iPhone sales send Apple profits up

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Apple has reported a jump in sales in the three months to September, driven by sales of its iPhone.The tech giant’s revenue was $51.5bn (£33.6bn), up 22% compared with the same period last year.
It sold more than 48 million iPhones in the period, which it said were “record fourth quarter sales”, although the figure did miss analysts’ expectations. It also reported a net income of $11.1bn for the period, adding that 2015 was its most successful ever year.
“The growth was fuelled by record fourth quarter sales of iPhone, the expanded availability of Apple Watch, and all-time records for Mac sales and revenue from services,” the company said.
In China, the biggest market for smartphones, Apple’s sales nearly doubled from a year ago to $12.52bn. Apple now has 25 stores in China and is opening a new one every month in a market that supplies about a quarter of sales. That sales figure is a dip from the prior three-month period, however, when Apple recorded revenues of $13.2bn in China.
For the current quarter, Apple estimates global sales of between $75.5bn and $77.5bn.
Morningstar analyst Brian Colello said the forecast was slightly below market expectations, but investors were expecting a worse outcome, which was why the stock initially rose 3% in after hours trading.
2015 has been Apple’s most successful year ever. Revenue is up 22% on 2014, mostly thanks to the continued success of the iPhone. There are few surprises in these latest results. Firstly, chief executive Tim Cook has said that as much as 30% of iPhone buyers are Google Android converts, the highest ever conversion rate.
Secondly, while it still feels like Apple sometimes favours its US customers with new features, it’s the international sales that are really giving it gusto: 62% of revenue was generated outside of the US this quarter. China accounts for a huge chunk of that – $12.52bn sales in the past three months, almost double what it took in from the country this time last year.
The iPad is still flagging, but that range will be given a shot in the arm by the upcoming iPad Pro. Oh, and we still don’t know how many Apple Watches were sold in this quarter. Analysts put it at around 3.5 million. Still a tiny product line in Apple’s terms, but by far and away the most successful smartwatch on the market.

BT and Alcatel-Lucent achieve 5 gigabits per second speeds over copper broadband

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A potential future development of G.fast broadband technology, known as “XG-FAST”, has achieved speeds of more than 5 Gigabits per second in early experimental lab trials conducted by BT and Alcatel Lucent. The results give BT confidence that G.fast is a future-proof technology that can help the UK maintain its position as the leading digital economy in the G20.
G.fast, which has been pioneered by BT’s R&D team and industry partners since 2007, is an important breakthrough as it enables ultrafast broadband to be delivered but without the disruption and expense of laying fibre all the way to a home or business. This means it can be rolled out more quickly and to a much larger number of premises, ensuring as many people benefit as possible.
G.fast technology is at the heart of plans for Openreach, BT’s local access network business, to deliver ultrafast speeds to 10 million premises by the end of 2020, and to most of the UK by the end of 2025. It will transform the speeds currently delivered by the company’s Fibre to the Cabinet technology and will form part of Openreach’s ultrafast product range, which also includes ultrafast Fibre to the Premises technology in certain areas; in addition to dedicated business lines which are available throughout the UK and which already deliver speeds of up to 100Gbps.
G.fast is currently being trialled by Openreach in Huntingdon and Gosforth. Triallists are receiving speeds of up to 330Mbps downstream, more than ten times the current UK average. If the trials prove successful – and if UK regulation continues to encourage investment – Openreach aims to start deploying G.fast in 2016/17 alongside its fibre-to-the-cabinet and fibre-to-the-premises services. The company expects speeds to rise to up to 500Mbps as the technology is rolled out across the country.
XG-FAST, a potential future development of the technology, is in the early stages of lab testing, but has exceeded expectations in trials at Adastral Park, BT’s global research and development campus in Suffolk, and Alcatel-Lucent’s labs in Antwerp.
It delivered aggregate speeds of 5.6Gbps over 35 metres of BT cable, a record for full-duplex data transmission over a standard single BT line at this distance. The technology also performed well over longer distances, with aggregate speeds of 1.8Gbps over 100 metres; a significant result, as most UK homes are within this distance of their local distribution point, be that a pole or footway box.
Mike Galvin, Managing Director of Next Generation Access for BT’s Technology Service & Operations division said: “These are exciting results. We know that G.fast will transform the UK’s broadband landscape but these results also give us confidence the technology has significant headroom should we need it in the future.
“The UK already boasts the biggest fibre footprint among major European nations, as well as the highest take up, but it is vital we continue to invest. That is why we have announced plans to get ultrafast broadband to ten million premises by the end of 2020 and to most of the UK by 2025. G.fast is the ideal technology as it can be deployed at scale and speed, allowing as many people to benefit a soon as possible.
“Fibre to the premises technology has a role to play – and Openreach has the largest such network in the UK – but G.fast is the answer if the UK is to have widespread and affordable ultrafast broadband sooner rather than later. Those who argue otherwise aren’t being realistic and should look at Australia where the authorities have changed tack on their fibre deployment and followed our example.”

