What’s happened in AI: November 12th-18th

By | November 20, 2018

Major highlight this week was Blackberry’s acquisition of cybersecurity AI startup Cylance for $1.4bn. Stuart McCulre, CEO of Cylance, has struck gold again having previously sold a cybersecurity startup to McAfee for $86mm. This is another example of how important major tech companies value cybersecurity. In addition, this also demonstrates that applying AI to the field adds tremendous value when done properly. Other weekly news developments can be found below:

Company developments:

Google’s AI system can grade prostate cancer cells with 70% accuracy – Nov. 16, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • In a paper (“Development and Validation of a Deep Learning Algorithm for Improving Gleason Scoring of Prostate Cancer“) and accompanying blog post, Google AI researchers describe a system that uses the Gleason score — a grading system that classifies cancer cells based on how closely they resemble normal prostate glands — to detect problematic masses in samples
  • The results were promising. In testing, the AI model achieved an overall accuracy of 70 percent, beating the 61 percent achieved by the U.S. board-certified pathologists who participated in the study. Moreover, it performed better than eight of the ten “high-performing” individual pathologists who graded the validation set’s slide, and better identified patients at higher risk for disease recurrence after surgery. Finally, it was able to characterize tissues that straddled the line between two Gleason patterns — e.g., Gleason pattern 3.3 or 3.7, between 3 and 4

Google Cloud AI loses R&D head Jia Li – Nov. 15, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Google Cloud AI’s Jia Li has left her position as head of research and development, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email. Additional comment or details were not provided. During her time with the company, a number of AI services were made available through Google Cloud, including AutoML for automating the creation of AI models. She also acted as head of an AI center based in Beijing that Google opened in December 2017
  • According to news website Synced, which first ran the story, Li said she now plans to work at the intersection of AI and health care and teach at Stanford University’s Center for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine & Imaging (AIMI). Chinese media have reportedly said she plans to launch her own company

DeepMind hands off role as health app provider to parent Google – Nov. 13, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • The Google -owned AI division has just announced it will be stepping back from providing a clinical alerts and task management healthcare app to focus on research — handing off the team doing the day to day delivery of the Streams to its parent, Google
  • Announcing the move in a blog post entitled “Scaling Streams with Google,” DeepMind’s co-founders write: “Our vision is for Streams to now become an AI-powered assistant for nurses and doctors everywhere — combining the best algorithms with intuitive design, all backed up by rigorous evidence. The team working within Google, alongside brilliant colleagues from across the organisation, will help make this vision a reality


BlackBerry to acquire AI-powered cybersecurity startup Cylance for $1.4 billion – Nov. 16, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Founded in 2012 by CEO Stuart McClure — an entrepreneur who sold a previous cybersecurity firm to McAfee for $86 million in 2004 — Irvine, California-based Cylance is an endpoint protection platform designed to thwart advanced threats using artificial intelligence (AI). Its suite of security protocols inspects networks for weaknesses and shuts them down if detected, and it doesn’t require a “signature” from an existing threat to block it — it can spot new threats
  • Since BlackBerry’s exit from the consumer hardware realm, the Canadian company has doubled down on the enterprise, with a particular focus on security. So buying Cylance is entirely in line with its previously stated mission. Indeed, BlackBerry said it plans to leverage Cylance to bolster its Spark Enterprise of Things (EoT) platform, and more specifically its UEM and QNX products

SAM.AI Acquires IntroNet to Expand its Social CRM Capabilities – Nov. 15, 2018 (PR Web)

  • The combination of IntroNet and UpVentures investment and expertise will help propel SAM to expand its social CRM capabilities – creating a new and differentiated approach to how businesses acquire, track and maintain sales and customer data through a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system
  • UpVentures partners Martin Babinec and Mike Krupit formed IntroNet in 2014, building intellectual property aimed at connecting people across broadly distributed networks, including filling gaps left open by social network platforms that do not distinguish strength of relationship between individual network participants

Microsoft to acquire Xoxco as focus on AI and bot developers continues – Nov. 14, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Microsoft has been all in on AI this year, and in the build versus buy equation, the company has been leaning heavily toward buying. This morning, the company announced its intent to acquire Xoxco, an Austin-based software developer with a focus on bot design, making it the fourth AI-related company Microsoft has purchased this year
  • Xoxco, which was founded in 2009 — long before most of us were thinking about conversational bots — has raised $1.5 million. It began working on bots in 2013, and is credited with developing the first bot for Slack to help schedule meetings. The companies did not reveal the price, but it fits nicely with Microsoft’s overall acquisition strategy this year, and an announcement today involving a new bot building tool to help companies build conversational bots more easily

