AI chip startup Sima.ai bags another $30M ahead of growth

As the demand for AI-powered apps grows, startups developing dedicated chips to accelerate AI workloads on-premises are reaping the benefits. A recent ZDNet piece reaffirms that the AI edge chip market is booming, fueled by “staggering” venture capital financing in the hundreds of millions of dollars. EdgeQ, Kneron, and Hailo are among the dozens of upstarts vying for customers, the last of which nabbed $136 million in October as it doubles down on new opportunities.

Another company competing in the increasingly saturated segment is Sima.ai, which is developing a system-on-chip platform for AI applications — particularly computer vision applications. After emerging from stealth in 2019, Sima.ai began demoing an accelerator chipset that combines “traditional compute IP” from Arm with a custom machine learning accelerator and dedicated vision accelerator, linked via a proprietary interconnect,

To lay the groundwork for future growth, Sima.ai today closed a $30 million additional investment from Fidelity Management & Research Company with participation from Lip-Bu Tan (who’s joining the board) and previous investors, concluding the startup’s Series B. It brings Sima.ia’s total capital raised to $150 million.

“The funding will be used to accelerate scaling of the engineering and business teams globally, and to continue investing in both hardware and software innovation,” founder and CEO Krishna Rangasayee told TechCrunch in an email interview. “The appointment of Lip-Bu Tan as the newest member of Sima.ai’s board of directors is a strategic milestone for the company. He has a deep history of investing in deep tech startups that have gone on to disrupt industries across AI, data, semiconductors, among others.”

Rangasaye spent most of his career in the semiconductor industry at Xilinx, where he was GM of the company’s overall business. An engineer by trade — Rangasaye was the COO at Groq and once headed product planning at Altera, which Intel acquired in 2015 — he says that he was motivated to start Sima.ai by the gap he saw in the machine learning market for edge devices. 

“I founded Sima.ai with two questions: “What are the biggest challenges in scaling machine learning to the embedded edge?” and “How can we help?,” Rangasaye said. “By listening to dozens of industry-leading customers in the machine learning trenches, Sima.ai developed a deep understanding of their problems and needs — like getting the benefits of machine learning without a steep learning curve, preserving legacy applications along with future proof ML implementations, and working with a high performance, low-power solution in an user-friendly environment.”

Sima.ai aims to work with companies developing driverless cars, robots, medical devices, drones, and more. The company claims to have completed several customer engagements and last year announced the opening of a design center in Bengaluru, India, as well as a collaboration with the University of Tübingen to identify AI hardware and software solutions for “ultra-low” energy consumption.

As over-100-employee Sima.ai works to productize its first-generation chip, work is underway on the second-generation architecture, Rangasaye said.

“Sima.ai’s software and hardware platform can be used to enable scaling machine learning to [a range of] embedded edge applications. Even though these applications will use many diverse computer vision pipelines with a variety of machine learning models, Sima.ai’s software and hardware platform has the flexibility to be used to address these,” Rangasaye added. “Sima.ai’s platform addresses any computer vision application using any model, any framework, any sensor, any resolution … [We as a company have] seized the opportunity to disrupt the burgeoning edge computing space in pursuit of displacing decades old technology and legacy incumbents.”

Sima.ai’s challenges remain mass manufacturing its chips affordably — and beating back the many rivals in the edge AI computing space. (The companys says that it plans to ship “mass-produced production volumes” of its first chip “sometime this year.”) But the startup stands to profit handsomely if it can capture even a sliver of the sector. Edge computing is forecast to be a $6.72 billion market by 2022, according to Markets and Markets. Its growth will coincide with that of the deep learning chipset market, which some analysts predict will reach $66.3 billion by 2025.

“Machine learning has had a profound impact on the cloud and mobile markets over the past decade and the next battleground is the multi-trillion-dollar embedded edge market,” Tan said in a statement. “Sima.ai has created a software-centric, purpose-built … platform that exclusively targets this large market opportunity. Sima.ai’s unique architecture, market understanding and world-class team has put them in a leadership position.”

Microsoft’s Edge browser can now start up faster and put your tabs to sleep

At its annual Build conference today, Microsoft announced a couple of new features for version 91 of its Edge browser that, like so much at Build this year, aren’t earth-shattering (developer velocity!) but nice quality-of-life upgrades for its users. Since Microsoft develops Edge in the open, these may also feel familiar to those who keep a close eye on the Edge roadmap – indeed, I think I’ve seen most of these in Edge 90 already…

One new feature is Startup Boost, which allows Edge to start up almost instantly. The way Microsoft does this is pretty straightforward. It simply loads some of the core Edge processes whenever you boot up your Windows machine, so when you task Edge with starting up, there isn’t all that much work left to do. This shouldn’t have too much of an effect on your Windows 10 bootup time, so it’s probably a trade-off worth making, but I also can’t recall anybody complaining about browser startup times in the last couple of years either.

