​Apple buys precision mapping smarts from Coherent Navigation

Apple injects its Maps team with talent and technology from precision-mapping company, Coherent Navigation.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Apple has acquired Coherent Navigation, a small GPS company that supplies mapping technology to the defense and airline industries.

Technology from the startup, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, adds to Apple's relatively young mapping and location efforts, with key members of Coherent Navigation joining Apple's Maps team.

Coherent Navigation, which employs fewer than 10 people, was founded in 2008 and developed a high-precision navigation service that used the Iridium satellite network, according to the LinkedIn profile of Paul Lego, formerly CEO of Coherent and now an employee at Apple Maps.

Iridium's satellite constellation provides voice and data coverage for phones and other devices across the earth's entire service.

Coherent has aimed its technology at agriculture, surveying, construction, mining, and oil and gas exploration. It has provided services to the US government, drawing on its engineers' experience in "precision navigation, differential GPS, hardware and software radio design, radio navigation, ionospheric physics, target tracking and sensor fusion, autonomous navigation and robotics, satellite mission operations".

Along with Lego, who joined Apple in January, Coherent Navigation co-founders William Bencze and Brent Ledvina started at the Cupertino company in April. Lego was a one-time CEO of Dash Navigation, which BlackBerry bought in 2009.

Apple has tacitly acknowledged the acquisition, telling ZDNet in a statement: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." Apple has not disclosed the value of the acquisition.

As noted by MacRumours, which first reported the deal, Coherent Navigation is the latest in a string of small purchases Apple has made in recent years to boost its mapping and location capabilities - and to ween itself off Google Maps. Previous acquisitions in this space include Locationary, PlaceBase, Poly9, HopStop, Embark, and BroadMap.

News of the Coherent deal comes as mapping and location services increasingly become a key differentiator in connected devices, including smartphones and connected vehicles.

A consortium of German vehicle manufacturers is thought to be bidding for Nokia's mapping and location business Here, reportedly to prevent it being acquired by a Silicon Valley company which would control technology that the car makers see as vital for self-driving cars. Along with car makers, everyone from Apple to Uber have reportedly shown interest in Here.

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