Three UK boosts 4G speeds and reliability

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Three’s 4G speeds will increase by up to 50% nationwide as part of an ongoing rollout of additional spectrum on our network. 
The extra spectrum will help to increase the performance, speed and capacity of our 4G network. 
The additional 5MHz of the 1800MHz spectrum, which is used to carry 4G on our network, has already been switched on at all of our sites in Northern England, the West Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The rest of the UK, including London, will receive access to higher internet speeds following completion of the rollout. 
This programme is part of a drive to further improve reliability on the data network, which carried 42% of UK mobile data traffic in the year-ending March 2015.* Average data usage per customer reached 4.65GB per month in June 2015. 
The deployment will also help to further improve reliability by adding some much needed capacity in congested areas. 
Three processes a huge amount of data on its network for customers every day** and that’s why it has been rated us as the UK’s most reliable for each of the past five quarters, according to YouGov research. 
The enhancement follows the launch of 4G Super-Voice last month, when Three became the first UK operator to use our 4G network for voice calls. Combined with our low frequency 800MHz spectrum, this means that people are able to make calls, send texts and get online in more places than ever before. 
Bryn Jones, chief technology officer at Three, said: “Many of our 4G customers will already be enjoying a faster, more reliable experience at no extra cost. Our network processes a huge amount of data and we will continue to work hard on providing them with a service that delivers the reliability and speed that they need.”

Fraudsters target Barclays Pingit in ‘smishing’ scam

barclays pingit peoples phone

A Barclays customer who was targeted by a fraudster looking to steal his account details says he has been left ‘dissatisfied and perplexed’ by the treatment he has received from the bank.
Ray, from Liverpool – who wishes not to have his surname printed – transferred a large amount of money using the bank-run Pingit service to his daughter on 10th September 2015. Less than 24 hours later, he received a genuine-looking message purporting to be from Barclays wishing to confirm a £900 direct debit to telecoms giant BT.
It said: ‘If you did not set up this payment, please urgently call fraud prevention.’ The message then lists a phone number and a reference number to quote. More alarmingly, the message appears on the same Barclays SMS thread as the genuine payment to his daughter just a day earlier.

Ray called the number, solely on the basis that it looked like the text had been sent by Barclays and because he didn’t have a direct debit set up with BT. When he called, it was a voice recording asking for specific account details such as the number and sort-code.
Ray says: ‘I became suspicious and subsequently hung up. ‘Concerned that somebody was trying to access my account details, and that the message came from the same number as my Pingit messages, I rang Barclays to find out.’

He had used the Pingit service numerous times in the past. He said after an hour and 15 minutes on the phone to Barclays complaints department, he was offered a payment of £37.50. He was then told the matter was closed.
Ray asked to have the complaint escalated as he felt it was important for it to be properly investigated. However, approximately a week later, he received a letter stating once again the complaint was closed and he had been credited with £3

Ray adds: ‘The letter outlined the number mentioned in the message was not a Barclays number and there was no need for further investigation. It never mentioned at all that the message originated from the Barclays Pingit service.’
He contacted the banking giant once more and insisted the complaint was re-opened adding that he now has ‘no faith his money is safe at Barclays.’ But once more he received a letter stating the complaint was not being reopened and there was ‘nothing to investigate.’
Ray adds: ‘I am perplexed as to why Barclay’s don’t acknowledge that there is an issue with fraudulent messages asking for account information originating from their Pingit service or what they intend to do to stop it and reassure their long standing customers.’