The other new feature is ‘sleeping tabs,’ which does pretty much what you expect it to do. It puts your tabs to sleep so they don’t use up unnecessary memory and CPU cycles.

Microsoft first announced that it was testing this feature back in December and at the time, the Edge team said that it reduces memory usage by 32% and helps improve battery life as well, given that sleeping tabs use 37% less CPU on average compared to non-sleeping tabs.

It’s worth noting that Google’s Chrome browser, which shares many of its underlying technology with Edge, also features tools to limit resource usage, including what Google calls ‘tab freezing,’ as does virtually every other major browser today.

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Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux in October

Microsoft’s Edge browser is coming to Linux, starting with the Dev channel. The first of these previews will go live in October.

When Microsoft announced that it would switch its Edge browser to the Chromium engine, it vowed to bring it to every popular platform. At the time, Linux wasn’t part of that list, but by late last year, it became clear that Microsoft was indeed working on a Linux version. Later, at this year’s Build, a Microsoft presenter even used it during a presentation.

Image Credits: Microsoft

Starting in October, Linux users will be able to either download the browser from the Edge Insider website or through their native package managers. Linux users will get the same Edge experience as users on Windows and macOS, as well as access to its built-in privacy and security features. For the most part, I would expect the Linux experience to be on par with that on the other platforms.

Microsoft also today announced that its developers have made over 3,700 commits to the Chromium project so far. Some of this work has been on support for touchscreens, but the team also contributed to areas like accessibility features and developer tools, on top of core browser fundamentals.

Currently, Microsoft Edge is available on Windows 7, 8 and 10, as well as
macOS, iOS and Android.

Microsoft Edge is getting smart copy and paste, a password monitor and vertical tabs

Microsoft announced a ton of new features for its productivity apps today, but it also used today’s release to highlight a few new features that are coming to its Chromium-based Edge browser in the near future.

Most of these are pretty straightforward and expected, like its Collections bookmarking feature coming to mobile later this year, but some are quite a surprise. Edge is getting vertical tabs, for example. A lot of browsers have experimented with this in the past but it has often been seen as a niche feature for advanced users. Microsoft clearly doesn’t think of it that way. But you’ll have to wait a bit to try this out, as it’s currently scheduled to roll out to the preview channels in the next few months (or to get a taste of it today, you could try an alternative browser like Vivaldi, which has a number of other advanced tab management features, too).

Also coming to an Edge browser near you in the next few months is Smart Copy. If you’ve ever tried to copy and paste a table from a website in the past, you know that the result is always messy. With Smart Copy, Edge can preserve the formatting when you paste the table into a document. It’ll launch in the Edge Insider channels in the next month.

Also coming in the next few months is a new Password Monitor in Edge, which Microsoft built from the ground up. Like similar features in other browsers and extensions like Google’s Password Checkup, Password Monitor constantly scans the web to make sure your credentials haven’t been stolen. One nifty feature here is that you don’t just get a notification but that this notification will also take you right to the respective service’s site for changing your password.

It’s no secret that Microsoft is very excited about collections in Edge. You can think of them as a tool for bookmarking related sites, images and even text snippets. That’s a useful feature for when you are planning a trip, organizing a dinner or researching anything online. It’s a bit more ephemeral than bookmarks yet more durable than simply keeping a bunch of tabs open. As Microsoft today announced, Collections are coming to the mobile version of Edge, too, and users will be able to sync their Collections between devices.

Here’s the first official preview of Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser

Microsoft today launched the first official version of its Edge browser with the Chromium engine for Windows 10. You can now download the first developer and canary builds here. The canary builds will get daily updates and the developer builds will see weekly updates. Over time, you’ll also be able to opt in to the beta channel and, eventually, the stable channel.

The company first announced this project last December and the news obviously created quite a stir, given that Microsoft was abandoning its own browser engine development in favor of using an open-source engine — and one that is still very much under the control of Google. With that, we’re now down to two major browser engines: Google’s Chromium and Mozilla’s Gecko.

I used the most recent builds for the last week or so. Maybe the most remarkable thing about using Microsoft’s new Chromium-based Edge browser is how unremarkable it feels. It’s a browser and it (with the exceptions of a few bugs you’d expect to see in a first release) works just like you’d expect it to. That’s a good thing, in that if you’re a Windows user, you could easily use the new Edge as your default browser and would be just fine. On the other hand — at least at this stage of the project — there’s also very little that differentiates Edge with Chromium from Google’s own Chrome browser.

That will change over time, though, with more integrations into the Windows ecosystem. For now, this is very much a first preview and meant to give web and extensions developers a platform for testing their sites and tools.

