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Couple ‘frightened’ after Samsung phones fail to connect to 911 on Freedom Mobile

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Kelly Smith’s partner thought he was having a heart attack. 

With heavy chest pains and a hereditary heart condition, he needed medical help — but when he called 911 on his Samsung Galaxy, the call wouldn’t connect. 

His anxiety spiked, said Smith, as he tried again and again to connect but couldn’t get through. 

Smith then grabbed her cell phone, also a Samsung, and frantically dialled 911.

“I tried to call four more times on mine,” said Smith, but she couldn’t connect. 

Smith says the attempts to connect with 911 from her partner’s phone started at 4:25 p.m. on Nov. 29, nearly a week before Freedom Mobile sent out a warning. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Both were using Samsung Galaxy phones, Smith an A5 and her partner an A8, both with service through Freedom Mobile.

“We didn’t even receive a dial tone. It just kept automatically disconnecting when we called 911,” said Smith, who eventually connected with paramedics by calling 411. 

“Thankfully we were lucky and everything was okay. But 10 minutes, 15 minutes trying to get a hold of an ambulance, that could be a lot,” said Smith, who was worried her partner could have a heart attack. 

Smith’s partner eventually made it to the hospital. He was recovering days later when Smith received an alert from Freedom Mobile, warning her about a known issue affecting Samsung Galaxy A5 devices dialling 911. 

CRTC monitoring

The government body that regulates the 911 telecommunications network said it was “recently made aware of issues” with the Samsung Galaxy A5 devices on Freedom Mobile’s network trying to connect with 911.

“In this case, 911 functionality appears to have been impacted by a software update related to the handset itself and made subsequent to the phone being certified or tested by carriers,” said a spokesperson for Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in a written statement.

The CRTC has contacted other Canadian wireless carriers and believes the problem is limited to Freedom Mobile subscribers using a Samsung Galaxy A5. The spokesperson said effective access to emergency services is “critical” and CTRC is monitoring the situation until it’s resolved.

“Handset manufacturers are ultimately responsible to ensure their software updates do not corrupt the functionality of their phone,” said the spokesperson.

‘We deserve better’

Smith reached out to Samsung after receiving the mobile alert from Freedom Mobile to see why exactly her phone wouldn’t connect with 911. 

“Samsung told me maybe I should have replaced my SIM card and tried again or called someone else to call 911 on my behalf,” said Smith, who said the failed calls have left her “frightened” over the next call.

“For some people it could have been a life or death moment and we deserve better than this.”

Kelly Smith says she received this text from Freedom Mobile a week after she couldn’t connect with 911.

In a written statement, a spokesperson for Samsung Canada said customer safety is their “top priority.”

“As a result of a recent Samsung Canada A5 device update issue, Freedom Mobile customers who have an A5 device were temporarily moved to Freedom’s 3G network to restore access to 911 emergency services,” the statement continued, adding that it was a temporary measure.

“Customers have been notified of the necessary software update, which is currently available, to resolve the issue and restore access to LTE service.” 

‘Admission of guilt’

After sharing her story with CBC Windsor, Samsung contacted Smith and set up a meeting with a technician who would travel to Windsor from Mississauga. 

The technician looked at the phones and took photos of the settings and call logs, said Smith. 

“He offered to buy us a new phone case or something,” said Smith, who took him up on the offer.

An executive later called Smith to let her know they would send her two new phones free of charge to replace the devices that failed, which she accepted.

“By them trying to offer us and give us these gifts it’s definitely an admission of guilt and they’re trying to keep us as happy as possible because they realize the severity of the situation,” said Smith.

Doubtful of future phone calls

She believes Samsung needs to make the public aware of the problem. 

“They have not released any public statements that I’m aware of stating that this was a major issue, I apologize, here’s the resolution,” said Smith. 

She did receive a software update on her phone Saturday through Samsung that included “further improvements to performance including 911 service in LTE coverage areas.”

Despite the promise of an improved service, Smith isn’t confident that her next call to 911 will connect. 

“I hope I get through, but now for the rest of my life I will doubt that my 911 call will go through.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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