Apple set to scale Cambridge footprint
Apple is reportedly ramping its Cambridge research hub by moving to a new building in the city that is eight times the size of its current base.
Business Weekly understands that Apple has agreed to take a new building of 79,000 sq ft at 30 Station Road. It currently has 10,000 sq ft at 90 Hills Road.
The new building is at the design stage so may not be ready to move into for two-three years but the intent is seen as a major endorsement of Cambridge’s talent pool and acquisitional opportunities. It is understood 30 Station Road is under offer to Apple; the current building will be demolished and a new one of circa 79,000 sq ft will replace it.
Apple first put down roots in Cambridge in October 2015 through the acquisition of a then virtually unknown startup VocalIQ and soon built to a modest 30 headcount. Current staff numbers have not been revealed but the quantum leap in research space suggests a boom in speech technology product development around Siri as a result of the VocalIQ acquisition almost four years ago.
Some technology specialists locally have raised the possibility of another synergistic acquisition in the space: Whichever, the scale of the move suggests a significant hiring spree.
Apple acquired VocalIQ following widespread comment that Siri was lagging in terms of capability behind Amazon’s Cambridge-born Echo.
VocalIQ had built software aimed at making it easier for people to speak to computers in a more natural way – an area in which Siri and other voice-recognition services had struggled.
The young Cambridge company’s co-founder and chief inspiration was Professor Steve Young, then ensconced within the university. One of the pioneers of automated speech recognition and statistical spoken dialogue systems, Young was subsequently persuaded to join Apple full time.