APX Labs Nabs $10M Round

NEW YORK (The Deal) -- Smart glasses and wearable visual computing continue to attract capital, with software developer APX Labs raising $10 million from New Enterprise Associates, in a deal announced Tuesday.

APX's Skylight software platform allows smart glasses such as Google's (GOOG) Google Glass or Epson America's Moverio to integrate data and content from corporate systems developed by SAP (SAP) Microsoft (MSFT) and others.

The technology would allow remote workers for an energy company or medical staff to access manuals or instructional videos, or relay visual communications to a physically remote superior, without using their hands or stopping work, among other applications.

"Wearables are the next exciting mobile platform," APX co-founder and CEO Brian Ballard said.

The investment increased APX's total capital raise to $15.8 million. NEA partners Peter Barris and Dayna Grayson will join the board of the Herndon, Va., company. Though on a much smaller scale, the deal followed Facebook's (FB) blockbuster $2 billion purchase of virtual reality hardware developer Oculus.

Facebook's purchase is not directly analogous. APX develops software, not hardware. Oculus makes virtual reality headsets that provide a view of an alternate reality, unlike smart glasses that augment vision with displays.

However, medical, educational and other uses of the products overlap.


APX began four years ago, developing a system called "Terminator Vision" for the military. Integrated with smart glasses, the application could be used to scan and identify faces in crowds. The company also developed a telemedicine application.

"The military was looking for ways to revolutionize how soldiers were connected to Department of Defense data sources," Ballard said, drawing a comparison between large government agencies and corporate enterprises.

While corporations have invested billions of dollars in IT systems, there have been limits to data deployment among workers in remote locations or factory lines that are not conducive to laptops.

"If you think of all of the areas where it is useful to have hands-free access to information, there are four that stand out," said APX co-founder and COO Jeff Jenkins. The list includes manufacturing, energy, logistics and healthcare, he said. "If we take energy, you can imagine how hazardous some of the environments are that people work in."

The technology could allow a remote instructor to provide feedback or check that a job was done correctly, allowing workers to spend less time in dangerous environments. Skylight can also guide a worker to a specific location, or allow a worker on an assembly line to access a manual without leaving his or her position.

APX estimated that Skylight has applications for as many as one in five workers, but it has explored other markets as well. The company has developed a live-sports product called Skybox that can transmit stats, video feeds or social media apps to smart glasses at some arenas and stadiums.

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