Smishing is SMS fraud, were scammers send out messages using technology – freely available to purchase online – which enables them to attach onto a genuine message chain, as shown in the screenshot above. He adds that Pingit customers are not being specifically targeted. He says scammers send out phony e-mails and messages which appear to be genuine, and it is rife in the whole banking industry, not just a Barclays problem.
If Ray had fallen victim to the scam, Barclays say they would refund any money lost – but all instances like this are dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Barclays says it is working with network providers to try and stamp out the scammers.  It adds the £37.50 compensation was for phone calls made by Ray but accepts it call centre staff could have handled it better – and have vowed to improve communications when scams like this are reported.
Fraud continues to be a major issue for all banks. Recent data from Financial Fraud Action UK shows there has been an increase in remote banking fraud losses in the last year. This is losses via scams online, via text message and telephone. Statistics show telephone fraud has doubled. This due to a rise in fraudsters attempting to trick victims into revealing personal or financial information, such as passwords or passcodes, to then raid their accounts. 


Uber taxi-hailing app does not break law, High Court rules

The taxi-hailing app operated in London by the US firm Uber does not break the law, the High Court has found.

The taxi-hailing app operated in London by the US firm Uber does not break the law, the High Court has found.
The court had been asked to decide whether the company’s smartphones were considered meters, which are outlawed for private hire vehicles. The phones use GPS and external servers to calculate the cost of a journey.
Transport for London said taking the case to court had been “in the public interest”.
The app-based company allows users to order cars via their smartphones, which often arrive within minutes and can cost a fraction of the price of a black cab.  Mr Justice Ouseley declared that taximeters do not operate in the same way as the app as they do not depend on GPS signals or include the app’s other new-tech characteristics to calculate fares.
TfL and Uber had both argued at a one-day hearing earlier in October that the app was not a meter, and both organisations greeted the decision as a victory.
An Uber spokesman said: “This was not a marginal call; it is quite emphatic. In fact, it is contemptuous of the case brought before it.”
Transport for London also welcomed the ruling, saying there had been “significant public interest in establishing legal certainty in the matter”.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), which represents many of the 25,000 licensed taxi drivers in London, asked the judge to rule it was a meter and ban its use.
LTDA chairman Richard Massett said: “We certainly are going to an appeal. It’s a fact that the smartphone acts in exactly the same way as a taximeter. It calculates the fare by means of time taken and distance covered – and it’s doing exactly the same job. Private hire legislation specifically precludes private hire from using a meter – and that’s exactly what it is.”
The Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) backed the LTDA and said the app was “an attempt to circumvent the statutory prohibition” on minicabs using meters. Black cab drivers argue that the app poses a risk to public safety and customers being overcharged, with no opportunity to challenge fares before the money is automatically taken out of their bank accounts.

A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “The mayor is a strong supporter of new technology and he recognises that innovation is embraced by Londoners.” However, he acknowledged “huge challenges” for the taxi and private hire trades, and “legitimate concerns” over vehicle emissions and congestion. He pointed out that TfL was carrying out a consultation on how to regulate the industry.
Uber’s Jo Bertram said: “Now the High Court has ruled in favour of new technology, we hope TfL will think again on their bureaucratic proposals for apps like Uber. “Compulsory five-minute waits and banning ride-sharing would be bad for riders and drivers. These plans make no sense. That’s why 130,000 people have already signed our petition against these proposals.”