There are a few points of integration with Microsoft’s other services available already, though. Right now, when you install the Edge preview builds, you get the option to choose your new tab layout. The choices are a very simple new tab layout that only presents a search bar and a few bookmarks and a variation with a pretty picture in the background, similar to what you’d see on Bing. There is, however, also another option that highlights recent news from Microsoft News, with the option to personalize what you see on that page.

Microsoft also says that it plans to improve tab management and other UI features as it looks at how it can differentiate its browser from the rest.

In this first preview, some of the syncing features are also already in place, but there are a few holes here. So while bookmarks sync, extensions, your browsing history, settings, open tabs, addresses and passwords do not. That’ll come in some of the next builds, though.

Right now, the only search engine that’s available is Bing. That, too, will obviously change in upcoming builds.

Microsoft tells me that it prioritized getting a full end-to-end browser code base to users and setting up the engineering systems that will allow it to both push regular updates outside of the Windows update cycle and to pull in telemetry data from its users.

Most of the bugs I encountered where minor. Netflix, though, regularly gave me trouble. While all other video services I tried worked just fine, the Netflix homepage often stuttered and became unresponsive for a few seconds.

That was the exception, though. In using the new Edge as my default browser for almost a week, I rarely ran into similar issues and a lot of things ‘just work’ already. You can read PDFs in the browser, just like you’d expect. Two-factor authentication with a Yubikey to get into Gmail works without an issue. Even complex web apps run quickly and without any issues. The extensions I regularly use, including LastPass, worked seamlessly, no matter whether I installed them from the Google store or Microsoft’s library.

I also ran a few benchmarks and unsurprisingly, Edge and the latest version of Chrome tend to score virtually the same results. It’s a bit too early in the development process to really focus on benchmarks, but the results are encouraging.

With this release, we’re also getting our first official look at using extensions in the new Edge. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft will offer its own extension store, but with the flip of a switch in the settings, you’ll also be able to install and use extensions from third-party marketplaces, meaning the Chrome Web Store. Extension developers who want to add their tools to the Microsoft marketplace can basically take their existing Chrome extensions and use those

Microsoft’s promise, of course, is that it will also bring the new Edge to Windows 7 and Windows 8, as well as the Mac. For now, though, this first version is only available on 64-bit versions of Windows 10. Those are in the works, but Microsoft says they simply aren’t quite as far along as the Windows 10 edition. This first release is also English-only, with localized versions coming soon, though.

While anybody can obviously download this release and give it a try, Microsoft stressed that if you’re not a tech enthusiast, it really isn’t for you. This first release is very much meant for a technical audience. In a few months, though, Microsoft will surely start launching more fully-featured beta versions and by that time, the browser will likely be ready for a wider audience. Still, though, if you want to give it a try, nobody is stopping you today, no matter your technical expertise.

Ford to offer hybrid and electric options in redesigned 2020 Escape SUV

Ford today is taking the wraps off the latest generation of the Escape . It’s a major re-work inside and out with new sheetmetal and powertrain options. The 2020 Escape is sportier, loaded with technology, and with hybrid and electric options, clearly built for the future.

The Escape has been Ford’s most affordable SUV since its debut in 2000. Smaller than the stalwart Explorer and more traditional than the Edge or Flex, Ford has always positioned the Escape as an easy and accessible sport utility vehicle. The upcoming version carries on that tradition while offering buyers new options.

The 2020 Escape comes in several variants. The base model sports a 1.5L EcoBoost engine or buyers can step up to a 2.0L EcoBoost. Ford is also offering the Escape in a traditional hybrid configuration and, for the first time, a plug-in hybrid setup. But buyers will have to wait for the plug-in version. This trim level will hit dealers next spring while the rest of the line will be available this fall.

Pricing hasn’t been released yet. The current Escape retails between $25k and $30k.

The driving range is competitive. Ford says the front-rear drive Escape equipped with the standard hybrid has an EPA-estimated range of 550 miles. The plug-in hybrid is expected to get 30 miles of range while just on electric while its 11 gallon fuel tank ensures it can still travel over 400 miles before needing a pitstop.

This is the second Escape generation offered in a hybrid setup but the first with a plug-in variant. Ford sold 114,000 hybrid Escapes between 2004 and 2012, but dropped the option for the current model line that debuted in 2012.

Ford has lofty ambitions for hybrid models. In 2018 the automaker stated it was going all-in on hybrid SUVs while stepping back from traditional cars. By 2020, Ford aims to have high-performance SUVs in market, including five with hybrid powertrains and one fully battery electric model. This includes the 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid that should hit dealers this summer, and two entirely new off-road SUVs, including a new Bronco, and a small SUV that has yet to be named. There’s also that “performance battery electric utility” that will make up part of its overall SUV lineup, which is set for a 2020 release and will spearhead a plan to release six electric vehicle models by 2022. To help support this effort, the automaker/a> to add more production capacity at a second U.S. factory for its next-generation battery-electric vehicle program.

