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Apple has secret team working on satellites to beam data to devices – BNNBloomberg.ca

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Apple Inc. has a secret team working on satellites and related wireless technology, striving to find new ways to beam data such as internet connectivity directly to its devices, according to people familiar with the work.

The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker has about a dozen engineers from the aerospace, satellite and antenna design industries working on the project with the goal of deploying their results within five years, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company efforts. Work on the project is still early and could be abandoned, the people said, and a clear direction and use for satellites hasn’t been finalized. Still, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has shown interest in the project, indicating it’s a company priority.

Apple’s work on communications satellites and next-generation wireless technology means the aim is likely to beam data to a user’s device, potentially mitigating the dependence on wireless carriers, or for linking devices together without a traditional network. Apple could also be exploring satellites for more precise location tracking for its devices, enabling improved maps and new features.

It’s not clear if Apple intends to pursue the costly development of a satellite constellation itself or simply harness on-the-ground equipment that would take data from existing satellites and send it to mobile devices. Northrop Grumman Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are some of the biggest satellite makers. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Amazon.com Inc. plans to deploy more than 3,000 satellites as part of a future constellation. However, the industry is littered with failures. Iridium LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999, and Teledesic abandoned its “internet from the sky” plan more than a decade ago. Newer efforts from Facebook, SpaceX and Amazon are a long way from generating revenue, and Apple rarely enters new categories without a clear way to make money.

“The lessons of prior failures like Iridium, Globalstar and Teledesic are that it’s really hard to find a viable business plan for multibillion-dollar satellite communications projects,” said Tim Farrar, a satellite expert and principal at TMF associates.

In recent months, Apple has started hiring new software and hardware experts for the team, seeking engineers with experience in designing components for communications equipment. The company has also hired additional executives from the aerospace and wireless data delivery fields.

The team is led by Michael Trela and John Fenwick, former aerospace engineers who helped lead satellite imaging company Skybox Imaging before it sold to Google in 2014. The pair led Google’s satellite and spacecraft operations until leaving together in 2017 to begin a new initiative at Apple, Bloomberg News reported at the time.

During their first year and a half at Apple, Trela and Fenwick explored the feasibility of developing satellite technology and understanding the problem they want to solve, and in recent months have started intensifying work on the project. The effort suffered a setback earlier this year when its previous leader, Greg Duffy, left Apple after joining in 2016. Duffy, the co-founder of camera startup Dropcam, which Google acquired in 2014, reported to Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering.

On his LinkedIn profile, Duffy said he worked on projects involving “satellite communications, wireless, and home products/technologies.” He declined to comment more specifically on his work at Apple.

Trela and Fenwick still work within Apple’s hardware engineering division, but now report to Riccio’s lieutenant in charge of iPhone engineering.

The team has recently added people from the wireless industry, including engineer Matt Ettus, who now helps lead the initiative, people familiar with the team said. Ettus is one of the foremost names in wireless technologies and created Ettus Research, a National Instruments Corp.-owned firm that sells wireless networking equipment.

Apple has also hired Ashley Moore Williams, a longtime executive from Aerospace Corp. who focused on communication satellites, and Daniel Ellis, a former Netflix Inc. executive who helped oversee the company’s Content Delivery Network, or CDN. Ellis has experience in building networks that can beam content and information on a global scale.

The work on satellite technology is one of several “special projects” — an Apple term for skunkworks initiatives or development of major new product categories — under way at the company.

As Bloomberg has previously reported, Apple also is working on a virtual reality headset to debut as early as 2021, augmented reality glasses for launch after that, MicroLED screens for future devices, new home products, self-driving car technology and a future Apple Watch that can analyze a user’s blood chemistry to determine glucose levels. Apple is also expanding its in-house chip development, seeking to replace Intel Corp. as its Mac processor maker, and Intel and Qualcomm Inc. as the providers of its modem component for phones.

Under Cook, Apple has rapidly expanded its research and development budget, spending $16 billion in the 2019 fiscal year, an increase of 14 per cent from the prior year, according to company filings. One of Apple’s primary goals is to bring more of the technology behind its products in house, which is what work on satellites could eventually enable.

