It may sound like a cliche, but it’s completely true: computer vision is changing the world. This critical AI application is supercharging the power of multiple industries including medicine, automotive, aerospace, technology, and more. As data annotators ourselves, we at iMerit felt it might be prudent to compile a list of the top computer vision companies we feel should be followed in 2021.
The list includes both seasoned artificial intelligence companies as well as exciting new startups tackling real-world problems across sectors as diverse as IT, agriculture, financial services, mining, defense, gaming, and sports. The sheer level of diversity is an indication of the potential of computer vision in our future life.
Without further ado, here are the top 20 computer vision companies worth following in 2021.
1. Athena Security
Location: Austin, Texas
Industry: Security & Surveillance
The United States was plagued in 2019 with 417 mass shootings. While law enforcement is always doing everything it can to respond to these situations, it has limitations in preventing or anticipating such incidents.
Improved surveillance powered by artificial intelligence and computer vision technologies may provide a solution. Systems that can detect dangerous weapons or high-risk individuals can help in anticipating mass shootings.
That’s exactly what Athena Security is trying to do. This company has worked tirelessly to develop and deploy computer vision technology that can detect weapons in real-time, and subsequently inform law enforcement of the plausible threat.
Athena Security is among the most prevalent computer vision companies as it has 1000 cameras in schools, religious institutions, public spaces, and businesses around the world. It currently has around $5.5M in seed funding.
Location: Los Gatos, California
Industry: AI, Computer Vision, Machine Learning/NLP
AI research is progressing at a frenetic pace. More and more software companies are utilizing machine learning techniques to provide AI-powered solutions to our most pressing problems in the world.
But machine learning companies require vast troves of data. And not just any data – for maximum effectiveness in workflows and systems that use text-based data mining, high-quality, annotated data sets are essential.
With annotations, developers can quickly train algorithms and neural networks to recognize/identify particular data sets. iMerit is an industry leader in providing data annotation and labeling services to AI/ML-focused enterprises.
We have worked on over 100 million images and video data from diverse fields – medicine, agriculture, road safety, and more. Founded by Radha Basu in 2012, iMerit focuses on digital inclusion, with 50% women among its full-time staff.
Location: Menlo Park, California
Industry: Gaming – Virtual Reality (VR)
Typically the first thing that will pop into anyone’s mind when they hear the word “Oculus” is the Oculus Rift VR gaming device. After years of losing market share to VR competitors, Oculus was acquired by Facebook in 2014.
Thanks to near-unlimited funding from the social media giant, Oculus has become more competitive. It is now on a level footing against its rivals like HTC, Playstation, and Microsoft.
2020 proved to be a substantial year for Oculus with the release of hand tracking features for their VR headsets. The new levels of in-game immersion it delivered made the feature a hit among players. Oculus continues to update this game-changing feature with post-launch updates.
Location: La Jolla, California
Industry: Medical Imaging
When it comes to computer vision companies, there is no more exciting application of this technology than when it comes to medicine. CureMetrix is using computer vision to improve and optimize radiology. This breakthrough application of the technology is having profound results throughout the world.
CureMetrix is trying to mitigate false negatives with this technology to prevent certain cancers from continuously going undetected. Curemetrix’s software is helping radiologists also improve mammogram evaluation, which is simultaneously reducing the cost of this procedure while significantly improving its application.
Active since 2014, the company has had multiple funding rounds, raising an undisclosed amount of money. Its cmTriage software was the first of its kind to receive FDA approval in the US for medical diagnostics.
5. Vizseek (Imageinestics)
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Industry: Visual Search, 3D Printing
Google revolutionized the way we seek and digest information online. Over time, progress and breakthroughs around natural language processing (NLP) have increased the prevalence of people searching online using voice recognition technology by 40%.
At the same time, image data has come a long way since the widespread adoption of the internet. That’s why VizSeek (owned by Imaginestics) has developed a visual search engine in hopes that it will revolutionize the internet in much the same way Google once did.
