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RFID and IoT News Round Up for Nov. 14, 2017



Impinj Stock Tanks after Q3 Earnings Misss; Zebra Announces New Smart-Phone Like Device; IoT will Never be Secure, GM Engineers Say


Nov. 14, 2017
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Below are some of the top stories in RFID and the Internet of Things (IoT) in recent weeks.

Highflying Flying Impinj Stock Takes a Tumble

Off and on, SCDigest has been following the fortunes of RFID tag and reader maker Impinj since it went public in mid-2016, both as a potential investment interest to readers as well as its position as a sort of gauge for how the overall RFID market is fairing. (See Should You Buy In to RFID Solution Leader Impinj's New Initial Public Offering?)

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The pair say it's never going to be cost effective for companies to build world-class security into the devices they makes.

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For those that got in at the IPO its mostly been a nice rise, with Impinj rising from an initial price of around $19 per share to a high of $59 this past June. But the stock price started falling from there, reaching about $39 before fell about another 20% after releasing its Q3 earnings. It now sits at about $25 per share.

That after the Seattle-based company whiffed on earnings expectations for the first time as a public company.

Impinj reported non-GAAP net losses of $1.6 million, or 8 cents per share on $32.6 million in revenue. Analysts surveyed in advance by Yahoo Finance expected losses of 3 cents per share on $32.58 million in revenue.

Revenue growth fell to just 5% in the quarter, far below most recent periods. For example, revenue was up 31% year-over-year in Q2.

Last quarter the company dropped its guidance for how many items will be tagged using its tracking chips in 2017 from 7.8 to 8 billion down to 7 to 7.2 billion items. The estimated range remains the same this quarter, but Impinj CEO Chris Diorio said in a statement that the company expects volume to decline a bit toward the end of the year.

"We remain confident in our market opportunity and will continue investing in and delivering solutions and enterprise partnerships that leverage our platform, accelerate adoption and drive scale in this gigantic market opportunity," Diorio said in a statement.

Zebra Releases Smart Phone-Like Mobile Device

Companies are increasingly looking at smart phones as mobile data collection devices, and Zebra Technologies - which acquired Motorola Systems several years ago - is jumping on the bandwagon, with a new smart phone-like device it says is targeted at small and mid-sized businesses.

The device, the rugged TC20 mobile computer (see picture), comes in models designed for 1D and 2D bar code scanning. Zebra says marrying the device with Zebra's UHF RFID sled can provide tag reading, writing and locationing capabilities.

Zebra says users can benefit from integrated bar code and RFID tag reading, eliminating the need for unreliable, slower and power-intensive smart phone cameras. SCDigest will note, however, that some third-party software for phones and tablets exists that provides high performance scanning.

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Using Zebra's Workforce Connect Push-To-Talk Express on the device, workers can perform voice communications via a wireless local-area network (LAN) to communicate one-on-one or in groups, eliminating the need for separate radios, for example in a distribution center.

IOT Is Insecure - Get Over It! Say GM Engineers

As Internet of Things adoption grows, there has been significant concern over security relative to IoT devices, with worries hackers could gain control of everything from smart cars to pacemakers.

Now, noted security experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek said IoT in fact cannot can't be secured, but that the risks can be tamed and need more focused attention.

In a presentation summarized on the web site, the pair conceded that there will always be thousands of connected devices that will never be secure, and that industry should prioritize personal safety and the security of automobiles and medical devices, for example, over toothbrushes and door locks - though it seems to SCDigest that door locks are closely tied to personal safety.

"The problem is that great security is expensive," Miller said. "You can't just keep looking for vulnerabilities. You need to ship product and accept the fact you can't solve security," said Miller, who along with Valasek are principal autonomous vehicle security architects at GM's Cruse Automation unit.

Interestingly, the pair say it's never going to be cost effective for companies to build world-class security into the devices they makes. Device makers can't sell great IT security as a product feature and can't pass the cost on to the customer.

"A locked-down IoT toothbrush with a secure platform would cost millions to develop and millions more to maintain," Valasek said. The cost to consumers would be $400 a toothbrush and would eventually fail against the $4 Internet-enabled toothbrush advertised with "good" security.

Looking toward the future, autonomous vehicles present a special challenge, the engineers said. "Autonomous vehicles are the next-level things to worry about in hacking cars," Miller said.

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