Israeli facial recognition startup AnyVision secured a $235 million investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 and Eldridge with further participation from existing investors, the company announced on Wednesday.
AnyVision said the investment was “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 funding brings AnyVision’s total capital raised to over $350 million; it last raised $43 million in September 2020. As part of the new investment, Director for SoftBank Investment Advisers Amit Lubovsky will join AnyVision’s Board of Directors.
Founded in 2015 by Eylon Etshtein and Prof. Neil Robertson, AnyVision developed an AI-powered visual intelligence software for facial, body, and object recognition products. These include Touchless Access Control and Remote Authentication offerings. The platform uses facial recognition tech to identify persons as they approach a physical point of entry. The entrance opens as soon as that person’s identity is verified, allowing them to enter a space without slowing down or interacting with doorknobs, terminals, or other shared touchpoints. The company indicated that it helps protect a given organization’s physical access points by identifying authorized personnel and persons of interest in real-time — whether VIPs or bad actors.
AnyVision’s remote authentication capability leverages the same powerful AI platform through a mobile SDK to authenticate users on edge devices (smart cameras, bodycams, and chips).
The company said it will use the funds to advance its product innovation in edge computing and Access Point AI (devices) used to optimize touchless access control, video surveillance, and watchlist alerting. This same platform, AnyVision said, will drive operational insights including occupancy analytics, people counting, and dwell times as well as flag potentially dangerous behavior. Additionally, AnyVision said it will use the funding to expand into new markets and fuel its growing channel program.
“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. “The Access Point AI platform is designed to protect people, places, and privacy while simultaneously reducing costs, power, bandwidth, and operational complexity.”
Anthony Doeh, Partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, noted: “The visual recognition market is nascent but has large potential in the Western world. 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.”
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Currently, AnyVision says its biometric technologies serve leading blue-chip organizations across financial services, gaming, stadiums, education, critical infrastructure, healthcare, and manufacturing/distribution verticals.
AnyVision has over 200 employees worldwide with offices in Tel Aviv, New York, Mexico, London, and Singapore, and a dedicated team of over 30 PhDs in Belfast focused solely on computer vision research.
The company’s tech has stirred controversy in recent year. In 2020, Microsoft divested its minority stake in AnyVision following an internal probe to investigate the practices of the Israeli company and to review its investment in it. In June 2019, Microsoft’s venture fund M12 was one of several investors to participate in a $74 million funding round in AnyVision.
The probe came in the wake of a 2019 report by NBC News claiming that the Israeli military uses AnyVision’s technology to conduct mass surveillance of Palestinians living in the West Bank. A July report in Haaretz-TheMarker that year said the Israeli military uses two systems by AnyVision; one installed at 27 crossings and checkpoints to improve inspection procedures, and another “much more confidential” system that involves “cameras deep inside the West Bank [that] try to spot and monitor potential Palestinian assailants.”
Civil liberties advocates have criticized mass surveillance methods and governments that employ such tools, saying they violate privacy rights.