With VizSeek, customers can search for products or parts on a database with nothing more than a picture or hand-drawn sketch. Even the US Air Force is investing in this concept for an Additive Manufacturing Advisory system.
6. Hawk-Eye Innovations
Location: Winchester, UK, with offices around the globe
Industry: Sports Broadcasting
Modern sport is a field with razor-thin margins. The outcome of a match can be decided by a single referee decision. A few inches either way can make all the difference in the world between victory and defeat. Accuracy has become more important than ever.
Hawk-Eye is a name that has become synonymous with computer vision technology in sports. After its launch in 2001, the UK firm’s ball-tracking system was initially used in the sport of cricket. But soon, it expanded to other sports like soccer, basketball, baseball, and racing.
Sensing the massive potential, Sony acquired Hawk-Eye in 2011. It currently provides computer vision services related to visual data that assist referees, broadcasters, teams, and coaches in over 20 sports around the globe.
Location: Hong Kong
Industry: Facial Recognition, Deep Learning
Computer vision technology can have massive implications for society in areas like liberty, privacy, and individual rights. SenseTime, the Chinese AI behemoth is a stark reminder of this fact. It has been blacklisted by the US Government for its alleged role in facilitating human rights violations on Uyghurs in China.
However, in the field of facial recognition, Chinese firms like SenseTime are the undisputed leaders. Though the blacklist restricts its ability to sell services to US businesses, SenseTime has no dearth of customers in other parts of the globe.
With governments and law enforcement agencies queuing up for its face recognition software, the company revenues have only grown in recent years. In 2021 alone, SenseTime revenues nearly doubled. An IPO has been filed in Hong Kong as part of ambitious expansion plans.
8. Descartes Labs
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Industry: Geospatial Analytics
Can computer vision affect the US corn market prices? In the hands of Descartes Labs, it sure can! In 2015, this spin-off startup from the Los Alamos National Laboratory used computer vision on satellite imagery to predict the upcoming corn yield. The forecast was better than the one put out by the Department of Agriculture.
Since then, the advanced machine learning techniques pioneered by Descartes Labs have been put to good use in a wide range of industries for geospatial analysis. Its bespoke platform is used to unearth data from satellite maps for mining companies, supply chain monitoring, crop monitoring, and climate change analysis.
Apart from private enterprises, the technology company’s software is also assisting various US government departments and agencies in data gathering and analysis. Over the years, Descartes Labs has attracted $30 million in funding, with experts valuing the company at around $220 million.
9. Bossa Nova Robotics
Location: San Francisco, California
Industry: Robotics, Retail
It is not by coincidence that many of the top computer vision startups are offshoots of major universities. Like Descartes Labs, Bossa Nova Robotics was launched by students of Carnegie Mellon University in 2005.
An offshoot of the Robotics Institute at the University, they initially prototype robotic toys. But these early products failed to gain any traction in the market. The company hit the headlines when Walmart partnered with them in 2014 to deploy robot assistants in their stores.
Unfortunately, the Walmart partnership ended in 2021, at least partially due to the COVID disruption. The retailer opted to stick with its human staff for restocking. However, Bossa Nova remains a leader in retail robotics, with advanced AI image recognition that offers 95% accuracy in the field.
Location: London, UK
Industry: Online security, Identity Verification
With the rapid growth of eCommerce, online financial services, and work from home, the security implications and threats have also ramped up over the last few years. Online fraud using sophisticated phishing and social engineering techniques has reached alarming levels.
Businesses need a reliable and secure way to identify employees and customers online. Started by a couple of Oxford students in 2012, Onfido (pronounced On-feed-oh) initially focused on improving the efficiency of background/identity checks used by recruiters in the financial industry.
Over time, Onfido has expanded to provide Know Your Customer (KYC) checks to financial service providers, using computer vision solutions for facial recognition using mobile camera selfies. The company has raised over $182 million from investors across 16 different funding rounds.
