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Sony Going All In On Sensors, Confirms Toshiba Deal

Confirming earlier rumors, Sony has announced that it’s negotiating terms to take over Toshiba’s CMOS image sensor business, boosting production capabilities in what has become perhaps the company’s most important tech division.

Toshiba’s fabrication facilities, equipment and employees at its plant in the southern Japanese city of Oita are set to come under Sony control; the two companies plan to have legally binding agreements in place by the end of this year, with the transfer to be completed by the financial year ending in March 2016. No financial details have been disclosed.

Toshiba is seeking to raise cash after an accounting scandal that cut about $1.3 billion off profit reported over almost seven years.

Sony CEO Kaz Hirai is investing in sensors as he counts on the components to drive earnings along with the higher-profile businesses of making consumer electronics, video games and movies. The company leads the global market for chips that smartphones and cameras use to digitize photos and is quadrupling spending on semiconductors to 290 billion yen to keep up with demand from customers including Apple and Samsung.

“As the possibility of realizing a sale increases, it is positive for both Sony and Toshiba,” Takeo Miyamoto, senior analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities, wrote in a report dated Oct. 26. “The market was expecting Toshiba to sell its imaging sensor business.”

Sony controlled about 40 percent of the $8.7 billion market for CMOS image sensors last year, compared with about 16 percent for its next biggest competitor, Techno Systems Research. The market is forecast to climb to about $12 billion by 2019, and the company expects its sales to increase as much as 62 percent to 1.5 trillion yen in three years.

Acquiring Toshiba’s image sensor business would add about 100,000 units a month to Sony’s capacity, boosting sales by 60 billion yen to 70 billion yen and operating income by as much as 20 billion yen at full capacity, Ryosuke Katsura and Yukihiko Shimada, analysts at SMBC Nikko Securities, wrote in an Oct. 26 report. The output of CMOS sensor chips would be from Toshiba’s factory in Oita, Japan, which supplies smartphone makers including Microsoft’s Nokia unit, HTC, LG Electronics and camera maker Nikon, according to the report.

“The purchase would be an economical way to flesh out its CMOS sensor capacity, currently an area of concern,” wrote Katsura and Shimada.

CEA Releases Wellness Data Use Principles

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) released what it calls the first-of-its-kind voluntary guidelines for how private companies should handle personal wellness data. The highlights: Companies should get consumer permission before sharing or selling data to third parties, provide clear and easy-to-understand polices on data usage, allow users to opt out of advertising and offer the ability to correct inaccurate information. The full document is available at

The principles took about six months to develop with CEA members who were eager for the guidelines, according to CEA’s regulatory affairs chief, Alex Reynolds. The group is “hopeful that many companies will think positively of it and adopt it.”

Verizon Intros IoT Simplification Strategy

Verizon announced its global strategy to simplify the Internet of Things (IoT) and accelerate market adoption, according to a report from Mobile World Live.

The company said that “with an ecosystem of more than 1,000 channel partners and revenue from its IoT and telematics solutions totalling $495 million year-to-date, it is generating one of the largest amounts of revenue from the IoT of any company in the U.S.”

The new strategy includes ThingSpace, a new IoT platform; creating a dedicated network core and connectivity options for the next-generation of IoT use cases; driving innovation to tackle challenges in areas like agriculture and healthcare; and commercializing its big data analytics engine for IoT deployments.

Verizon also wants to introduce three smart cities solutions: Intelligent Video, Intelligent Lighting and Intelligent Traffic Management.

These solutions will help municipalities monitor traffic and safety conditions in real-time and manage their systems in a dynamic way to improve efficiency and public safety, the company said.

Verizon is offering these solutions as-a-service so that municipal leaders can “start small and scale fast.”

Mike Lanman, senior VP, enterprise products, explained that there is need for a new strategy because “IoT is still too complex, too fragmented, too expensive to connect and too hard to scale. Success in that future relies on a leader that can cut through the complexity and change the IoT model.”

Verizon outlined its strategy at an event held at its San Francisco Innovation Center. The company also showcased how it’s putting its IoT capabilities to work for customers in the marketplace.

Projects underway include monitoring pharmaceutical products in the supply chain and helping colleges reduce their carbon footprint by up to 20 percent by powering the Innova EV Car Share fleet of all-electric vehicles with an app called Verizon Share.

Presidential Tech Town Hall Slated

Engine Advocacy is teaming up with the Technology Association of Iowa and the Cedar Rapids Gazette to host an “Iowa Presidential Tech Town Hall.” One candidate already confirmed for the Dec. 7 event is former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, the groups announced last week. Other 2016 candidates have been invited, and hosts said they expect more confirmations. “It’s critical for the start-up community to make its voice heard in this election cycle, and drive the conversation about tech and entrepreneurship,” said Engine’s leader, Julie Samuels, announcing the event.

Battle Over Digital Music Playing Out In Lobbying Efforts

Music advocacy groups have long been blanketing Capitol Hill with artists and songwriters to brief lawmakers on the state of a music business in digital flux. Now online radio giant Pandora is getting in on the action. The company brought a trio of burgeoning recording artists to Washington to show how performers benefit from Pandora exposure in a move that offers a counterpoint to music groups’ contention that the online radio giant is an enemy of artists and songwriters, according to Politico.

Congress isn’t close to passing music reforms, but both sides of the music licensing debate have ramped up their lobbying efforts this year. Groups including the Recording Academy have brought many more — and higher-profile — artists to Capitol Hill to lobby on music issues.


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