Apple’s latest acquisition is Seattle AI start-up Xnor.ai

16 Jan 20203.39k Views

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It is reported that Apple’s acquisition of Xnor.ai could be used to improve Siri technology and other AI and machine learning tasks on the iPhone.

As the war to build the best smartphone rages on, Apple has confirmed that it purchased an AI start-up called Xnor.ai.

Based in Seattle, Xnor.ai has developed technology that runs deep learning models on edge devices, such as phones, IoT devices, cameras, drones and embedded CPUs. Founded in 2016 by Ali Farhadi and Mohammad Rastegari, the start-up has already secured customers in industries such as aerospace, automotive, retail, photography and consumer electronics.

One such customer is Wyze, the smart home security start-up that focuses on manufacturing affordable video surveillance solutions. According to The Verge, Wyze has been using Xnor.ai’s technology since last summer, positioning the partnership as a major selling point for its $19.99 security cameras.

However, in November 2019, Wyze issued a statement saying that Xnor.ai had terminated its contract, informing customers that by January 2020, a firmware update would remove Xnor.ai’s tech from Wyze’s cameras. There are reports that this may be related to the Apple deal.

Potential iPhone integrations

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Xnor.ai’s technology could potentially be incorporated into future iPhones, improving Siri and other AI and machine learning-based tasks, according to MacRumors. As usual, Apple’s statement on the matter was vague, saying: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

While Apple is quiet about the deal, GeekWire reports that the purchase price could be around $200m.

Xnor.ai, which was recently featured Forbes’ list of America’s most promising AI companies, has raised around $14.6m in funding since it was launched in 2016. Last year, the start-up developed a standalone AI chip capable of running for years on solar power.

The news comes a month after Apple confirmed that it acquired Cambridge AI start-up Spectral Edge, a start-up that combines patented image fusion tech with deep learning to reveal more of the colour, detail and clarity in an image.

Apple boss Tim Cook has previously admitted that the tech giant buys a company every two to three weeks on average, so acquisitions aren’t always announced. Cook said that Apple is “primarily looking for talent and intellectual property” when it completes these deals.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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