Location: Beijing, China
Industry: Image Recognition, Authentication Software
China has a massive market for computer vision technologies, particularly image recognition and facial recognition. Launched in 2011, Megvii has rapidly grown into a global leader in the industry, with over 300 corporate clients in China alone. Its Face++ platform is the largest open-source face recognition platform in the world.
Over 300,000 developers in 150 countries use Face++ for third-party authentication and ID verification purposes. The technology has enjoyed widespread adoption in China – workers can log in without showing IDs, passengers can board trains without needing to show tickets, etc.
It is also used by governments to fight crime and terrorism. Megvii’s alleged role in the Chinese repression of Uyghurs has affected the company’s expansion plans – like SenseTime, it too was been blacklisted by the US government. The move has significantly affected the company’s plans for an IPO and global expansion.
Location: San Mateo, California
Industry: Cloud-based Security
Many modern commercial and residential buildings these days come equipped with various forms of security and surveillance systems. Security cameras, smart doors, and environmental sensors, and other access control systems.
Verkada is a startup that provides a cloud-based platform where all these systems can be managed and monitored remotely. Launched in 2016 by Stanford University graduates, the company quickly captured the interest of investors due to its strong potential for growth.
Included in the Forbes list of the Next Billion-Dollar Startups in 2019, Verkada achieved that feat next year with a $1.6 billion valuation in 2020. It sells products like security cameras and access control systems that use computer vision for user authentication and threat identification.
13. Nanox Imaging (Zebra Medi Vision)
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Industry: Healthcare, Nanotechnology,
The current pandemic has put a heavy burden on healthcare systems across the globe. With many systems facing collapse, there has been a renewed focus on AI and digital solutions in the healthcare sector over the last two years. Two Israeli startups are leading this pack and deserve a mention on this list.
Launched in 2011, Jerusalem-based Nanox is developing a new X-ray imaging system that could drastically reduce imaging costs. Backed by Masayoshi Son, Nanox acquired Zebra Med, another promising Israeli startup in 2021.
Zebra Med was a computer vision company, pioneering the use of AI to diagnose illnesses using image recognition. It has the potential to assist healthcare professionals, speeding up diagnosis and reducing labor costs. The merger offers both firms advantages due to the synergy in their approaches to healthcare.
Both Nanox and Zebra were focusing on improving speed and efficiency in diagnostics while driving down the costs. The combination of cheaper imaging with faster diagnostics thanks to AI and computer vision has exciting implications for the future of healthcare.
14. Shield AI
Location: San Diego
Autonomous AI and robots in warfare is a staple of science fiction. But we are getting closer to making it a reality in the coming decades. Computer vision technologies are critical here, giving AI the ability to do everything from safely negotiating difficult terrain to identifying friends and foes.
Shield AI is a startup working closely with the US Department of Defence in this realm. Its main product is the Hivemind – a self-driving platform for both land-based vehicles and UAVs. Aircraft powered by the Shield software can perform autonomously in combat situations.
The company has received over $340 million in funding since its inception in 2015. After a particularly successful Series D round, Shield’s valuation has been pushed north of the $1 billion mark in 2021.
Location: Palo Alto, California
Industry: Autonomous mobility
Collisions and accidents are a major cause of worry for trucking and logistics businesses. Fatalities due to commercial vehicle accidents increased by 54% between 2009 and 2017. Even as other road accidents decrease, the opposite is true for heavy trucks and other commercial transport vehicles.
Nauto is a Silicon Valley startup leveraging AI to improve fleet safety and improve autonomous vehicles. It combines computer vision, dual-facing cameras, and machine learning to assess the driver’s performance, identify potential risks on the road ahead, and assist the driver in preventing collisions.
The company’s computer vision platform provides driver training, collision reporting, and improved insurance claims management solutions to its clients in the fleet management and logistics business. After Series B funding, the startup has received $173 million from investors as of 2021.
Fleets using the technology have avoided over 25,000 collisions, saving $180 million in the process. Due to its safety advantages, The company received an exemption from federal agencies to mount its detection device on the windshield of trucks.
