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Internet connected home security cameras have become a big business with companies like Google’s Nest and Amazon’s Ring dominating the high-end market. However, there are also numerous smaller players like the budget-minded Wyze. This company attracted attention for its $20 security camera and other super-cheap smart home products. However, Wyze now admits it suffered a serious security breach in December.
Wyze security cameras don’t have batteries, 4K resolution, or advanced AI like some devices on the market, but they’re cheap enough that you can keep an eye on your humble abode for a relative pittance. Whereas a 1080p Wyze camera costs $20, the basic indoor Nest Camera costs $200. However, Nest has Google’s account security, which is among the most robust you’ll find. Wyze recently made a grave error when it left a repository of user data wide open for several weeks.
The saga started last week when consulting firm Twelve Security reported that it discovered a copy of Wyze’s database accessible online. Wyze later confirmed the scale of the breach in an email to consumers. The data included camera names, Wi-Fi SSIDs, activation times, and access tokens for mobile apps and Alexa. Passwords and stored recordings were not part of the breach. Reports indicate about 2.4 million users were put at risk.
Wyze says the database was accidentally copied to an insecure location by an employee. The company doesn’t believe anyone’s login data is compromised, but the availability of login tokens could have allowed a determined third-party to hijack accounts. As a precaution, Wyze logged everyone out and reset tokens.
Unsecured Wyze databases, via Twelve Security.
Twelve Security says the database was accessible between December 4th and the 26th, but that’s not the only issue. The company also claims Wyze is routing traffic through Alibaba’s servers in China, which will no doubt set off alarm bells for some US consumers. Wyze, however, denies this claim. Twelve Security also says Wyze’s US servers were never as secure as its Chinese servers, suggesting user data might have been accessible in some form all the way back in January 2019. Wyze has yet to respond to that, but it continues to investigate.
While devices like Wyze cameras can be appealing, it’s important to remember they aren’t bulletproof. This is far from the first time a camera maker has had a data breach, and it won’t be the last. It’s probably a good idea to make sure these devices aren’t pointed at anything you wouldn’t want revealed.
He Jiankui dropped off the radar shortly after the announcement. Many speculated that he had been arrested by the Chinese government, and now we know what became of him. He Jiankui has been convicted of “illegal medical practice” and sentenced to three years in prison along with 3 million yuan ($429,000) fine. He’s also banned from working in reproductive medicine for life. Two co-authors of the paper have also been sentenced in the case. Zhang Renli will spend two years in prison, and Qin Jinzhou has been sentenced to 18 months.
The CRISPR/Cas9 system has been heralded as a groundbreaking tool for editing DNA. The system comes from bacterial cells, allowing scientists to make precise cuts in DNA. Cas9 is a restriction enzyme — a protein that can cut DNA. Scientists can guide Cas9 to the right part of a genome using CRISPR DNA sequences. Researchers have used CRISPR in the lab to neuter disease-carrying mosquitoes, halt HIV replication inside cells, and engineer bacteria that can eat plastic. Editing the human genome with the intention of producing living, breathing people is regarded as irresponsible by most of the medical community when there is still so much we don’t know about the possible side effects.
That didn’t stop He Jiankui, who published his paper last year along with 10 co-authors. The team introduced mutations into the CCR5 gene, which codes for a protein (also called CCR5) on the surface of white blood cells. This protein is important in immune system signaling, but it’s also the route by which HIV infects cells. There are millions of people with CCR5 mutations that make them immune to HIV, and He Jiankui introduced that mitation into embryos. The twin girls born in 2018 are allegedly healthy and have no other genetic abnormalities.
The announcement of the sentence is also the first time Chinese authorities have confirmed the existence of a third gene-edited baby. He Jiankui claimed shortly after the initial announcement that another woman was due to deliver another designer baby in the coming months. So, there are now three genetically engineered people growing up in China, and the consequences of that are still unclear.
Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo says there’s no future for EVs. Or maybe he didn’t. Comments Hachigo made recently indicate he doesn’t see “a dramatic increase in demand for battery vehicles.” Much of the confusion comes from analysis / commentary from other media outlets reacting to a recent interview with Automotive News Europe. Hachigo appears, at worst, to be honest in noting that demand sucks currently for fully electric vehicles. That honest appraisal disheartens EV-enthusiast journalists who dislike an executive who isn’t a full-on cheerleader for battery electric vehicles.
Tesla has shown there’s a market for pure EVs, not just hybrids, not just plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). Similarly, two decades ago, Toyota showed there’s a market for hybrids that went a mile or two on battery power, the rest of the time on gasoline (but still managed impressive mpg increases). Their dominant products sucked the oxygen out of the market for a decade or more.
What Honda CEO Hachiago Really Said
Here’s the key points from an interview of Hachigo with Automotive News Europe editors Jamie Butters and Hans Greimel, through a translator:
Q (ANE): Honda wants two-thirds of its global sales to come from electrified vehicles by 2030. What is your road to electrification when demand for hybrids and EVs is still undeveloped?
A (Hachiago ): I believe hybrid vehicles will play a critical role. The objective is not electrification, per se, but improving fuel efficiency. And we believe hybrid vehicles are the way to abide by different environmental regulations.
Q: What about full-electric vehicles?
A: Are there really customers who truly want them? I’m not so sure because there are lots of issues regarding infrastructure and hardware. I do not believe there will be a dramatic increase in demand for battery vehicles, and I believe this situation is true globally. There are different regulations in different countries, and we have to abide by them. So it’s a must to continue R&D. But I don’t believe it will become mainstream anytime soon.
