Apple’s massive HQ: Apple Park
Infinite loop, Apple Park, Cupertino, CA. That was the location where we met Julien Freudiger, leading design of privacy technologies for Apple products. The $ 5B brand new headquarters are something else. The building is actually made out of incurved glass to make it a big loop. As you can see through quite easily, some spy drones fly by sometimes, maybe competitors looking to copy some products. However, according to Julien, “Even if our building is made out of glass, I don’t think that leaks come from here. It’s surely from China, where our products are made”.
As Apple is quite secretive, we weren’t allowed to go inside. However, even from the outside, it looked tremendous.
Julien explained to us his daily job. He mainly does some research in order to increase privacy and security. Therefore, he works a lot with other departments, for example, legal, design, engineering, marketing, and senior management. He finds it complicated sometimes to agree on something as every department has another goal and doesn’t always understand what’s a project for. We, as Europeans, aren’t used to these big brainstorming sessions described as “total chaos” sometimes. It’s completely disorganized, people are just telling one idea after another. It’s actually Steve Jobs’ legacy. He always wanted to have people challenging and debating big decisions and it can still be seen today from the inside. However, as we see on the outside, everything looks clean and well organized.
Some questions were then asked as we wanted to know how long in advance they were already working on a project. Normally, it’s up to 2 years on software and 5 for hardware. He told us that it was sometimes also complicated to know in advance what the customer’s demands and needs are going to be. They had only a few products that didn’t work as expected though and no big failure in comparison to Samsung’s exploding or not-so-folding phones.
In a general way though, Apple really tries to improve the customer’s experience, also by trying to improve the health data, in order to give an accurate diagnosis. He explained a lot, for example when you plug in your phone before going to bed, your iPhone is used to do some research for this specific theme.
We also asked some questions to know if Siri was always listening to what we were saying or not, because of these targeted advertisements. Thing is, Siri has a 2 seconds buffer when the main processor wakes up when it hears anything close to “Hey Siri”. That’s why sometimes the microphone is on a bit longer than it should. People working at Apple actually listen to conversations between the iPhone user and Siri, in order to improve the process. The thing to know as well is that many companies that have Apps on Apple product ask to activate the microphone sometimes, and it can be quickly hard to find the line between what’s too intrusive on one hand and too business restrictive on the other. Advertisers actually complain that Apple protects data too much, as APIs are limited.
One of his very last projects was an offline finding app, called “Find My”. It’s a tool that helps you in finding things even when they are lost and disconnected from the internet. A public key is generated every 15 minutes and transmitted to all devices in the area. The device calculates its own location and sends the data to Apple, but encrypted. Only the owner has the key to decrypt. It works well and was presented at a crypto conference. Actually, even if you lose your iPhone in the mountains, anyone else who passes by will send a signal and you’ll know the exact location of your phone, even without battery.
He does work a lot, even though as a European expat, he tries not to work on weekends. As he explained, Americans are true workaholics, replying to emails on a Saturday late evening for example. His daily 12 hours of work are already quite demanding. He can start working in the free shuttle busses that bring him directly down from downtown San Francisco to the headquarters in Cupertino.
On the upper side, as in Switzerland, they have 5 weeks of holidays a year here. He also has some discount on Apple products, up to 50% off for himself and 15% off for his friends. Other cool stuff he has on a daily basis: when lunchtime comes, he can order what he wants on an App and it is ready directly when he goes to the cafeteria. The entire campus is cash- and plastic-free.
As Julien’s office is quite close to Tim Cook’s, he often sees some famous persons visiting the place. The other day, he had the opportunity to see David Beckham visiting the famous infinite loop at Apple Park, which is always quite cool.
In general, we thank Julien very much for the time taken to explain his daily job, to answer our many questions and overall for the wonderful time spent there at Apple Park!