Location: London, UK
Industry: Insurance, Damage Assessment
The increasing frequency of severe storms, floods, and wildfires poses significant challenges to the insurance industry. Apart from the direct impact on risk management and premium pricing, there is also the additional burden of claim verification.
Firms are often left dealing with a deluge of claims on damaged cars and property after severe weather events. London-based Tractable has a unique solution based on computer vision – use next-generation image recognition software to visually analyze the damage for faster claim settlement.
The Tractable AI can be used to assess the damage of vehicles and properties, using both images and video. It processes claims worth $2 billion a year, with over 20 major insurance companies as partners. The startup has already amassed over $110 million in funding.
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel, with global offices
Industry: Retail, Digital Commerce
The bricks and mortar retail industry face an uncertain future in 2021. The combination of online eCommerce and the COVID pandemic struck a fatal blow to the already fragile sector.
Cost efficiencies and hassle-free shopping experiences are vital for stores looking to survive at this difficult juncture. Trigo is a tech startup that infuses computer vision and AI analytics into retail infrastructure solutions.
With its EasyOut technology, retail stores can deliver a smooth shopping experience without any need for time-consuming checkouts. Prominent retailers like Tesco (UK) and REWE (Germany) have successfully deployed Trigo solutions in their stores.
18. Orbital Insight
Location: Palo Alto, California
Industry: AI, Geospatial Analytics
The name of this startup alone should give you a good idea about its main focus. Like Descartes Lab, Orbital Insight operates in the geospatial analytics business – using AI-powered computer vision to unearth relevant data from satellite maps.
The company’s GO Platform is designed to work seamlessly with images captured by satellites, airplanes, and high-altitude balloons. It is primarily aimed at enterprises working in a wide range of sectors – supply chain, energy, real estate, and defense, to name a few.
Orbital Insight was established in 2013 by James Crawford, an AI veteran with experience working at Bell Labs, Google, and the NASA Mars Rover project. The company is currently one of the highest valued startups in the geospatial analytics sector, raising funds at a $340 million valuation.
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel and New York, NY
Industry: Video Analytics
The internet is dominated by video content. It accounts for nearly 80 of all traffic online in 2021, according to Cisco reports (PDF link). The numbers don’t lie – there has been an explosion in the quantity of video content on the web.
Streaming is only part of the equation. Video is also used by enterprises for a wide range of marketing purposes. It has also become a vital communication medium during COVID. With so much content online, analytics becomes extremely challenging.
This is where Israeli startup AnyClip is focusing its computer vision technology. It is creating tools that can recognize the content in videos – people, brands, actions, and other keywords.
The company is already working with major content creators like Amazon Prime, Discovery, and Warner Media. It has also raised at least $70 million in funding to date, having started operations in 2008.
Location: Palo Alto, California
Industry: Manufacturing, Software
Quality assurance is a major aspect of manufacturing. Undetected defects in products often result in costly recalls, refunds, and major loss of brand equity. Instrumental is a Silicon Valley SaaS startup using computer vision to improve efficiency in QA and defect identification.
The software AI can be taught to learn manufacturing defects that can occur in a product. It then conducts real-time monitoring on the production floor, allowing firms to detect flaws much earlier than faster than ever before.
Founded by two former Apple engineers in 2015, Instrumental also supplies video equipment for product monitoring. It has major brands such as Lenovo, Motorola, FLIR, and CISCO as clients. The startup has also received funding to the tune of $30 million.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the tech companies involved in computer vision and AI. But they represent some of the most exciting advances made in the field in recent years.
Dozens of other start-ups are popping up in this industry, and there is a glut of new computer vision jobs on the market.
Along with these startups, more established SaaS firms, robotics companies, social media companies, and semiconductor companies are all pushing the envelope of machine vision technology in exciting new directions.
With sustained interest from investors and major corporations, the only direction right now is up for computer vision systems.