The Escape is available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive configurations. At this time, though, the plug-in hybrid will only be offered with front-wheel drive while models equipped with the 250 HP 2.0L EcoBoost will only come paired with all-wheel drive.

Ford says the new Escape has best-in-class second-row legroom with a sliding backseat. While it steals a bit storage, this feature should make the backseat a bit more comfortable for passengers. Sadly, this option is only available in models feature gas engines. In the hybrid models, the battery pack lives under the rear seat, which prevents the seat from sliding — even still, by placing the battery under the seat, it doesn’t consume valuable storage space in the rear of the vehicle.

Ford made sure the Escape is equipped with a good assortment of standard and optional driver assist features. The standard suite includes Ford’s so-called Co-Pilot360 which includes automatic emergency breaking, rear view camera, andblind spot monitoring system. Other systems are options: parking assist, heads-up display, and adaptive cruise control.

An 8-inch touch screen is standard on SE models and features Ford’s Sync 3 system.

The outgoing Escape was in a need for an overhaul. Compared to its most direct competitors, car reviews often state the current Ford Edge falls short. Most reviews point to options like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4 and Mazda CX-5, stating they give drivers roomier cabins and offer lively powertrains. Ford released the third generation Escape in 2012 and updated the exterior in 2017 as sales were starting to falter.

Ford has big plans for its SUVs. In early 2018 it announced it was canceling production of all of its sedans leaving the Mustang as the only traditional car it sold in North America. The auto maker would instead turn to crossovers and SUVs to take the place of the Fusion, Taurus, Fiesta and Focus. Sales of traditional cars have been declining for years and Ford clearly felt it needed to embrace the latest trend by offering what most buyers want.

The 2020 Ford Escape is a notable leap forward for Ford’s smallest SUV. With the new hybrid options and larger interior, it should resonate well with shoppers looking for an eco-friendly people mover.

An unsecured database exposed the personal details of 202M job seekers in China

The personal details belonging to more than 202 million job seekers in China, including information like phone numbers, email addresses, driver licenses and salary expectations, were freely available to anyone who knew where to look for as long as three years due to an insecure database.

That’s according to findings published by security researcher Bob Diachenko who located an open and unprotected MongoDB instance in late December which contained 202,730,434 “very detailed” records. The database was indexed in data search engines Binary Edge and Shodan, and was freely visible without a password or login. It was only made private after Diachenko released information about its existence on Twitter.

Diachenko, who is director of cyber risk research at Hacken, wasn’t able to match the database with a specific service, but he did locate a three-year-old GitHub repository for an app that included “identical structural patterns as those used in the exposed resumes.” Again, ownership is not clear at this point although the records do seem to contain data that was scraped from Chinese classifieds, including the Craigslist-like 58.com.

A 58.com spokesperson denied that the records were its creation. They instead claimed that their service had been the victim of scraping from a third-party.

“We have searched all over the database of us and investigated all the other storage, turned out that the sample data is not leaked from us. It seems that the data is leaked from a third party who scrape[d] data from many CV websites,” a spokesperson told Diachenko.

TechCrunch contacted 58.com but we have not yet received a response.

While the database has now been secured, it was potentially vulnerable for up to three years and there’s already evidence that it had been regularly accessed. Although, again, it isn’t clear who by.

“It’s worth noting that MongoDB log showed at least a dozen IPs who might have accessed the data before it was taken offline,” Diachenko wrote.

There’s plenty of mystery here — it isn’t clear whether 58.com was behind the hole, or if it is a rival service or a scraper — but what is more certain is that the vulnerability is one of the largest of its kind to be found in China.

Microsoft is reportedly replacing Edge with a Chromium-based browser

Microsoft Edge has failed to capture the public’s attention since launching back in 2015, so you can’t really blame the company for switching tacks. According to new reports that first surfaced in Windows Central, the browser isn’t not long for this world. Microsoft could announce its replacement as early as this week.

As for what’s next for the Windows 10 default browser, the company is reportedly looking to Google for some help on that front. The next-gen browser is said to find Microsoft swapping Edge’s EdgeHTML rending engine for Chromium.

All of this is still early stages for the project that has been floating around with the internal name “Anaheim,” but Internet Explorer’s replacement’s replacement will hopefully address some stability and compatibility issues that have hampered adoption. It could also help the browser work better on those ARM-powered Windows machines.

The Chromium-powered browser would likely have more flexbility, should the company ever choose to really go all in on a Chromebook competitor, rather than pushing a stripped-down version of Windows 10. Distinguishing the browser from Chrome will be another question entirely.

Microsoft’s going to need some help on that front if it hopes to regain a solid chunk of browser market share from Google. According to recent numbers, Chrome controls well over half of the global browser market.