Bosch is closing its app store for cameras with AI-powered internet connection • australiabusinessblog.com

In 2018, the appliance conglomerate Bosch created a start-up, Security and Safety Things (or “SAST” for short), with a stated mission to develop a platform to help developers create software for AI-enabled cameras. SAST would 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) Azena and opening a headquarters in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. But after tens of millions of euros in investments from Bosch, SAST – now Azena – apparently never achieved the success its parent company hoped for.

australiabusinessblog.com has learned that Azena is ceasing its external activities and focusing on 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.

“Going forward, Azena will focus on Bosch’s internal business operations and discontinue external business development. This includes a transition to maintenance and support only for [Azena’s software]the spokesman said via email. “All Azena platform components will remain operational for now… We are actively working on a transition plan.”

Azena’s marketplace was relatively robust by IP camera market standards, with about 100 apps at its peak. Like popular smartphone app stores, developers can sell their apps to customers and provide demos for trial projects. The app store would take care of backing up and restoring settings and making sure configurations remained consistent across all cameras.

Azena

Image Credits: Azena

Prior to the partial shutdown, Azena had also developed a camera control system that enabled supported models to run multiple AI apps simultaneously. Built on Android, manufacturers — including Qisda/Topview, AndroVideo, Vivotek and Bosch itself — sold cameras with the firmware, which powered apps for in-store heat mapping and queuing analysis, automated payment processing, license plate recognition and more.

As of September 2021, Azena had more than 120 employees spread across its Munich offices, its Pittsburgh facility, and its R&D hub in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. The startup counted NHL hockey team the Pittsburgh Penguins among its customers, who used the Azena platform to monitor crowds at stadium entrances, recognize license plates, and identify overcrowding near fan merchandise retail locations.

Azena sparked controversy earlier this year when it came to light that the startup only performed a basic check of the software hosted on the app store. According to the company’s terms of use, the responsibility for the ethics and legality of the apps rested entirely on the shoulders of developers and users. Some apps claimed to accurately detect weapons and analyze human behavior, applications 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 required developers working on its platform to adhere to ethical business standards set by the United Nations. But the startup admitted it lacked the ability to monitor how Azena-powered cameras were being used, and failed to verify whether apps sold in the store were legal or in compliance with developer agreements.

A research by the Intercept also found evidence that Azena was years behind in patching security exploits that could give hackers access to cameras running the operating system. Azena disputed the suggestion, but acknowledged that Azena’s firmware allowed users to sideload apps outside the app store to supported cameras.

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