Apple acquires French AI startup firm for an undisclosed amount

Apple acquires French AI startup firm for an undisclosed amount
Let's face it folks, 2024 is the year of AI. If your phone doesn't have some AI capabilities, you might as well be living next door to the Flintstones. That's an exaggeration obviously, but you know that WWDC 2024 will be scrutinized like never before as Apple reveals the biggest update in the history of iOS. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman recently wrote that Apple plans on using AI to help users more easily complete everyday tasks and to give Siri a much-needed facelift.

To allow the iPhone's AI capabilities to run faster and more securely, Apple wants them to run on-device instead of through the cloud where more powerful cloud-based servers can be accessed.  There is a trade-off here. Complex AI algorithms might require more processing power than the iPhone can deliver on-device. But the payoff for using AI on-device is that users will be able to, as we already said, have their tasks run faster and more securely.

Apple hasn't exactly said, "We're going on-device when it comes to iPhone AI." But French magazine Challenges (via 9to5Mac) says that Apple has acquired French AI startup company Datakalab which specializes in AI compression and computer vision technology. The company holds itself out to be "experts in low power, runtime efficient, and deep learning algorithms" that work on-device. The firm worked with the French government four years ago to add AI tools to the Paris transportation systems allowing it to check whether people were wearing face masks. It has also worked with Disney in the past.

The deal supposedly closed in December and is a typical Apple transaction that sees it spend a relatively small amount of money to pick up a lesser-known company that has some kind of product or service that can be used on the iPhone in a year or two. A good example of such a purchase was the 2012 acquisition of biometric firm AuthenTec for $356 million. The next year, Apple introduced the Touch ID  biometric fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s.

Before being taken down, Datakalab's website said, "Datakalab is a French technology company that develops computer image analysis algorithms to measure flows in public space. The images are instantly transformed into anonymized statistical data processed locally in 100ms. Datakalab does not store any images or personal data and only keeps statistical data. Datakalab products are built according to the principle of 'Privacy by Design'." Before the deal with Apple, the company had 10 to 20 employees.

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