Apple buys C3 – 3D mapping coming to iOS devices?

30 Oct 2011

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Apple is to bring mapping on iOS devices like iPhones and iPads to a whole new level after it emerged the company has acquired C3 Technologies. The move could be bad news for Google, whose Maps system currently powers mapping on Apple devices.

With new tools like Siri, its artificial intelligence voice system, you can’t help but get the sense Apple wants to increase the computing power and capability of mobile devices. And with the rapid advances that have been made with the iPhone over the last few years, perhaps we’re only scratching the surface of the mobile computing revolution.

C3 is the third mapping company to have been acquired by Apple; in 2009 it bought a company called Placebase, and in 2010 it bought a company called Poly9.

According to 9to5Mac, rumours began to surface in August that C3 had been bought and shut down by its owners, but it has since emerged that the acquirer was Apple. In 2007, the company was spun out of Swedish aerospace and auto-maker Saab.

Swedish company C3’s software and camera technology renders 2D photos into high quality and detailed 3D images. The technology originally had a military application: turning 2D maps and images into photo-realistic 3D models for missile-targeting purposes.

With Apple mobile devices coming with faster and faster processors – for example, the A5 processor in its latest iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices, it is tantalising to think of the business and consumer benefits of this 3D technology.

A flaw in iPhone 4S?

In related news, there have been reports a flaw in the location system in the new iOS 5 operating system is the cause of a rapid battery drain for some owners of the iPhone 4S.

Users are claiming the ‘Setting Time Zone’ element of Location Services in iOS 5 is operating even if they have remained stationary. An icon within the setting indicates users have moved location in the last 24 hours, even though some remained in the same location.

If the smartphone thinks the user has moved even though they haven’t, it means it is drawing down battery power by using the Wi-Fi, mobile antenna and GPS sensor simultaneously as it tries to calculate where it is geographically.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com