Situation Report: CIA venture group funds video recorder firm

In-Q-TelBy TIMOTHY W. COLEMAN | intelNews.org |
On June 27, In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of the Central Intelligence Agency and other members of the United States intelligence community, announced a strategic partnership with Looxcie, makers of the first ever “wear and share” videocam recorders. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. In-Q-Tel, created in 1999, is the foremost strategic investor on behalf of the US Intelligence Community. Originally called “Peleus”, In-Q-Tel was initially associated with the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T).  Interestingly enough, the “Q” in In-Q-Tel’s branding is apparently derived from a fictional character in the James Bond movies referred to as “Q”.  As many movie fans will recall, “Q” was responsible for outfitting Bond and other 00s with the famed and awe-inspiring gadgetry and technical equipment needed for missions. Having evolved from the CIA’s DS&T, whose primary purpose is to “create, adapt, develop and operate technical collection systems and apply enabling technologies to the collection, processing and analysis of information”, In-Q-Tel’s strategic investments in dual-purpose technology firms is hardly surprising. In fact, In-Q-Tel has a notable track record, especially given the fact that it is a government-run venture capital fund. Successful as it may be, In-Q-Tel represents itself quite humbly, formally explaining that it is a “not-for-profit organization [...] created to bridge the gap between the technology needs of the Intelligence Community and new advances in commercial technology”.

Previous investments by the US Intelligence Community’s venture fund have successfully supported a plethora of important technology firms, even household names, including Palantir Technologies, ArcSight, the social media-monitoring firm Visible Technologies, as well as Keyhole, which was later acquired by Google. Commercial and personal surveillance technologies are increasingly growing in prominence. While the market for corporate and/or civilian low-cost video surveillance products may appear saturated with several established dominant players, there is always room for niche applications and breakthrough advancements. Hinging on miniaturization, while not ceding overall image resolution, as well as battery life is likely a major a competitive advantage for operating in this particular market place. Surveillance and video reconnaissance technologies have been a mainstay of espionage and intelligence collection efforts for some time now, with abundant well-catalogued examples available in Cold War spy museums around the globe. In turn, it is not surprising that innovation in this arena, especially in terms of video quality, compactness, and the integratable as well as likely malleable nature of this technology is appealing to In-Q-Tel and the US Intelligence Community by proxy.

As In-Q-Tel’s press release about the recent strategic partnership with Looxcie notes, “the agreement will enable the design and development of next generation videocams utilizing Looxcie’s intellectual property”. Continuing, Romulus Pereira, CEO of Looxcie, explains that the partnership and assumed round of financing will enable the firm to “build the next generation of high powered, low footprint videocams”, in hopes of creating, “a powerful tool with capabilities beneficial for both the commercial and government markets”. In-Q-Tel reaffirms the important technology advantages of Looxcie’s intellectual property portfolio as well as Looxcie’s already established technological footprint by observing that “Looxcie has broken new ground in giving consumers and businesses a convenient and powerful tool for capturing and sharing or preserving events”.

As investment in product development and advances in new “wear-and-share” technologies at Looxcie enjoy an infusion of financial and technical (tradecraft) support from its strategic partner, it will be interesting to watch what comes out of Looxcie’s commercially applicable product pipeline. By tracking what comes next, it is possible to extrapolate, or at the very least, ponder, about the features, iterations and add-ons deemed irrelevant to the US Intelligence Community.

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