Apple has acquired Canadian machine learning startup Inductiv for an undisclosed sum, according to a new report. The purchase marks the latest in a slow, but steady, buying spree of artificial intelligence startups by Apple.
Inductiv, founded in Waterloo, Ontario, provides a platform for using AI to detect and fix mistakes in raw data automatically. Cleaning data is often a long, tedious process, but crucial for training an AI to perform its tasks. If effective, applying AI to that very need would speed up and improve machine learning in a positive feedback loop. Engineers from Inductiv started working with Apple on its Siri voice assistant and its data science, in general, a few weeks ago, suggesting the acquisition was about the startup’s talent pool as much as its existing technology. Cleaner data could help Siri, or any other voice assistant, become more efficient and better at making predictions, which means fewer mistakes as it learns and adapts to new users and software.
Apple has not responded to a request for comment, but the tech giant rarely says anything about its acquisitions. In this case, there’s a bigger mystery than usual because the Inductiv website is no longer available and apparently was never archived by the Wayback Machine or similar services. Inductiv originally grew out of an academic project called Holoclean, which still has a website and a Github, but there’s no direct mention of Inductiv within them. Inductiv doesn’t seem to have raised any money based on a cursory look through Crunchbase and the Canadian regulatory agencies. LinkedIn points to the founders also being university professors. Inductiv co-founder and, according to his LinkedIn page, current CEO Ihab Ilyas is a professor at the University of Waterloo as well as co-founder of seven-year-old enterprise data startup Tamr. Another co-founder, Stanford University professor Christopher Ré, earlier founded Lattice Data, which in 2017 was also acquired by Apple.
Apple Acquiring All
Buying smaller companies is a tried-and-true way for bigger companies like Apple to incorporate new technology and the people behind it into their products. It’s far faster and sometimes even cheaper in the long-run than starting new research from scratch. Apple has been keen on this tactic when it comes to machine learning and AI. In April, Apple bought Voysis, a startup with a platform for digital retailers to incorporate voice order. Apple may use Voysis’ discoveries to make Siri better at understanding and responding to what people say, which would be even better if the data it uses to learn is cleaned by tech like Inductiv’s. Both purchases would complement what Apple gained after buying Xnor for around $200 million in January. Xnor built low-power machine learning technology that operates on a device without the cloud, using less power and increasing the privacy of user data. It’s easy to imagine Apple using Inductiv’s tech to clean up data that Siri then uses to better comprehend commands, all within a device’s hardware.
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Eric Hal Schwartz is a Staff Writer and Podcast Producer for Voicebot.AI. Eric has been a professional writer and editor for more than a dozen years, specializing in the stories of how science and technology intersect with business and society. Eric is based in New York City.
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