What we hear from Honda’s head guy is what you’d expect to hear from pragmatic automaker: a straightforward appraisal of where the market is today. He did not, unlike other CEOs, complain that governments need to underwrite a big charging infrastructure first.
What we hear from some of our fellow editors tracking EVs is disbelief that Honda hasn’t gotten with the program. From Elektrek (“Honda CEO says ‘There Will Be No Dramatic Increase EV demand’”):
Honda EV Plus: first modern EV, 1997-99, 80-100 miles range, 300 built.
The automotive industry is operating on two completely separate alternative planes of existence. Readers of this site are familiar with the overwhelming evidence of EVs approaching an inflection point, and the last gasps of internal combustion. Let’s call that reality. And then there’s Honda’s Takahiro Hachigo, joined by executives from Toyota (and others). In their alternative universe, the inevitability of a pure-electric future is not proven. Nobody wants them.
… Nearly four decades ago, Honda introduced the first engine technology to meet US Clean Air Act standards without the need for a catalytic converter. In 1999, the Honda Insight was the first hybrid. But that’s ancient history. Today, the company remains fixated on 20-year-old technology rather than innovating for the new electric age. … At the same time, Hachigo’s latest statements are entirely out of step with the times. The imperative of global climate change is too urgent for minimal compliance and CES eye candy.
And from Jalopnik (“Ghostly Specter Of Honda’s CEO Still Not Convinced Electric Cars Are A Thing”):
Here comes Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo, rising from the dead to walk among us in the year 2019—a year in which Tesla has sold more than 255,000 cars [worldwide]—to inform us he is still not sure about this whole electric car thing, revealing himself to be not a man but a ghost of a bygone era.
Honda is also designing a modular electric car platform which they hope to have ready by 2025. Does that count as “anytime soon?” By automaker timelines, probably not, which means there’s plenty of time for more CEOs to die and rise from the dead before Honda completes its EV platform for a future it doesn’t think will happen.
One company dominated hybrid sales 20 years ago: Toyota. Now Tesla is doing the same with EVs. Four-fifths of EVs sold in the US are Teslas. After that, only Chevy, Nissan and BMW sell more than 5,000 EVs year. (Source: Statista)
The EV Market Is Good (For Tesla)
Automakers have lots of rules to follow: crash protection, safety equipment, emissions. Also they have to make money for shareholders. And stay in business. Right now, Tesla dominates battery-electric vehicle sales, controlling 80 percent (182,000) of the 228,000 pure EVs sold in 2018 in the US, which is 1.0 percent of all US sales. What’s left is table scraps. Chevy has 8 percent of the EV market (0.1 perecent of all vehicles sold), Nissan 6 percent of EVs (0.1 percent of all sales). For everybody else, it rounds to 0.0 percent unless you go to two decimal places.
Honda sold 948 Clarity BEVs in 2018. That is a small number: one of every 1,500 Hondas sold, one of every 18,000 cars sold (all brands) in 2018. Clarify is actually three vehicles: a fuel-cell car that converts hydrogen to electricity, a BEV (the sub-1,000 sales), and a plug-in hybrid. Together they accounted for 20,000 Clarity sales, but virtually all of them were PHEVs. Honda marketed the Clarity BEV as a comfortable family car (think Accord with batteries instead of gasoline). But with an EPA combined-driving range of 89 miles, it was a challenging car to sell. Honda will move into 2020 with the fuel cell and PHEV but not the Clarity EV.
Critics scoff at PHEVs as uninteresting for the long term, and they’re probably right. For. The. Long. Term. But in the US with its greater driving distances than Europe, they make sense. You can drive to and from work on electricity alone if you remember to recharge when you get home. And then on weekends you go where you want, mostly on gasoline. Meanwhile, battery technology is improving at about 20 percent a year, so four to five years from now, a 100-mile Clarity BEV could be a 200-mile Clarity. (And, okay, a 250-mile Tesla could be a 500-mile Tesla.) So Honda could lay low until 2025, rejoin the fray then, and not miss a lot of EV sales in the US. In Europe, the company may face regulatory pressure to act sooner.
The Honda E is part of a new architecture coming within five years.
Honda’s Roadmap for Electrification
Honda e, due in 2021 in Europe – Honda’s first minicar since 2001.
Honda will bring to bring to market an electric city car in 2020 called the Honda E, in the spring of 2020. At 157 inches, it’s smallish for the US market. Over the summer Honda told investors and media it’s developing a dedicated EV platform for midsize and large sedans and SUVs. The first vehicles will come to market in 2025. It’s this timeframe that has some media critics upset with Honda.
Right now in the US Honda has these alternative vehicles:
Honda Accord Hybrid, 48 mpg city / 46 mpg highway, this from what measures as a full-size car.
Honda Clarity PHEV, BEV, hydrogen fuel cell through 2019.
Honda CR-V Hybrid, due early 2020, targeting Toyota RAV4.
Honda appears to be intercepting the glidepath toward higher-efficiency, zero-tailpipe-pollution vehicles. Europe especially is pushing automakers toward cleaner, higher-efficiency vehicles. Honda will begin selling the retro-look Honda e next year in Europe, with a goal of at least 10,000 units a year, possibly more. The Honda e, a minicar, will allow Honda to meet EU CO2 targets in 2020 and 2021 without paying fines.
While we live on the same planet and breathe the same air (more or less), Europe feels the shock more when Russian or the Middle East countries restrict access to petroleum – the US can always “drill, baby, drill” (per Sarah Palin – and Europe is also more concerned about clean air. The US’ concern about fuel consumption and clean air depends a lot on who’s in the White House come 2021. Currently the US supports aggressive petroleum-source development and extraction.