Facial recognition firm AnyVision raises $235 million

Investors include SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Eldridge; company says personal data will be protected by new data privacy measures

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

AnyVision has developed face recognition technology (YouTube screenshot)
AnyVision has developed face recognition technology (YouTube screenshot)

AnyVision, an Israeli firm that makes face recognition technology, said Wednesday it has raised $235 million from investors to speed up growth and development of its software.

Investors include SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Eldridge, along with existing investors.

The new funding will speed up the company’s growth and innovation, and help boost the adoption of its AI-based face-recognition platform to flag potentially dangerous behavior and individuals, AnyVision said in a statement on Wednesday. The investment values the firm at over $1 billion, the Wall Street Journal said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The injection of funds is “one of the largest funding rounds in the visual intelligence space in Western markets, underscoring the growing importance of AI, machine learning, and biometrics in transforming physical and perimeter security,” the statement said.

The fundraising comes as facial recognition technology has come under greater scrutiny from civil rights activists and regulators worldwide, who say the technology is biased and infringes on privacy. The European Union has proposed a law to limit use of such technology by the police, and it has been banned in several US cities including San Francisco and Boston. Meanwhile, tech firms, including Google’s Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon, have said they will halt or curb sales of facial recognition technology.

In March last year Microsoft pulled its investment from AnyVision even though the US tech giant couldn’t substantiate claims that the startup’s technology was being used unethically. The firm and the backing it had received from Microsoft’s investment arm had attracted public scrutiny, as the Israeli military reportedly installed face scanners at border crossings where Palestinians enter Israel from the West Bank.

As part of the latest funding transaction, Amit Lubovsky, director for SoftBank Investment Advisers, will join AnyVision’s board of directors, the statement said.

AnyVision technology uses behavioral economics to pressure the public to wear masks and wear them correctly (YouTube screenshot)

The firm’s software is able to recognize people in real time using AI-based algorithms. The technology can be used for both security and commercial purposes: it can interact with visual footage from cameras at airports, borders and stadiums to scan faces for suspects, and help enterprises protect their entrances by identifying authorized personnel and persons of interest in real-time, the statement said.

At the same time, the company said, all of that personal data accumulated will be protected by new data privacy measures set out by the firm to not only comply with privacy regulations but also equip enterprise users of its technology with the “necessary tools to address their evolving privacy needs,” the statement said, including bystander blurring, changing data retention times, and limits to the storing of data for individuals not listed within an organization’s watchlist.

“AnyVision’s innovations in recognition AI helped transform passive cameras into proactive security systems and empowered organizations take a more holistic view to advanced security threats,” said AnyVision’s CEO Avi Golan.

To increase its market reach, AnyVision has formed strategic relationships with partners including Honeywell, Schneider Electric, Boon Edam, Ambarella, and Nvidia as well as a number of regional system integrators, the statement said.

“The visual recognition market is nascent but has large potential in the Western world,” said Anthony Doeh, partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, in the statement. “We have witnessed the transformative power of AI, biometrics and edge computing in other categories, and believe AnyVision is uniquely placed to redefine physical environment analytics across numerous industries.”

AnyVision, founded in 2015 by Eylon Etshtein and Prof. Neil Robertson, has raised $352 million to date, including the latest round. Investors include Robert Bosch Venture Capital, Qualcomm Ventures and Lightspeed Ventures, according to the database of Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the industry.

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