Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Iran, one of the countries most strongly identified with the rise cyber terrorism and malicious hacking, appears now to be using an iron fist to turn on its own. The country has reportedly shut down nearly all internet access in the country in retaliation to escalating protests that were originally ignited by a rise in fuel prices, according to readings taken by NetBlocks, an NGO that monitors cybersecurity and internet governance around the world.

The last reports of outages came from yesterday (Saturday) evening, so we have contacted NetBlocks to get a more updated picture.

So far, the picture looks pretty bleak. Babak Taghvaee, a defense analyst and historian who is not based in Iran who has been posting some videos of the protest skirmishes, confirms to me that his own internet communication lines with contacts have also been broken, with phones still working, albeit with monitoring from the State.

Internet is completely shut-down and I can’t communicate [with] anyone,” he said. “People just can call abroad (just certain countries) using telephone which is being monitored.”

Currently, using Twitter as one marker, it seems that there are at least some people sending out media and messages from the country, specifically related to the protests, although without specific “messaging” against the government attached to them. This one comes from Tehran, above one of the country’s main highways, showing how traffic has backed up due to streets getting closed down:

And here is another with video from the ground, showing people and police swarming.

And of course the government is still Tweeting, too:

The protests arose in response to a decision by the state to raise the price of gas in the country by 50%.

As this AP article points out, Iran has some of the cheapest gas in the world — in part because it has one of the world’s biggest crude oil reserves — and so residents in the country see cheap gas as a “birthright.”

Many use their cars not just to get around themselves but to provide informal taxi services to others, so — regardless your opinion on whether using fossil fuels is something to be defended or not — hiking up the prices cuts right to ordinary people’s daily lives, and has served as the spark for protest in the country over bigger frustrations with the government and economy, as Iran continues to struggle under the weight of US sanctions.

Clamping down on internet access as a way of trying to contain not just protesters’ communication with each other, but also the outside world, is not an unprecedented move; it is part and parcel of how un-democratic regimes control their people and situations. Alarmingly, its use seems to be growing.

Pakistan in September cut off internet access in specific regions response to protests over conflicts with India. And Russia — which has now approved a bill to be able to shut down internet access should it decide to — is now going to start running a series of drills to ensure its blocks work when they are being used in live responses.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.


TechCrunch

Trucks and other large commercial vehicles and the biggest whales on the road today — are they also, by virtue of that size, some of the most dangerous and inefficient if they are driven badly. Today, a startup that has built a platform aimed at improving both of those areas has raised a large round of funding to continue fuelling (so to speak) its own growth: SmartDrive, a San Diego-based provider of video-based telematics and transportation insights, has snapped up a round of $ 90 million.

The company is not disclosing its valuation but according to PitchBook, it was last valued (in 2017) at $ 290 million, which would put the valuation now around $ 380 million. But given that the company has been growing well — it says that in the first half of this year, its contracted units were up 48%, while sales were up by 44% — that figure may well be higher. (We are asking.)

The funding comes at an interesting time for fleet management and the trucking industry. A lot of the big stories about automotive technology at the moment seem to be focused on autonomous vehicles for private usage, but that leaves a large — and largely legacy — market in the form of fleet management and commercial vehicles. That’s not to say it’s been completely ignored, however. Bigger companies like Uber, Telsa and Volvo, and startups like Nikola and more are all building smarter vehicles, and just yesterday Samsara, which makes an industrial IoT platform that works, in part, to provide fleet management to the trucking industry, raised $ 300 million on a $ 6.3 billion valuation.

The telematics market was estimated to be worth $ 25.5 billion in 2018 and is forecast to grow to some $ 98 billion by 2026.

The round was led by TPG Sixth Street Partners, a division of investment giant TPG (which backs the likes of Spotify and many others), which earlier this year was raising a $ 2 billion fund for growth-stage investments. Unnamed existing investors also participated. The company prior to this had raised $ 230 million, with other backers including Founders Fund, NewView Capital, Oak Investment Partners, Michelin and more. (NEA had also been an investor but has more recently sold its stake.)

SmartDrive has been around since 2005 and focuses on a couple of key areas. Tapping data from the many sensors that you have today in commercial vehicles, it builds up a picture of how specific truckers are handling their vehicles, from their control on tricky roads to what gears and speed they are using as they go up inclines, and how long they idle their engines. The resulting data is used both to provide a better picture to fleet managers of that performance, and to highlight specific areas where the trucker can improve his performance, and how.

Analytics and data provided to customers include multi-camera 360-degree views, extended recording and U-turn triggering, along with diagnostics on specific driver performance. The company claims that the information has led to more satisfaction among drivers and customers, with driver retention rates of 70% or higher and improvements to 9 miles per gallon (mpg) on trips, versus industry averages of 20% driver retention and 6 mpg.

“This is an exciting time at SmartDrive and in the transportation sector overall as adoption of video-based telematics continues to accelerate,” stated Steve Mitgang, SmartDrive CEO, in a statement. “Building on our pioneering video-based safety program, our vision of an open platform powering best-of-breed video, compliance and telematics applications is garnering significant traction across a diverse range of fleets given the benefits of choice, flexibility and a lower total cost of ownership. The investment from TPG Sixth Street Partners and our existing investors will fuel continued innovation in areas such as computer vision and AI, while also enhancing sales and marketing initiatives and further international expansion.”

The focus for SmartDrive seems to be on how drivers are doing in specific circumstances: it doesn’t seem to focus on whether there could have been better routes, or if better fleet management could have resulted in improved performance.

“SmartDrive is a market leader in the large and expanding transportation safety and intelligence sector and we are pleased to be investing in a growing company led by such a talented team,” noted Bo Stanley, partner and co-head of the Capital Solutions business at TPG Sixth Street Partners, in a statement. “SmartDrive’s proprietary data analytics platform and strong subscriber base put it in a great position to continue to capitalize on its track record of innovation and the broader secular trend of higher demand for safer and smarter transportation.”


TechCrunch

Toyota will work with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on a fuel cell Moon rover vehicle, with a target launch date of a Moon mission currently set for 2029. The two previously announced their collaboration, but on Tuesday they signed a formal agreement which defines a three-year joint research agreement to co-develop pressurized lunar rover prototypes.

Each year will see the partnership focus on a different phase of the prototype’s development, with 2019 all about identifying technical requirements and drawing up spec docs; next year, the goal will be to build test parts and then actually putting together a rover prototype; finally, in fiscal 2021, the partners will test both the rover parts and rover prototype in order to evaluate the results for potential full production.

The pressurized rover will be able to transport astronauts over 10,000 km using its onboard fuel cells and solar recharging mechanism, according to a press release detailing the concept from March, prior to today’s development partnership agreement. It would have a total seating capacity of two people, with the option to carry as many as four if there’s an emergency need to do so.

It’s about the size of two microbuses, according to Toyota, which means about 20 feet long, by 17 feet wide and 12.5 feet tall. The six-wheeled concept also features deployable solar panels for recharging, ample communications equipment and a front winch for getting itself out of jams another potential applications.

JAXA intends to launch a series of lunar missions, including 2007’s Selene (or ‘Kayuga’), which sent an orbiter and a pair of communication satellites to lunar orbit. Ultimately, JAXA’s goal is to host a series of uncrewed and human missions under a broader Lunar Exploration Program with the ultimate aim of establishing a presence for Japanese astronauts in a combined international lunar outpost program.


TechCrunch

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