Netflix US subscribers hit by transition to chip-based cards

Online TV company Netflix gained another 3.62m subscribers between July and September, to take its total to 69.17m. However, the number of new subscribers in the US was less than the company had forecast, prompting shares to fall in after-hours trading.
Online TV company Netflix gained another 3.62m subscribers between July and September, to take its total to 69.17m. However, the number of new subscribers in the US was less than the company had forecast, prompting shares to fall in after-hours trading.
It attributed this to the “ongoing transition to chip-based credit and debit cards”. The firm said revenue rose to $1.74bn (£1.1bn) from $1.41bn a year earlier. In the US it had predicted an extra 1.15m subscribers in the third quarter, but in fact saw just 880,000 new additions.
In an interview to discuss the results, the chief financial officer David Wells said the move to new, more secure chip-based devices, which banks in the US have been introducing this year, often meant that customers had to re-enter their details.
“There may be other things going on here but certainly the transition is not helping,” he said.
Barton Crockett, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets said: “The slowdown in US subscriber growth was particularly disappointing because one would expect that since Netflix just raised rates last week, this number would have been strong.”
Internationally, the company added more subscribers than it had predicted, 2.74m compared with a forecast of 2.4m. It has recently launched in Spain, Italy and Portugal and plans to expand into South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore in early 2016.
“It is clear that Internet TV is becoming increasingly mainstream and traditional media companies are adjusting to the shift from linear to on-demand viewing,” the company said in its letter to shareholders.
Last week Netflix, which makes programmes such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, increased prices in several countries, including the US, in order to “improve our ability to acquire and offer high quality content”.
It also decided not renew a contract with the distributor Epix, meaning that thousands of films, such as the Hunger Games and Transformers, will be removed from its site. The company said this was because most of the content was not exclusive and often only available in the US.
It said that so far it had seen “no material reduction in US feature film viewing”.

Lord Sugar admits phone industry regrets ahead of new series of The Apprentice

The former Amstrad owner, valued at £1.04 billion on the Sunday Times Rich List, said he regrets not sticking it out in the phone industry like Apple founder Steve Jobs.

The former Amstrad owner, valued at £1.04 billion on the Sunday Times Rich List, said he regrets not sticking it out in the phone industry like Apple founder Steve Jobs.
He bought mobile company Dancall in 1993 for £6.3 million and sold it to German electronics giant Bosch in 1997 for £92 million, but said in hindsight he would not have “given up making mobile phones as early as we did” and also would have become an internet service provider.
“Was it a good deal? I don’t know. Looking back now, you think perhaps I should have held onto it and been in the smart phone business, apps and all that type of stuff, but I can’t complain, I’ve made a lot of money, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Lord Sugar praised the vision of Apple’s Steve Jobs and said that while Jobs would be remembered as a genius, his own immortal words “You’re fired” would probably haunt him after he was gone.
“Steve Jobs had a vision, he’s a marketing man. I met him quite a few times, we kind of grew up in the electronics industry together, with him and Bill Gates and myself. 
He had a vision and he gets a lot of the accolade for the Apple stuff, although there are a lot of people around him who did it too,” he said.
“I don’t know what I’ll be remembered for, most probably by the population for firing people,” he added.
Despite his regrets, Lord Sugar said rising from 101st in the Rich List was not on his list of New Year’s resolutions. “I’ve been a multi-millionaire since I was 31 years old and you get to a stage where it makes no difference really. It really makes no difference at all,” he said.
Lord Sugar faced criticism that he was out of touch after comments to the Saturday Times asking why people in poverty had mobile phones and microwaves. “I’m not out of touch, that’s for sure,” he said, but refused to elaborate on the subject. Currently, Lord Sugar is about to reprise his role as the hiring-and-firing boss on BBC One show The Apprentice.
This series features among its contestants 23-year-old sales account manager Mergim Butaja as well as a builder, social media entrepreneur and a private tutor. Butaja came to Britain as a refugee from war-torn Kosovo at the age of seven, and Lord Sugar commended his work ethic and said giving Butaja an equal opportunity to win his £250,000 investment was “what the programme’s all about”.
“It was so important for me to give him a chance. It’s what the programme’s all about. “This boy has had a tough life: he came over as a refugee from Kosovo, regretfully his father passed and it was left for him to look after his mother and his siblings. He had four jobs, working honestly to keep them going. It’s fantastic, it’s why I put him in the process, to have a chance,” he said.
The first episode will see Butaja attempt to sell fish to a vegan restaurant and stir up Lord Sugar’s impatience in the boardroom. But Lord Sugar urged viewers to “wait” for the rest of the series if they thought his portrayal was unfair. While Lord Sugar said that he “absolutely (does) not” have ambitions to be prime minister one day, he was watching his former US Apprentice counterpart Donald Trump’s presidential candidate campaign with interest.
“All I can say is this: you must never underestimate the American population. Stranger things have happened. I’d be a fool to say he’s got no chance and it’s absolute nonsense, and I think he’s got a certain following in America. Who knows?” Despite a hair extension specialist among the candidates this year, Lord Sugar said he doubted that viewers would suddenly see bald newcomer Claude Littner sporting a hairstyle like Trump’s. “I think Claude considers himself modern with his bald look, his Telly Savalas look,” he joked.