Kofax acquires Nuance’s Document Imaging business for $400 million – Nov. 12, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Thoma Bravo subsidiary Kofax, a robotic process automation (RPA) company that taps artificial intelligence (AI) to automate repetitive enterprise tasks, today announced it has agreed to acquire Nuance‘s Document Imaging division for $400 million
  • Through the acquisition,”Kofax will drive customer value by adding key technologies, including cloud compatibility, scan-to-archive, scan-to-workflow, print management, and document security, to our end-to-end Intelligent Automation platform,” Kofax CEO Reynolds C. Bish said in a statement. “In addition, we will now be able to combine the best capture and print management capabilities available in the market into one product portfolio.”

Fundraising / investment:

VW to spend $50.2 billion on electric, autonomous vehicles by 2023 – Nov. 16, 2018 (Automotive News)

  • Volkswagen Group on Friday said it will spend 44 billion euros ($50.2 billion) on electric vehicles, digitalization, autonomous driving and new mobility services by 2023. The automaker also plans to increase productivity of its factories by 30 percent by 2025, by building more vehicles with different brands on the same production line, it said

Apex.AI raises $15.5 million for autonomous-vehicle software – Nov. 15, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Apex.AI is emerging out of stealth today with quite the claim — an operating system for autonomous vehicles that will never fail. Founded by long-time automated systems engineers Jan Becker and Dejan Pangercic, Apex.AI develops operating systems for various types of autonomous mobility platforms
  • Apex.AI competes with the likes of Renovo, which earlier this year unveiled AWare OS designed for Level 4 autonomous driving. “What excited us about Apex is they are solving a real problem,” Canaan partner Rayfe Gaspar-Asaoka told TechCrunch. “Now that we have the right technological pieces in place, how do we move this from R&D into mass production — fully self-driving vehicles for the average consumer to use. As that happens, the number one question will be how do we ensure that this vehicle in this whole system works 100 percent of the time. Safe and reliable all of the time.”

Ezra raises $4M to diagnose cancer with MRIs, not painful biopsies – Nov. 15, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Today, Ezra launches v1 of its MRI prostate cancer screening subscription service in New York City. For $999 per year, patients get one MRI, access to medical staff and educational guides, and on-going support if the test finds they have cancer. For now, human radiologists still analyze the scans. However, Ezra is working to get FDA approval next year for its AI analysis that’s was initially found to be 90 percent as accurate as medical experts, and could turn Ezra into a lucrative and scalable medtech company

Logojoy raises $4.5 million for AI-generated logos – Nov. 15, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Today, after having served 3.3 million users from 188 countries and sold over 100,000 logos, Logojoy has raised $4.5 million ($6 million CAD) in a Series A funding round led by Real Ventures, with participation from Boston-based Flybridge Capital. It’s the startup’s second raise, following a $680,000 seed round in 2017 ($900,000 CAD), and brings its total to date to over $5 million ($6.9 million CAD)
  • Logojoy will use the capital to expand its team of 33 full-time employees to over 50, Whitfield said, with an emphasis on growing its suite of developer tools and enhancing the capabilities of its AI platform. Logojoy is on track to bring in $8 million in revenue (up from $50,000 two years ago), and Whitfield expects that number to grow to $15 million (and 140,000 logos sold) in 2019

Cognigo raises $8.5M for its AI-driven data protection platform – Nov. 13, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Cognigo, a startup that aims to use AI and machine learning to help enterprises protect their data and stay in compliance with regulations like GDPR, today announced that it has raised an $8.5 million Series A round. The round was led by Israel-based crowdfunding platform OurCrowd, with participation from privacy company Prosegur and State of Mind Ventures
  • The company promises that it can help businesses protect their critical data assets and prevent personally identifiable information from leaking outside of the company’s network. And it says it can do so without the kind of hands-on management that’s often required in setting up these kinds of systems and managing them over time. Indeed, Cognigo says that it can help businesses achieve GDPR compliance in days instead of months

AI insights platform for payers raises $5M – Nov. 13, 2018 (Mobi Health News)

