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Apple acquires another navigation startup for high-accuracy GPS

After a disappointing few years for Apple, it is finally looking to rebuild the reputation of its mapping service with a few key changes and acquisitions. The latest acquisition involves Bay Area navigation and positioning company Coherent Navigation, for an undisclosed amount.

The acquisition is one in a growing list of mapping and navigation startup acquisitions in the past two years. Apple is clearly focused on making Maps more accurate and usable, to compete with Nokia’s Here Maps (opens in new tab) and Google Maps.

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” a company spokesperson said in an email.

Coherent Navigation was set up in 2008 as an enterprise “global positioning” company, offering GPS for Boeing and the Defense Department. The company’s tracking is much more accurate than traditional consumer tracking services—due to the expensive technology used.

Apple might be interested in integrating the super-accurate technology into the iPhone and Apple Watch. It could also be used by iBeacons—Apple’s mobile notification tracker for businesses—offering precise navigation inside the store to a product.

The acquisition might be focused on Apple’s electric car (opens in new tab), currently being tested in secret facilities in Cupertino. The car will feature self-driving functionality, meaning it will need precise location and navigation tools, which Coherent Navigation could provide.

It would make sense that the acquisition has to do with the electric car, considering Apple has been ramping up acquisitions and poaching in the last twelve months. A123 Systems recently settled a poaching lawsuit with Apple, showing the severity of the company’s attempts to acquire talented engineers.

The self-driving industry is starting to kick off with Google, Audi, Apple, Baidu and Uber all working on separate self-driving platforms. Most automotive companies expect several platforms will be available by 2020, and we know Google plans to license its technology to partners.

Apple's own plans seem to be focused on its own car, instead of helping others. We expect the self-driving platform will be used on the iCar alone, similar to iOS on the iPhone/iPad or OS X on the Mac.

David Curry
David Curry

David has been a technology journalist for over six years, covering a wide range of sectors. He currently researches apps, app sectors and app markets for Business of Apps, and has written for ITProPortal, RTInsights, ReadWrite, and Digital Trends.