Apple acquires ‘dark data’ AI startup Lattice Data for $200M


Apple Inc. has acquired Lattice Data Inc., a startup that uses artificial intelligence to mine “dark data,” a form of data that is collected but not normally used for broader purposes, for a reported $200 million.

While not confirming the deal, Apple did say in a statement that “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” which is its customary way of confirming a deal while not actually saying so.

Lattice Data was founded as a spinoff from a Stanford University research project called DeepDive, which establishes a framework for statistical inference, a method and practice of forming judgments about the parameters of data and the reliability of statistical relationships. The companies software uses AI and machine learning technology to mine dark data to make that data structured, allowing traditional information technology tools to analyze them.

The technology is said to be similar to Google’s Knowledge Graph, in that it can understand relationships among people, places and things. For Apple, the technology could be applied to improving its Siri intelligent assistant by allowing the software to better analyze data. In theory that would allow it to parse through databases and the Internet to help it deliver better answers to queries.

Lattice Data is not Apple’s first buy in the AI space. The company snapped up Turi Inc., a machine learning platform that creates Big Data analytics for its users, in August, also for a reported $200 million. Before that, it had bought Perceptio and Emotient. Apple is seen by many observers to be trailing Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others in AI and machine learning, which are fast becoming critical to many web-scale and mobile applications.

Coming into the acquisition, Lattice Data is believed to have raised around $20 million in funding from GV, Madrona and InQTel, making the $200 million exit a very nice payday for both its investors and its founders.

Image: NASA