step towards shortening the digital divide which has emerged in the UK.

Starting with the ducts and poles element, Ofcom has confirmed telcos laying fibre cables for broadband and mobile networks will benefit from greater access to Openreach’s existing infrastructure. The watchdog has used the phrase ‘unrestricted’ though we struggle to believe there are no loop-holes for Openreach to play around with.

This is not necessarily new from Ofcom, but it is an extension of rules which were passed last year. To this point, Openreach had been compelled into opening up access to the infrastructure for competitors serving residential customers and small businesses, though this update extends the rules to large businesses as well.

With enterprise services plugged as the biggest gain for telcos during the 5G era, the greater access to infrastructure competitor telcos have, the more attractive the business case will be for investment and therefore creating innovative services for the verticals. That said, Openreach will not be as happy as others.

This is a former-monopoly which has reaped the benefits of being the dominant player in the market. Employees will be tasked on protecting and profiting as greatly as possible from assets, though if the regulator keeps opening up infrastructure, this becomes more difficult.

The second area worth noting from this ratification from the European Commission addresses Dark Fibre across the country. This is an area Openreach has fought bitterly against though it seems it could only hold back the tide for so long.

The new rules will force Openreach to offer Dark Fibre as a product to other telcos in areas there are no rival networks present at Openreach’s exchanges. These are the areas where Openreach has a continued monopoly thanks to prior public investment and there is a risk of damaging the business case for competitors.

Under the new rules, in these areas where competition is unlikely to emerge organically, ‘dark fibre’ can now be ‘lit’ by competitors with their own equipment. Openreach will be required to give competitors physical access to its fibre-optic cables, at a price that reflects the cost of laying the infrastructure. In areas where there is competition, pricing regulations will be lighter.

Although these new rules are unlikely to be the most profitable for Openreach, there will be plenty of happy faces around the UK. Telcos have been complaining about the regulatory barriers to achieving the perfect 5G/fibre dream the Government has dreamt up, and this is one step in the right direction.

If the spooks can’t hack it, the US might ban it – report

A worrying report emerging from the US concerns the future of end-to-end encryption and the on-going security of consumers; if the intelligence community can’t break it, tech firms won’t be allowed to use it.

Hypocrisy and contradiction seem to be languages on the syllabus for every politician in today’s society. This might have been the case for decades, but it seems to be very prevalent in the legislative halls around the globe currently. Today’s example concerns cybersecurity.

According to Politico, there has recently been a secret meeting with all the no.2’s from US intelligence agencies to discuss the possibility of banning end-to-end encryption. The logic is relatively simple; removing the end-to-end encryption barrier would help these agencies catch more terrorists. But then again, the contradiction is also glaringly obvious.

In the pursuit of increased security, the intelligence agencies are suggesting less security. The removal of end-to-end encryption might help these agencies catch more terrorists, but it would also expose the consumer to considerable risks such as fraud or blackmail, while also making it easier for foreign states or criminals to spy on anyone and everyone, including governments.

Fixing one problem by making several problems should not be considered a sensible or logical approach to managing national security. It’s incredibly ill-advised and quite frankly we are surprised this debate rages on.

What is worth noting is this is not a dispute which is limited to the shores of the US; there are short-sighted and dim-witted politicians trying to kill end-to-end encryption all around the world.

Australia passed a law in December to compel technology companies into creating backdoors for security services to make use of, while in the UK, GCHQ directors suggested a similar mechanism called ‘Ghost Protocol’ which received a scathing reception. During 2017, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd attempted to rid the UK of encryption, while the infamous ‘Snoopers Charter’ was a disaster waiting to happen. In France, Article L.871-1 of the Internal Security Code requires technology companies to provide access to data within 72 hours of a request.

There are other approaches as well, which pay a much-needed nod to the importance of end-to-end encryption. In Finland for example, Section 23 of Chapter 8 of the Law on Coercive Measures Act compels persons/companies other than suspects/accused persons to hand over passwords and decryption keys if it is necessary to conduct a search of data contained in a device. This approach is not perfect, but it maintains the integrity of security protocols and the resilience of end-to-end encryption.

Although these agencies might think creating backdoors and the accountability mechanisms to use them is a sensible strategy, it clearly isn’t. If there is a vulnerability created in the security perimeter, the dark web will find out about it and will go searching for it. It will only be a matter of time before someone finds it, either through perseverance or accident, and it will be monetized by nefarious characters.

What is an important factor of the digital economy is the desire and requirements of technology providers to build security into products and services. This desire to build in backdoors undermines any work which is being done. Governments are pressing for increased security, but then insisting it must be weakened. The technology industry is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Europe publishes stance on AI ethics, but don’t expect much

The European Commission has revealed its latest white paper detailing guidelines on an ethical and trustworthy approach to AI, but whether it actually means anything remains to be seen.

The guidelines themselves are now open for public comment with the Gaggle of Red Tapers seeking feedback on how to make improvements and increase applicability to the world of today. However, the industry continues to operate under the semblance of oversight but in the reality of the digital wild-west.

