Apple Acquires GPS Startup Coherent Navigation

The Coherent Navigation service uses the Iridium satellite network, making the company's acquisition an intriguing technology for Apple.

Apple, GPS mapping, Coherent Navigation

Apple reportedly acquired Coherent Navigation, a Silicon Valley startup that has been using the Iridium satellite network to develop a commercial, high-precision navigation service for a wide range of industries.

Apple confirmed the acquisition, according to a May 17 article in The New York Times, but as is the tech giant's custom, the company did not comment further on the purchase beyond saying that it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plan."

The exact date of the transaction and the financial terms are not known, but Coherent Navigation's Website is no longer available online. The company's LinkedIn page says it has "ceased operations at this time."

The former CEO of Coherent, Paul G. Lego, posted on his LinkedIn page that he has been a member of the Apple Maps team since January, making it likely that the transaction occurred earlier in 2015. He had served as CEO of Coherent since April 2013.

Lego's LinkedIn page also notes that commercial, high-precision navigation is a multibillion-dollar market for industries such as agriculture, surveying, construction, mining, and oil and gas exploration. Lego also wrote that his company performed classified and unclassified work for the U.S. government.

Apple continues to work on making its maps services better. In September 2012, Apple had some embarrassing and frustrating times as it replaced Google Maps services in iOS with Apple Maps, which then faced glitches and inaccuracies that caused major hassles for users. Apple CEO Tim Cook even made a public apology for the problems at the time, according to earlier eWEEK reports.

Lego served as the CEO of consumer electronics startup Dash Navigation from November 2005 through November 2008, according to his LinkedIn page. Dash developed an Internet-connected automotive GPS navigational device, and Research In Motion later acquired Dash, he wrote.

Apple did not respond immediately to eWEEK's emailed inquiry about the transaction.

Apple has been on something of an acquisition track as of late as it spends some of the $178 billion in cash it amassed through 2014 for research and acquisitions. In January, Apple announced its best-ever quarterly performance, posting $74.6 billion in revenue and $18 billion in net profits for the first fiscal quarter of 2015 due to a consumer frenzy of sales of its latest iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones, Mac computers, and apps and more in the company's App Store. That revenue tally is a 30 percent increase from the $57.6 billion in revenue posted for the same quarter a year earlier, while net profit in this interval rose 37 percent from $13.1 billion.

In April, Apple paid about $20 million to acquire LinX Computational Imaging, an Israel-based company that focuses on designing and selling tiny cameras for use in mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, according to an earlier eWEEK report. According to its Website, LinX "brings revolution to mobile photography" on smartphones, tablets and Ultrabooks through multi-aperture imaging technology. LinX combines innovative image processing and advanced sensor and optics technology to create cameras that offer improved image quality, better low-light performance, improved color fidelity and less shutter lag than competing technologies, according to the company.

In March, Apple acquired the startup behind the Foundation DB database in a move that could be aimed at helping Apple continue to improve and support its own services to its own customers. Financial terms of the acquisition were not announced by the companies. FoundationDB is a high-performance database that provides NoSQL and SQL capabilities for users. Such databases have become more popular in recent years compared with traditional relational database management systems because they better serve the emerging generation of interactive applications, according to an earlier eWEEK report. NoSQL databases offer the flexibility, scalability and performance that today's Web and mobile app developers demand.

Apple has been spending some of its huge cash pile on other ideas, as well. In February, it was learned that Apple has been looking to diversify its business into electric car production, possibly by 2020, as it explores new business opportunities outside its core consumer technology and computer, tablet and smartphone businesses.