Apple is suddenly looking to hire a bunch of map tech experts.
More than 70 job listings went live in the past month on the company’s site relating to its maps team, or requiring skills around things like: “geospatial information services,” “navigational aids” and “fleet management.”
That’s a lot of hiring around one discipline even for a juggernaut like Apple.
Adding more map-tech talent to its ranks won’t just help the company make Apple Maps more competitive with Google Maps. The new hires could also help Apple deliver on two big promises: to become an important player in augmented reality and “autonomous systems.”
After beating Wall Street estimates in its Q3 earnings report on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with CNBC’s Josh Lipton, “The smart phone is becoming even more important to people because it’s going across so much of your life… With things like AR… I think it becomes even more essential than it currently is.”
Augmented reality apps, such as Pokemon Go or Snap Lenses, display data, digital stickers or game characters over an image of a real environment as it’s being captured by a user’s iPhone or other device. AR apps require precise location awareness to work well.
Android’s operating system remains more popular, worldwide, than iOS. And Facebook has announced it wants to become a dominant AR platform.
Ensuring that AR apps work brilliantly on iPads and iPhones could help Apple fend off the competition, and keep developers on its own app store. Apple released an AR Kit for developers in June to leap ahead in this emerging area of technology.
Improving and developing new map capabilities could also, obviously, help Apple finally come out with “core technology” for the self-driving car market.
On Tuesday’s earnings call, Cook said, “We are very focused on autonomous systems from a core technology point of view. We do have a large project going and are making a big investment in this…Autonomous systems can be used in a variety of ways, and a vehicle is only one. But there are many different areas of it, and I don’t want to go any further with that.”