Apple’s latest acquisition points to Siri-powered smart home devices

Apple has just snapped up the privacy-focused AI startup Silk Labs, continuing its streak of investing in AI technologies.

Apple’s latest acquisition points to Siri-powered smart home devices

Founded in 2015, Silk Labs’ aim is to “bring next-generation visual and audio intelligence to connected products” with “state-of-the-art image and audio recognition”. It’s believed that, because of this focus, Apple snapped up the startup with the intention of improving its severely lacking AI-equipped devices.

The acquisition, reported by The Information, apparently took place earlier this year for an undisclosed sum. The team, founded by former Mozilla employees Andreas Gal, Chris Jones and Michael Vines, consists of only a handful of employees so Apple likely didn’t have to splurge too much cash on buying them out.

Silk Labs launched its smart “Sense” camera in 2016, but since then hasn’t brought another major device to market. It’s interesting to see Apple snap them up though as it could show signs that the company is looking to expand its smart home offering beyond the Siri-equipped HomePod smart speaker.

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As Silk Labs champions privacy in what it does, it’s no surprise that Apple was interested in retaining them over other potential startups. Privacy is a big issue for Apple and, in the wake of a multitude of data breaches and security concerns online, Apple wants to show people it isn’t listening in on conversations or recording their data for sales purposes.

“Privacy and security is built into our company’s DNA,” reads the blurb on Silk Labs’ website. “With every line of code we write and in every design document we make, Silk takes great measures to ensure that user data on the Silk Intelligence Platform is fully protected at all times”.

Apple has already made moves to bolster it’s AI division, only further suggesting that it has plans to make major moves in the section in the next year or two. Last year it paid $200 million (£156 million) for machine learning and AI company Lattice Data and earlier this year it hired Google’s search and AI chief John Giannandrea to head up its own operations.

Even if Apple can make meaningful improvements to Siri, it remains to be seen if it’ll be enough to claw back the home devices market from the likes of Amazon and Google. Only time can tell.

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