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Facebook says remote working move could slow jobs growth in Ireland

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Facebook still plans to “aggressively” grow staff numbers in its European headquarters in Ireland but a company-wide policy allowing permanent remote work from other countries could slow that growth over time, its Irish chief said on Friday.

Ireland’s economy is hugely reliant on multinational firms that employ around one in eight Irish workers and any move to facilitate remote working abroad would add to the challenge already posed by a planned global corporate tax overhaul.

Facebook, which is one of Ireland’s largest such employers with around 3,000 full-time staff and another 3,000 contractors, will allow some workers to permanently relocate after more than a year of many working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible employees in Facebook offices in Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom will be able to move to another one of those locations. U.S.-based staff can also move to Canada, it added.

Facebook Ireland’s Gareth Lambe said it was still working out how many Irish-based employees would be eligible to take advantage of the policy. Fewer than half of its staff are Irish nationals.

“We’re going to continue to grow aggressively,” he told national broadcaster RTE, citing a move in the next year or two to a new 57,000 square metre campus in Dublin that it intends to fill with 7,000 employees.

“This won’t have on balance a material impact on the growth of employment for Facebook in Ireland,” he said, referring to the remote working policy. “We have a target this year of adding about an additional 700 employees and we’re going to continue to do that and we’re going to continue to grow,”

“But this is a significant evolution and in the future over the coming years and decades, it is possible that the growth of jobs and numbers may not be as fast in Ireland as it would have been before it.”

Lambe said Facebook’s main Europe, Middle East and Africa decision makers will continue to be based in Dublin, meaning its corporate tax status will not change. However those permanently relocating abroad would no longer pay income tax in Ireland.

Responding to the move, Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said one of the consequences of the pandemic will be a lot more mobility of workers across national borders but that foreign direct investment will remain “an indispensable part” of Ireland’s economic model.

 

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Apple hires former BMW executive for car project

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Apple Inc has hired Ulrich Kranz, a former senior executive at BMW AG’s electric car division, to help its vehicle initiatives, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.

Kranz will report to Apple veteran Doug Field, who led development of Tesla Inc’s mass-market Model 3 and now runs Apple’s car project, the report said.

Apple did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when Apple first started designing its own vehicle from scratch.

In December, Apple said it was moving forward with its self-driving car technology and targeting to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology by 2024.

 

(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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Amazon SideWalk in Canada

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Amazon is ready to initiate the sidewalk throughout the world including Canada. So many people are concerned about what exactly is a sidewalk and should you be concerned in any way?

Well to put it simply amazon sidewalk is a new way of communication where amazon creates a network by using its echo devices and other devices. What is going to happen is that these devices would be using your home’s internet connection and creating a small network for communication. Using the ring and echo devices this will be executed where they would be forming a bridge (as the company calls it) between the two devices. While these various bridges would be used to create networks.

Amazon said this is done for easier connections and simpler setups even when your wifi goes out. Which would allow you to use title trackers and find pets easily. You would not have to spend 500 dollars on those devices but rather just use this to get updated information on your belongings. This is going to get a lot of people hooked on the devices. Using your ring and echo devices without your own internet connection sounds pretty good but is there a hidden reason for amazon to become an ISP on its own well that is something only time will tell.

So now the question is should you be concerned about this?

Well if you own an amazon echo device you will have to ask Alexa to opt you out of it because this is going to come in as activated by default. This means that you will need to put in some effort to change this if for any reason you don’t want to be a part of this program.

There are tutorials online that would help you to opt-out of this by using your Alexa app on your phone.

Another concern is that this is not the first time a company has done something like this. Apple has enhanced the find my network in a similar manner with the introduction of air tags and have responsibility for finding phones, and things using other users devices that might not know that their device is being used in the process.

Well most common people that are using the internet nowadays are more concerned about the data that is being used by these huge corporations and who are they gathering and using the data for their personal and private benefits. Additionally are data sharing policies being used and met with proper standards. Creating a rule is one thing and following it is completely another.

What bodies are placing a check on whether the huge tech giants are following these steps or not? These are the big questions with few answers and to think that now the internet is being owned by one of these giants. I mean the real question everyone should be asking is how big can these giants become and what kind of influence they hold onto our lives in the future?

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