ARM’s Segars Sees Expanded Role for Machine Vision, Machine Learning

Simon Segars, chief executive of chip licensing powerhouse ARM Holdings, stopped by for a chat about last week’s acquisition of startup Apical, based near ARM’s headquarters in Cambridge, for $350 million. The company designs circuits for machine vision that can be embedded in chips developed by ARM’s customers. The company has 1 billion smartphones already shipped with its technology.

“What they’re able to do is to make sense of what a camera is looking at. They can do image processing to remove aberrations and do noise reduction, that’s one part of it, and there’s technology for displays, to merge graphics and video, adjust brightness. The third piece of their IP is a computer vision engine that’s a building block for us as we look at that space in drones, in security cameras, and such.”

There’s an analogy with the “Mali embedded graphics circuitry, which didn’t exist in ARM-based parts a decade ago but now dominates embedded graphics. The rationale for buying Apical now, explained Segars, is to use ARM’s vast resources to “deploy that more widely.

“We have the world’s best sales channel for licensing to semiconductor companies; we can invest behind that and accelerate the use.”

He adds, “We’re always looking for technology that fits well with our technology, and that can suit various markets,” rather than being a niche.

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