Such is the top-line nature of the guidelines, you have to wonder whether there have been any real efforts to integrate the thinking into business. At the moment, the guidelines do not seem to have any substance to them, simply stating the obvious, or at least what you would hope is obvious to the developers creating the algorithms and applications. These guidelines would have been useful 2-3 years ago, but now it seems a bit of a redundant statement. AI regulation needs action not philosophical thinking.

After reading the guidelines, there is a sense of ‘so what’. What was the point in making this statement aside from cosmetically attracting headlines for the European Commission? There doesn’t seem to be anything new in there, just the European Commission making a statement for the sake of making a statement.

The seven guidelines are as follows:

  1. Humans should have oversight of AI at all times
  2. AI systems need to be resilient and secure
  3. Governance measures should be introduced to protect privacy
  4. Transparency should be ensured
  5. Bias should be removed
  6. AI should benefit all
  7. Accountability for AI should be introduced

Having the guidelines is all well-and-good, there needs to be a yard-stick, but we would expect at the least for some sort of accountability model. It seems a bit half-arsed at the moment as there are still numerous questions.

Firstly, how is the European Commission going to judge whether these guidelines are being followed by industry? What will the metrics be? What will be the punishments for not taking the principles into account or negligible behaviour? Where are the reporting mechanisms for ‘unethical’ behaviour and complaints?

The next steps for the Commission is to consult with industry and run various pilot programmes across the bloc. After these initiatives have been completed, another consultation period will be entered into before the Commission will review the assessment lists for the key requirements in early 2020. At some point in the ill-defined future, Europe might have some rules on AI.

Considering the posturing which has taken place over the last couple of months, Europe has promised it will lead the world on AI, this announced seems nothing but superficial. These generic comments and guidelines should have been put out years ago, now is a time for action and a time for rules.

AI is already in the world and having a fundamental impact on our day-to-day lives. We might not realise it all the time, but it is increasingly interwoven into the services and products which we use each day. Now is the time for action from regulators, not posturing and pondering.

Trade deal on the cards if Trump leaves Huawei alone

For weeks and weeks there has seemed to constantly be new stories to write about the US/China trade war, and on the eve of the G20 meeting, the dynamic duo haven’t disappointed.

This week, representatives of the 20 richest countries around the world will meet in Japan to discuss everything from fishing regulations through to finance and climate change. Telecommunications, and more specifically cybersecurity, will of course be on the agenda, and most importantly, it will feature in the meeting between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping.

Of all the bouts over the next couple of days, this will be the one everyone is paying attention to. The leaders of the worlds’ two largest economy, duking it out to gain supremacy. Trump has said he wants a trade deal, and so has Xi. These two nations not getting on is no good for anyone, but it seems neither wants to appear as weak and concede ground.

The latest development is coming out of Beijing. Xi has stated he is open to a trade deal between the two nations, but Trump would have to stop targeting Huawei as a proxy for passive and active aggression against the Chinese Government.

This is going to be a massive ask from the Chinese premier, as while Trump is fully willing to use companies as pawns in his greatest negotiation, the supporting cast in Congress might not be as willing. We’ve already seen this during the ZTE saga.

It might seem like a lifetime ago, but it was in mid-2018 ZTE found itself in the crosshairs of the White House. Trump built up the situation, seemingly as a demonstration of the power of the Oval Office, and once the point had been made he tried to stand down. But Congress stood in the way.

26 Senators, somewhat hardliners, attempted to block the de-escalation from Trump. They seemingly bought into the evil stories told by Trump as validation for such actions and weren’t willing to let the company off the hook. Trump wanted to play a game with ZTE as movable piece, but Congress wasn’t reading the rule book.

The same situation might happen here. Opinion in the US has been directed towards Huawei being the weapon of Chinese oppression on the world, and Trump has been the most vocal when it came to hyping the fear. Even if Trump does want to step down from this position to facilitate a deal, Congress might once again prevent him.

Trump seems to have done a good job in convincing politicians of the national security threat, and Congress does not seem to have the same game-playing attitude as Trump; if something is a national security threat, it will remain one. The opportunity of commercial gain will not change that.

This is of course assuming Trump wants to make a deal. Xi has played his hand, set out his demands with Huawei, and Trump seems to be just as combative. In interviews and tweets, the President has condemned Canada for tariffs on agricultural products, slammed India for its own tariffs and suggest China’s economy is ‘going down the tubes’.

Currently we have two Presidents who do not seem like they are going to shift. In their homelands they have created personas of strength, leaning on hawkish strategies not diplomacy. It would be fair to assume a continuation of the status quo.

KPN CEO resignation definitely had nothing to do with recent network crash

Maximo Ibarra resigned at CEO of Dutch telco KP the day after a major network failure, but the company insists the two events are unrelated.

Ibarra had led KPN for just a year and a half, having moved over from Italy where he was a Wind lifer and CEO for five years. If we take the KPN announcement at face value Ibarra and his family never took to Rotterdam and have decided to move back to Italy. Luckily for them Sky Italia had a vacancy and has appointed Ibarra as its new CEO once he’s served out his notice.

