13 December, 2019 - 20:49 By Tony Quested

Apple confirms acquisition of Cambridge UK company

Apple has confirmed it has acquired Cambridge UK image technology business Spectral Edge for an undisclosed sum.

As we reported yesterday, all the Spectral Edge directors had quit to be replaced by an Apple legal eagle based in California. The US technology business confirmed our story today but declined to disclose details concerning the amount paid for Spectral Edge or its plans going forward.

Spectral Edge directors resigned in November and were replaced by Peter Denwood, director, Corporate Law – International at Apple.

Apple intends to fuse the Spectral Edge imaging technology into its smartphone enhancements, just as it used speech technology from VocalIQ in Cambridge to return fire on Amazon’s Alexa.

In July, Business Weekly revealed that Apple was moving its Cambridge research hub from 90 Hills Road to a new building at 30 Station Road which provides 79,000 sq fit of space with the capacity to accommodate up to 800 people. Regeneration specialist Brookgate, regional contractor R G Carter and fund Aviva Investors started work on Apple’s new facility in October 2019. Completion is due in July 2021.

We speculated that this was to accommodate a fresh acquisition: Apple eased into Cambridge via the acquisition of little-known speech technology startup VocalIQ. Image enhancement technology looked to be a natural bolt-on if Apple could find the right player in the market. Spectral Edge certainly appears to fit the bill. 

In April 2018 Spectral Edge raised $5.3 million from existing investors Parkwalk Advisors and IQ Capital. The new money was to expand the company's R & D team and support the development of real-world applications for its technology in key areas of focus – notably smartphones, webcams and security applications. 

The team, which in 2014 spun the business out of academic research at the University of East Anglia, has developed a mathematical technique for improving photographic imagery in real-time, also using machine learning technology. 

The technology – which can be embedded in software or in silicon – is designed to enhance pictures and videos on mass-market devices. Mooted use cases include for enhancing low light smartphone images, improving security camera footage or even for drone cameras.

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