Ofcom casts doubt on O2/Three merger

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The UK telecoms watchdog has cast doubt on the merger of O2 and Three winning regulatory approval.
Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said in a speech in London on Wednesday night that “four operators is a competitive number”.
The proposed £10.2bn ($15.6bn) deal would reduce the number of UK mobile networks from four to three.
She said mobile operators implied that the UK market was “too competitive”. Ms White also said they claimed that profit margins were too low.
O2 is owned by Spain’s Telefonica, while Three is owned by Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.
“Consolidation can in theory have benefits – improving economies of scale and making it easier to finance investment. However, Ofcom’s experience is that competition, not consolidation, drives investment and delivers low prices,” Ms White said. Having four UK networks had delivered “good results for consumers and sustainable returns for companies”, she added.
The Ofcom chief said a combined Three/O2 would have a market share of more than 40% and would remove the “competitive new entrant” in Three.
Her comments follow last week’s warning by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that the merger threatened to “affect significantly competition” in both the retail and wholesale mobile markets. The CMA has asked the European Commission for the right to investigate the deal, rather than the EC, as it said the deal mostly affected UK consumers. It also argued there were “clear links” between this deal and BT’s £12.5bn deal to buy EE.
The EC must decide by 30 October whether to allow the CMA to investigate. Ms White said this was a crucial period for the telecoms market. “The scale of change in the next 12 months and beyond could dwarf what we have seen over the last 10 years. If the current merger wave continues, there are risks to consumers and businesses who have enjoyed one of the most competitive markets of recent years,” she said.

Google speeds up news article downloads on mobile devices

Dozens of leading news organisations, including the BBC, are taking part in a scheme that will allow their web-based articles to load more quickly on smartphones and tablets.
Dozens of leading news organisations, including the BBC, are taking part in a scheme that will allow their web-based articles to load more quickly on smartphones and tablets.
Leaders of the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative promise that the stripped-back versions of the pages will be “lightning fast” to load. The move has been led by Google, which is providing use of its servers. Participants believe it may discourage the use of ad-blocking plug-ins.
AMP works by simplifying the technical underpinnings of the pages involved. Much of the Javascript code used on normal webpages is absent, meaning articles should not only appear faster but use less battery power.
Publishers can continue to tap into the same ad networks as before, but they will not be able to display some types of adverts including pop-ups and “sticky” images that move as users scroll down a page.
Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and WordPress have said they also intend to make use of the technology. Facebook is a notable exception. The social network recently launched an alternative programme called Instant Articles, which speeds up the delivery of third-party content by hosting it on its own platform. News sites will automatically create AMP versions of their stories at the same time as they publish and update the originals.
Google intends to scrape these from the web, store them on its cache servers and then serve them to users via its Search and News tools. Likewise, the social networks involved are also expected to cache and direct users to the AMP articles rather than the originals if users click on relevant links in their apps.
“Today, roughly 40% of users abandon an article if it doesn’t load after six seconds,” Danny Bernstein, Google’s director of product partnerships said. “To be able to pull down an article instantly from Twitter, from Pinterest is a remarkable thing. We’ll support accelerated mobile pages in search in 2016, but the code is public, so publishers can launch them today, and we expect some smaller apps to be able to render AMP files immediately.”

