Earlier this year Apple secretively acquired a privacy-focused AI startup, Silk Labs, a company which specializes in developing lightweight AI software able to "fit onto consumer hardware like cameras", according to a report by The Information.
Details of the acquisition are vague as with most of Apple's procurements and it has yet to comment on the deal, however The Information suggested it was likely to have been a relatively minor deal considering Silk Labs' size. "The acquisition, which hasn't been reported before, occurred earlier this year, according to a person briefed on the transaction," the report stated. "The deal was likely a small one for Apple, as Silk Labs only had about a dozen employees and raised approximately $4 million in funding," The Information added.
Silk Labs started back in 2015, founded by three former Mozilla employees Andreas Gal, Chris Jones and Michael Vine. According to its site, its aim is to "bring next-generation visual and audio intelligence to connected products" with "state-of-the-art image and audio recognition".
It is the latest in a number of AI-related strategic moves Apple has made this year as it attempts to become a leader in the technology, including purchasing AI and machine learning company Lattice Data and hiring Google's search and AI chief John Giannandrea.
Both Silk Labs and Apple have expressed a desire to use AI for the protection of personal data and security. This is an issue particularly close to Apple CEO Tim Cook's heart as he launched a scathing attack on tech firms that hoard data last month. "Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency," Cook stated in an impassioned speech at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners in Brussels in October.