Apple has acquired Coherent Navigation, a small Silicon Valley startup. This is the perfect archetype of an Apple purchase; small, well-respected and cutting edge. Coherent Navigation will be a great fit for the largest company in the world.
As described by Coherent Navigation employees at a Stanford symposium in 2009, the company has been pioneering, “advanced positioning, navigation, timing, and communications solutions for government and civilian markets.”
Coherent Navigation has primarily worked with High-Integrity GPS (iGPS). This system, rather than using static GPS satellites, takes advantage of the Iridium Satellite Constellation, working in tandem with the company to provide astoundingly accurate GPS and location services.
The company’s work has produced significant developments. The programs it has developed using iGPS can provide locations accurate to the centimeter. It is also able to operate successfully in less stable environments where traditional GPS would struggle such as areas surrounded by tall buildings, dense vegetation, indoors etc.
Coherent Navigation has worked with and supplied technological support for numerous government and non-governmental organizations such as Boeing and the Department of Defense. The company’s primary beneficiary however has been the U.S. government.
It has been rumored that Coherent Navigation was working on developing new technology centered around its joint program with Iridium prior to the acquisition. Even more intriguing is the fact that most of the technology produced by Coherent has largely never been publicly accessible as their contracts were with private and governmental security companies. According to the LinkedIn profile of Coherent Navigation’s CEO Paul Lego, the company was “developing a commercial high-precision navigation service” and provided the U.S. government “classified and unclassified” services.
The application of Coherent technology in Apple’s business plan is ripe for speculation but there are some simple gaps this will most likely cover.
In an attempt to curb reliance on Google, Apple stopped offering Google Maps and Youtube as default apps on the iPhone. Instead it provided users with its first in-house GPS app. Common consensus was, and still is, that Apple lags far behind Google in locational technology, making this acquisition quite timely and useful.
For Apple, this acquisition is one on a list of many centered on location services since its departure from Google Maps in 2012. Additionally, Nokia recently announced that its HERE program is now on the market. Nokia has targeted Apple as a buyer for the $3.2 billion maps service currently used in the majority of automotive navigational appliances.
It is important to note that Apple is not acquiring Coherent Navigation solely for the technology the company has already developed, but for the manpower and expertise they posses. Quite reputable and experienced, all of Coherent’s founders have been absorbed by Apple.
Apple has played the acquisition close to the vest, addressing the transaction with a run-of-the-mill press release, “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plan.”
As mentioned earlier, experts have already started speculating as to the broader implications of this acquisition for Apple. Some postulate that this could be a move toward a rumored self-driving car project, as Uber, among others, have already invested heavily in automated and autonomous car research. Other more conservative guesses merely think this could be an attempt to level the playing field with Google Maps.
Regardless, the transaction looks like a win-win.
Image via Flickr/Juan Pablo Gonzalez