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Sony's VC Arm Invests In IIoT Startup Sight Machine

'They have been searching the world over for a company that can understand full production data visibility and analytics, so that's why they came to us to investigate,' Sight Machine exec John Stone tells CRN of the startup's investment from Sony Innovation Fund.

Sony Corp.’s venture capital arm has invested in Sight Machine, an Internet of Things startup that’s aiming to become the "SAP of industrial data" with its digital manufacturing platform.

The San Francisco-based startup on Wednesday announced the investment from Sony Innovation Fund, which is raising a new $185 million fund with Daiwa Capital to invest in startups working in IoT and artificial intelligence among other technologies across manufacturing and several other verticals.

[Related: The 10 Top IoT Startups Of 2019 (So Far)]

The investment amount from Sony, which the startup said was in the seven digits range, is on top of the $29.4 million Series C round that was led by South Korean conglomerate LS Group earlier this year, bringing Sight Machine's funding total to more than $85 million.

Sight Machine's digital manufacturing platform uses AI to contextualize and model manufacturing data from a variety of sources into digital twins for real-time analysis and visualization, representing anything from parts and machines to lines and assemblies as well as entire plants.

It was this combination of AI and IoT that caught Sony's attention, according to the startup.

"Sight Machine is bringing IT and OT together in ways that have brought real operational efficiencies and manufacturing innovation to global customers in process and discrete manufacturing industries," Gen Tsuchikawa, head of Sony Innovation Fund, said in a statement. "Their solutions cover a wide variety of manufacturing scenarios. We look forward to working with the Sight Machine team to explore ways to grow their footprint in Japan and beyond."

John Stone, senior vice president of corporate development at Sight Machine, told CRN that Sony is not a customer, but it's an area the startup is exploring since the Japanese tech giant has a large manufacturing footprint across the world.

"They have been searching the world over for a company that can understand full production data visibility and analytics, so that's why they came to us to investigate," he said.

The startup counts Nissan Motor Co., Heineken N.V. and Westrock Co. among its global customers with manufacturing operations across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. This growth has been supported through direct sales as well as a variety of partners, including cloud service providers like Microsoft, consultancies like Boston Consulting Group and large system integrators like Fujitsu.

Stone said Sight Machine is working with several regional system integrators on a trial basis to ensure its tools for support, training and certification can support wide deployments.

"We want to make sure we take some good steps initially to validate everything we're building and make sure it's deployable through partners," he said.

Microsoft, in particular, has been an important partner, giving the startup access to its direct sales force as well as its own channel partners, according to Stone.

"I think one of the keys to take away from that what we're focusing on is making sure that the enterprises we are serving are interested in scale," he said.

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