“I have been with KPN since 2017, and appointed CEO in 2018,” said Ibarra. “I regret the timing, but family reasons gave me no choice. I will dedicate myself the coming months to secure a seamless transfer to my successor.”

The timing referred to must surely be the major outage suffered by KPN on Monday of this week, which even shut down the 112 emergency number. It seemed to just affect voice calls, which were down across the country for three hours.

“We regret that this could have happened, and we offer our sincere apologies to our customers and also to the Dutch society,” said Joost Farwerck, COO of KPN. “We immediately established a crisis team and yesterday afternoon and evening every possible effort was made to find a solution. Thankfully, as a result, by early evening service was resumed and 112 was also accessible again.

“It goes without saying, KPN will evaluate this disruption thoroughly, because this should never have happened. In this evaluation, we will work together with the Ministry of Security and Justice, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, and the Telecom Agency and other relevant bodies. Of course, we want to learn from this disruption, so that we can draw the correct conclusions and ensure that this kind of incident can be prevented in the future.”

In the Ibarra press release KPN felt compelled to include the following statement: “His resignation is unrelated to the network outage experienced yesterday.” It probably was just unfortunate timing and we certainly have no evidence to suggest otherwise. But you can see how some people might put two and two together to make five.

Ericsson to build fully automated smart factory in US

Ericsson has announced that it is planning to construct the company’s first fully-automated smart factory in the US. This factory will manufacture Advanced Antenna System radios to enhance network capacity and coverage in the rural areas, along with 5G radios for urban areas.

Both areas are important for rapid 5G deployments in the North American region, the company noted. Besides the US smart factory, Ericsson is also speeding up the launch of the next-generation smart manufacturing via a modular and flexible production setup in its existing own factories in Estonia, China and Brazil.

Fredrik Jejdling, executive VP and head of networks at Ericsson, says: “We continue to focus on working closely with our customers and supporting them in the buildout of 5G globally and in North America. With today's announcement, we conclude months of preparations and can move into execution also in the US. In addition, we are digitalising our entire global production landscape, including establishing this factory in the US.

“With 5G connectivity we're accelerating Industry 4.0, enabling automated factories for the future,” Jejdling added.

Writing for IoT News earlier this month, Louis Columbus explained why smart machines are the future of manufacturing.

“The era of the smart, connected machine is here, bringing with it the need to grow services and software revenue faster than transaction-based machinery sales,” wrote Columbus. “Machinery manufacturers are having to rethink their business models and redefine product strategies to concentrate on operating system-like functionality at the machine level that can scale and provide a greater level of autonomy, real-time data streams that power more accurate predictive maintenance, and cross-vendor shop floor integration.”

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

Huawei stresses how much it respects intellectual property

Embattled telecoms vendor Huawei feels so passionately about the sanctity of intellectual property that it’s published a great big white paper on the matter.

Titled ‘Respecting and Protecting Intellectual Property: The Foundation of Innovation’, the paper goes on at great length about how important innovation it and how it can only happen if people don’t go around ripping off each other’s inventions. There’s even a whole five-page section stressing how much Huawei respects third party’s IP and would definitely never nick any of it.

The paper was unveiled at a press conference in China by Huawei’s Chief Legal Officer Song Liuping (pictured). “In the past 30 years, no court has ever concluded that Huawei engaged in malicious IP theft, and we have never been required by the court to pay damages for this,” he said.

“Innovation and IP protection is the cornerstone of Huawei’s business success. Last year we generated more than 100 billion dollars in revenue. None of our key products or technologies are linked to any accusations of IP theft. No company can become a global leader by stealing from others.

“We have grown because we invest. Last year alone, we invested 15 billion US dollars in R&D – the fifth largest in the world. We have more than 80,000 R&D engineers that put their hearts and souls into the technology we create. Huawei fully supports the IPR protection system, both globally and in the United States.”

That all seems pretty clear doesn’t it? The primary purpose of the paper, however, was not to protest arguably too much about Huawei’s innocence, but to indirectly berate US President Trump for using intellectual property as a political pawn.

“Over the past 30 years, we have paid more than 6 billion US dollars in royalties to legally implement the IP of other companies,” said Song. “Nearly 80% was paid to American companies…. Disputes over IP are common in international business. Huawei has been on both sides of these disputes. We believe these disputes should not be politicized. Intellectual property is private property, protected by the law, and disputes should be resolved through legal proceedings.”

Song makes several valid points here. As we recently covered, US attempts to co-opt its own companies into its political dispute with China are increasingly causing collateral damage. Furthermore the apparent suspension of the rule of law for Huawei is not only unjust, but undermines the whole foundation on which international trade relies.

Having said that, Huawei’s unprompted protestations of angelic innocence when it comes to intellectual property are likely to raise some eyebrows. For example, a recent investigation into Huawei’s historical activities in this area paints a somewhat more nuanced picture. Huawei is using MWC Shanghai to make a bunch of self-aggrandizing announcements but the real action will take place when Trump meets Chinese President Xi in Japan this weekend.