Archive for July, 2019

Fitbit lowers guidance after Versa Lite disappoints

Fitbit continued solid device growth for Q2, up 31%, year over year, representing a 5% bump in revenue. From that angle, the company’s long-term turnaround appears to be on track — but things weren’t all cheery this time out. Notably, the company’s stock is down in after-hours trading after it lowered guidance for annual revenue. The company laid much of the blame at the feet of the Versa Lite. Announced in March, the $160 device is a stripped-down version of the Versa, the smartwatch that helped kickstart Fitbit’s most recent act. “While we are disappointed to lower guidance for the year, we remain confident in our long-term transformation strategy and have demonstrated good results across key areas of the business,” CEO James Park said in a release tied to the earnings. We saw growth in devices sold, increased active users and continued growth in our Fitbit Health Solutions channel, up 42% in the first half of 2019.” Fitbit Versa Lite review All told, smartwatch revenue dropped 27% year over year, with the Lite making up a lower than expected 38% of that number. Ultimately the company’s recently consolidated tracker offers were there to pick up some of the slack, with a 51% year over year increase. The stumbles come in contrast to this week’s Apple earnings, which found wearables on the upswing as iPhone sales continued to sputter. In addition to a newfound focus on smartwatches, Fitbit’s recent shift also includes a healthcare offering. Fitbit Health Solutions is up 42% for the year, with international growth playing a key role.

Cryptographic ICE Cube tests orbital cybersecurity protocols aboard the ISS

Encryption in space can be tricky. Even if you do everything right, a cosmic ray might come along and flip a bit, sabotaging the whole secure protocol. So if you can’t radiation-harden the computer, what can you do? European Space Agency researchers are testing solutions right now in an experiment running on board the ISS. Cosmic radiation flipping bits may sound like a rare occurrence, and in a way it is. But satellites and spacecraft are out there for a long time and it only takes one such incident to potentially scuttle a whole mission. What can you do if you’re locked out of your own satellite? At that point it’s pretty much space junk. Just wait for it to burn up. Larger, more expensive missions like GPS satellites and interplanetary craft use special hardened computers that are carefully proofed against cosmic rays and other things that go bump in the endless night out there. But these bespoke solutions are expensive and often bulky and heavy; if you’re trying to minimize costs and space to launch a constellation or student project, hardening isn’t always an option. “We’re testing two related approaches to the encryption problem for non rad-hardened systems,” explained ESA’s Lukas Armborst in a news release. To keep costs down and hardware recognizable, the team is using a Raspberry Pi Zero board, one of the simplest and lowest-cost full-fledged computers you can buy these days. It’s mostly unmodified, just coated to meet ISS safety requirements. NASA picks a dozen science and tech projects to bring to the surface of the Moon It’s the heart of the Cryptography International Commercial Experiments Cube, or Cryptographic ICE Cube, or CryptIC. The first option they’re pursuing is a relatively traditional software one: hard-coded backup keys. If a bit gets flipped and the current encryption key is no longer valid, they can switch to one of those. “This needs to be done in a secure and reliable way, to restore the secure link very quickly,” said Armborst. It relies on “a secondary fall-back base key, which is wired into the hardware so it cannot be compromised. However, this hardware solution can only be done for a limited number of keys, reducing flexibility.” If you’re expecting one failure per year and a five-year mission, you could put 20 keys and be done with it. But for longer missions or higher exposures, you might want something more robust. That’s the other option, an “experimental hardware reconfiguration approach.” “A number of microprocessor cores are inside CryptIC as customizable, field-programmable gate arrays, rather than fixed computer chips,” Armborst explained. “These cores are redundant copies of the same functionality. Accordingly, if one core fails then another can step in, while the faulty core reloads its configuration, thereby repairing itself.” In other words, the encryption software would be running in parallel with itself and one part would be ready to take over and serve as a template for repairs should another core fail due to radiation interference. A CERN-developed radiation […]