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Panasonic buying Silicon Valley AI startup

Japanese electronics giant plans range of services using Arimo's tech

Osaka-based Panasonic aims to strengthen its hand in artificial intelligence by purchasing California venture Arimo.

OSAKA -- Panasonic will purchase an American startup this month to get its hands on expertise in artificial intelligence, aiming to sell services for saving energy or predicting equipment breakdowns from operating data.

The Japanese electronics conglomerate is seen paying tens of millions of dollars for Arimo, based in California's Silicon Valley region. Founded in 2013, the 16-employee startup includes alumni of Google and other tech titans, and it has leveraged these connections to hire top data scientists.

Panasonic joins a wave of compatriots, such as Toyota Motor and robot manufacturer Fanuc, tapping young AI companies for talent to develop a new growth field.

Applying AI

Arimo's prowess in deep-learning analysis is well-established. Its AI technology is employed by Nasdaq to perform market analysis and by major American department stores to predict customers' purchasing trends.

The startup is also skilled in handling dynamic data, such as in the field of connected devices said to belong to the "internet of things." Arimo's AI can predict when devices in factories will break down by tracking changes in their activity, for example.

Panasonic first aims to apply AI to data on business refrigerators for chains including supermarkets and convenience stores. It envisions a service reducing energy consumption for the chain overall by setting optimal operating patterns for individual stores, based on past data on refrigerators' internal temperature and energy use.

It will also launch a maintenance service that tracks usage of industrial air conditioners to determine when parts will break down and address the problems in advance.

Future applications could include services for general consumers, such as for managing the physical health of the elderly based on data from appliances and a range of sensors.

Further uses

Since summer, Panasonic has collected operational data from appliances, household equipment and auto-related devices in the cloud on a trial basis. The goal is to sell a system that improves the efficiency of its products by analyzing the information using Arimo's AI.

The electronics company also aims to use analysis of its cloud data to help create new businesses, as well as improve productivity at its own factories.

Panasonic is independently developing AI technology related to its products and businesses, such as image recognition software for cameras. But it has few experts in data analysis. The company intends to dispatch tech staffers to Arimo, using it as a training ground of sorts for the field.


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