Many of the biggest names in publishing are already involved. Conde Nast, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, The Huffington Post, Vox Media and the New York Times are among those taking part. The BBC noted that at present some of its mobile pages could take 12 seconds or longer to download in Australia, and this helped address that problem.
“Pages on mobiles will load much quicker than before, particularly in markets with slow connectivity, due to a simplified approach to both coding and caching of pages,” explained Robin Pembrooke, general manager of the BBC’s News Product. “With over 60% of traffic to BBC News coming from mobiles or tablets, optimising this performance is crucial, particularly for events such as the [UK] general election where we saw over 85% of traffic coming in on mobile devices in the morning after as final results came in.”
The Guardian’s chief strategy officer Tony Danker added that there was huge benefit in his industry taking co-ordinated action to reduce the appeal of ad-blockers. “Users are not spending hours discriminating between sites based on their speed,” he said. “They punish each of us for the sins of the whole ecosystem.”

More work needs to be done, however, to ensure approved ads appear and to let the publishers track readership of their work. Google said it did not plan to automatically prioritise AMP-enabled articles in its search results. However, since loading times are one of the factors its algorithms take into account there is an added incentive for other news organisations to join.
It is already offering a demo for users to see how the service might work on mobiles. One industry analyst said he expected the service to be popular.
“Anything which enables content to be distributed more quickly and makes it more accessible is good for the industry,” said Ian Maude from Enders Analysis. “And because it’s backed by Google and other companies of its ilk and several of the major publishers it could have an impact on Facebook’s own efforts to promote Instant Articles.”


Apple buys UK-based speech technology start-up VocalIQ

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Apple has acquired a UK-based start-up whose artificial-intelligence software helps computers and people speak to each other in a more natural dialogue, according to people familiar with the deal.
VocalIQ uses machine learning to build virtual assistants that try to recreate the type of talking computers that appear in science-fiction films such as Samantha in Her or Jarvis in Iron Man. The deal marks Apple’s third acquisition of a UK company this year.
Its technology could help Apple to improve Siri, its virtual assistant, as well as further the iPhone maker’s automotive ambitions.
While VocalIQ’s speech processing and machine learning technology could be incorporated into devices from wearables to the connected home, the company was particularly focused on in-car applications. This included a collaboration with General Motors.
In a blog earlier this year, VocalIQ described how a “conversational voice-dialog system” in a car’s navigation system could prevent drivers from becoming distracted by looking at screens. Its “self-learning” technology allows “real conversation between human and the internet of things”, VocalIQ wrote. This would improve on virtual assistants such as Siri, Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa, which rely on scripted interactions and can respond only to particular commands.
In another blog, VocalIQ said existing assistants have fallen “well short of consumer expectations”, singling out Siri as a mere “toy”.
VocalIQ, which was spun out of the University of Cambridge’s Dialogue Systems Group, uses deep learning to improve language recognition, with a focus on trying to understand the context in which commands are given. The company is led by chief executive Blaise Thomson, a South Africa-born mathematician, and chairman Steve Young, a professor of Information Engineering at Cambridge. It raised £750,000 in seed funding last year, led by Amadeus Capital Partners, the venture capital firm.
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” Apple said in a statement confirming the deal. VocalIQ’s team is expected to stay in Cambridge rather than moving to the US group’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The VocalIQ acquisition follows two other recent purchases of British companies earlier this year. Apple bought Semetric, maker of the Musicmetric analytics tool for record labels to track online sales and activity on social networks, in January. The following month it acquired Camel Audio, a maker of virtual instruments and synthesiser software, which some have speculated may be used to improve its tools for musicians, Logic Pro X and GarageBand.
VocalIQ is also the second recent acquisition that points to Apple’s growing plans in the automotive market. It acquired Mapsense, a mapping data analytics and visualisation start-up, for about $25m in the summer. Several car companies are already integrating Apple’s CarPlay, a way to display apps and information from an iPhone on the dashboard.  
In recent months, Apple has been assembling a team of automotive experts at a secret R&D lab, as it explores electric and autonomous cars, people familiar with its plans have told the Financial Times. Last month, Apple met the California driving regulator to discuss testing of autonomous vehicles, amid reports that it aimed to triple the staff of its car development team.
VocalIQ did not comment on the deal, which was first reported by Cambridge’s Business Weekly.