Apple Acquires Image Fusion Startup

Article By : Nitin Dahad

The company’s founder sells his second image processing company to Apple.

Cambridge, UK, based Spectral Edge, an image fusion startup which was spun out of the University of East Anglia in 2014, has been acquired by Apple for an undisclosed amount.

When we spoke to Spectral Edge CEO Rhodri Thomas last year, he said the company had developed image fusion software intellectual property (IP) for use in smartphones and mass-market devices to deliver artifact-free image processing capability. Its technology is aimed at applications that rely on image quality for either function or aesthetics — from mobile to security and from automotive to on-demand video or live broadcast. Thomas added that while its IP was mostly offered in software, they were planning to offer it in silicon, possibly as an FPGA.

We contacted Spectral Edge co-founder and chairman Robert Swann to ask about the acquisition by Apple. He was unable to confirm or deny the reports. However, the UK’s Financial Times reports that Apple confirmed the acquisition to the newspaper. Our own research shows that the directors of Spectral Edge resigned from the company on 8 November 2019, and the information was made public on the UK’s Companies House records on 12 December 2019. The only remaining named director on the company’s current filings is Peter Ronald Denwood, a director of corporate law at Apple in Cupertino, California.

Spectral Edge was created from the color and vision group (part of the School of Computing Sciences) at University of East Anglia (UEA), in Norwich, U.K. It was spun-off as a commercial entity in 2014 to exploit research into image fusion and color perception technologies for a range of applications on computer electronic devices, including computational photography on smartphones, multispectral vision, and content enhancement for TV and OTT streaming video services.

Graham Finlayson

This research was led by professor Graham Finlayson, who now with this exit has sold two companies to Apple — the previous one was Imsense, which was acquired by Apple in 2010 for its dynamic range optimization solutions for images and videos in mobile, and whose features were introduced into the HDR photography feature in iOS 4.1 in September 2010.

One of the other Spectral Edge founders, Robert Swann, also has a track record of successful exits — he was with Alphamosaic when it was acquired by Broadcom in 2004 for $123 million, after which he became a director in Imsense. Other companies he’s been involved with and invested in include Cambridge CMOS Sensors which was acquired by ams in 2018 and Movidius which was acquired by Intel in 2016. He is currently involved with Audio Analytic, developer of embedded sound recognition software, and is also a founder of Audiotelligence, developer of embedded software algorithms which improve the clarity and intelligibility of audio in products like home assistants and smart speakers.

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