  • Knowtions Research, the maker of an artificial intelligence insights platform for heath insurers, has raised $5 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Information Venture Partners, with additional support from Alibaba Entrepreneurs Fund
  • The Lydia platform looks to help insurers make decisions about their claims and customers from a pool of disparate health data. According to the company, it does so by leveraging natural language processing (NLP) to build unique profiles specific to region, doctor and member. These are then se loose into various insurer workflows, where they make informed predictions of individuals’ behaviors, risks and care options

Pryon, an Enterprise AI and NLP Startup, Emerges from Stealth Mode and Announces $4.5M In Seed Funding – Nov. 13, 2018 (Business Wire)

  • Pryon Inc., an enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) startup, today announced it is coming out of stealth mode. Driven by the team that designed and built the core technologies behind Amazon Alexa, IBM Watson, and other industry-leading AI platforms, Pryon is creating an Augmented Intelligence solution for the enterprise that combines the strengths of people and machines
  • Pryon is leveraging its experience in machine learning (ML) to create an enterprise solution that goes far beyond today’s helpful, but limited bots, robotic process automation (RPA) tools, and voice assistants. The company’s Augmented Intelligence platform enables and supports a secure, natural language, and voice-based interactive agent for employees. This agent works across numerous devices, improves worker productivity, optimizes performance, increases engagement, and becomes more intelligent

China AI Computer Vision Firm AEYE-GO Scores VC Funding – Nov. 13, 2018 (Mobile ID World)

  • The investor is the VC arm of Sodexo, a French company that specializes in managing the day-to-day operational basics of client enterprises such as food services and building maintenance. The management of Sodexo Ventures were evidently intrigued by AEYE-GO’s automated checkout kiosk technology, which is designed to use both facial and object recognition to identify individuals in a cafeteria and the items on their food trays
  • The technology can not only be used to automatically ring up orders, but also to provide consumers with nutritional information about what they’re buying


Ford and Walmart start autonomous-vehicle partnership – Nov. 14, 2018 (Automotive News)

  • The automaker made the announcement Wednesday. The project has begun in the Miami area, where Ford has set up operations for a business revolving around autonomous vehicles that executives expect to launch commercially in 2021
  • “Like us, Walmart believes that self-driving vehicles have an important role to play in the future of delivery, and that true success comes from first learning how individuals want to use them in their daily lives,” said Brian Wolf, business lead in Ford Autonomous Vehicles, a subsidiary set up to handle the automaker’s self-driving business ventures. “Together, we’ll be gathering crucial data about consumer preferences and learning the best way we can conveniently connect people with the goods they need.”

Research / studies:

China’s elite Peking University to build a new AI-focused campus as competition with US heats up – Nov. 13, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • The planned 683,500 square-meter campus, which is equal to the size of 98 football fields, will be located in north Beijing’s Changping district, according to an announcement made by the Changping authorities. The amount of investment was not given. The new campus, featuring AI and engineering-related majors that are seen as vital to future economic success, will involve a major expansion of the existing Peking University campus – the main part of which sits in the Zhongguancun area of Beijing in a hi-tech cluster known as China’s Silicon Valley
  • Construction of the Changping campus will be of strategic importance to the college’s future development. “[The new campus] is a major opportunity and will serve as an important platform to integrate emerging industries and attract top talent overseas,” Qiu Shuiping, Peking University’s Party Secretary, was quoted as saying on his visit to the Changping district last week

Government / policy:

Ethical Artificial Intelligence a pressing need: UN expert – Nov. 17, 2018 (TimesNowNews)

  • According to Eleonore Pauwels, Research Fellow on Emerging Cyber technologies at United Nations University (UNU), AI is transforming our lives, from reshaping our intimate and networked interactions to monitoring our bodies, moods and emotions, both in visible and invisible ways

Applying AI in China’s health care sector needs improved data quality: expert – Nov. 16, 2018 (Xinhuanet)

  • The data quality in China’s health care sector needs to be improved in order to apply artificial intelligence (AI) or deep learning technologies, said an expert at a panel discussion here on Wednesday. China has a large amount of data in the health sector but the quality was not good enough for the AI technology, said Wang Fei, assistant professor on health data mining and machine learning with Weill Cornell Medicine of Cornell University, adding that “the ground is still rough.”
  • For instance, different coding systems like International Classification of Disease (ICD)-9, ICD-10, and even self-defined ones are used in diagnosing diabetes among different Chinese hospitals, Wang said at the panel discussion on China’s health care revolution organized by China Institute