Apple Acquires GPS Start-up ‘Coherent Navigation’ to Compete with Google Maps

On Sunday, Apple confirmed its acquisition of Coherent Navigation, a Bay Area global positioning firm, boosting the company’s mapping capabilities.

Photo: masato_photo/Flickr

Photo: masato_photo/Flickr

Apple confirmed its purchase of Coherent Navigation, a Bay Area GPS-related firm founded in 2008, reads the New York Times. The first to report the news was the tech web site MacRumors; according to the article, Coherent Navigation is the latest mapping-related purchase that Apple has made recently, including the developers behind Pin Drop, Locationary, Broadmap, and other. In fact, after a rough transition away from Google Maps with the release of iOS 6 in 2012, Apple keeps developing its navigation services.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” states the company.

As for Coherent Navigation, first it was a small firm working on commercial navigation services based on partnerships with companies like Boeing and Iridium, according to the company’s former chief executive Paul Lego’s LinkedIn page.

Since then, Coherent Navigation has been developing its technology. So, the New York Times reads that Coherent Navigation worked either on autonomous navigation and robotics projects or projects for the Defense Department.

However, according to MacRumors, despite the fact that Apple don’t divulge its purchase, some Coherent Navigation’s key employees appear to have started working for Apple recently. Paul Lego joined the company in January, Coherent Navigation co-founders William Bencze and Brett Ledvina became Apple employees last month. In addition to that, Coherent’s website went offline, but on April 30 the name servers for the domain started pointing to Apple’s servers.

According to recent ComScore data, almost twice as many iPhone owners prefer to look up addresses on the Google version, compared to Apple’s native Maps app. It’s obvious that Apple’s Maps navigation technology needs to catch up with Google Maps.

In general, competition for location-based services is becoming more intense, as some of Silicon Valley’s largest tech firms try to obtain more control over such technologies.

So, in February, Uber announced that it opened an institute for autonomous car research in Pittsburgh. The company would collaborate with the National Robotics Engineering Center and start a series of robotics fellowships and professorships teaming up with Carnegie Mellon University.

Moreover, a consortium of automakers such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz, has been competing with Uber to buy Nokia’s Here maps, the main competitor to Google Maps. The German coalition wants to give others access to Nokia’s mapping service, under a licensing agreement.

So, the business could maintain its global reach. If Uber wins, the move will help reduce its   dependency on Google’s mapping service, which currently is behind an important part of Uber’s navigation technology.

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