In 2018, the Bosch device conglomerate created a startup, Security and Safety Things (or “SAST” for short), whose stated mission was to develop a platform to help developers create software for cameras equipped of AI. SAST was to host a moderated, vetted “app store” for internet-connected cameras that would allow developers to build software on an open standard – software primarily focused on security and “business intelligence” use cases. .
SAST successfully launched the App Store in 2020, later renaming it (and itself) to Azena and opening a headquarters in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. But after tens of millions of euros of investment from Bosch, SAST – now Azena – apparently never quite achieved the success its parent company hoped for.
TechCrunch has learned that Azena is ending its external operations and turning to internal projects at Bosch. In a statement, a Bosch spokesperson said partners and customers have been notified and that Azena will “fully honor” its existing contractual obligations.
“In the future, Azena will focus on internal Bosch activities and stop developing external activities. This includes a transition to maintenance and support only for [Azena’s software]”The spokesperson said via email. “All components of Azena’s platform remain operational at this time…We are actively working on a transition plan.”
Azena’s market was relatively robust by IP camera market standards, with around 100 applications at its peak. Like popular smartphone app stores, it allows developers to sell their apps to customers and provide demos for pilot projects. The App Store would manage the backup and restore of settings and ensure consistency of configurations between cameras.
Prior to its partial shutdown, Azena had also developed a camera operating system that allowed supported models to run multiple AI-enabled apps simultaneously. Built on Android, manufacturers – including Qisda/Topview, AndroVideo, Vivotek and Bosch itself – sold cameras running the firmware, which powered apps for heat mapping and in-store queue analysis retail, automated payment processing, license plate recognition and more.
As of September 2021, Azena had over 120 employees across its Munich offices, Pittsburgh factory and R&D center in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The startup’s clients included the NHL hockey team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, who used the Azena platform to monitor crowds at stadium entrances, recognize license plates and identify overcrowding near checkpoints. sale of fan merchandise.
Azena sparked controversy earlier this year when it emerged that the startup was only performing a basic audit of software hosted in its app store. According to the company’s terms of service, the responsibility for the ethics and legality of the apps rested entirely on the shoulders of the developers and users. Some apps claimed to accurately detect weapons and analyze human behavior, apps that many ethicists say are beyond the capabilities of even the most sophisticated AI systems.
In a public response at the time, Azena noted that it requires developers working on its platform to commit to ethical business standards set by the United Nations. But the startup admitted it had no ability to verify how Azena-powered cameras were being used, and did not verify whether apps sold on its store were legal or compliant with developer agreements.
An Intercept investigation also found evidence that Azena was years behind in patching security exploits that could give hackers access to cameras running its operating system. Azena disputed the suggestion, but acknowledged that Azena’s firmware allowed users to download apps outside of the App Store on supported cameras.
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