Apple Inc. acquired a Seattle-based artificial intelligence (AI) company Xnor.ai, to bring in more talent in a key area of technology.
The company, founded in 2016, had raised millions of dollars to build tools that help artificial intelligence algorithms to run on devices rather than remote data centres. In recent years, Apple has pushed to run this type of software on its devices to keep user information more private and speed up processing. According to the news, the company paid about $200 million for Xnor.ai.
Xnor.ai employs machine learning and image recognition tools to use it on-device, rather than needing to execute something from the cloud. Edge-based computing brings back the data storage and basic computational tasks from the cloud to the device, to improve the response times and save bandwidth. Edge-based AI would allow for faster programs that would use significantly fewer data. Additionally, by keeping the data out of the cloud, it offers a more secure system than the alternative. Xnor.ai has also created a self-service platform to make it easier for software developers to employ AI-centric code and data libraries into apps.
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Apple didn’t comment on the price but said that it buys “smaller technology companies from time to time” and generally does not discuss its plans. A $200 million deal would put the purchase in the same ballpark as some other previous Apple AI deals, including the acquisitions of Turi. In recent months, Apple bought smartphone camera software company Spectral Edge and struck a deal with graphics company Imagination Technologies.
The employees brought to Apple in the Xnor.ai deal will likely be based in the company’s Seattle offices, which house hundreds of engineers working on AI. Apple uses AI across its software, allowing for search on devices and features like Siri.