Apple buys GPS firm Coherent Navigation, reports say

Apple will likely use the company's tech and resources to improve and expand its own mapping and navigation technology.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Apple may use its latest acquisition to further improve its Maps app. screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Apple has picked up a business with a known track record in navigation.

Coherent Navigation is (or was) a Global Positioning System (GPS)-related company started in 2008, according to MacRumors, which first broke news of the purported purchase by Apple on Sunday. The company's website no longer is accessible, while its LinkedIn page says that it has ceased operations at this time. The page lists it as a privately held company with one to 10 employees.

Apple itself confirmed the acquisition on Sunday through the following statement sent to the New York Times and others: "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans."

Coherent Navigation's strong suit is high-precision navigation systems, or High Integrity GPS. Coherent Navigation combines signals from traditional mid-Earth orbit GPS satellites with those of low-Earth satellites from global satellite communications company Iridium, as described by 9to5Mac. Iridium's satellite system provides voice and data coverage for phones and other devices across the Earth's surface, ZDNet explained. As such, Coherent Navigation's GPS is designed to offer a higher degree of accuracy, stronger signals and greater resistance to interference as compared with other GPS products.

So why would Apple buy this business? A few clues may shed light on the reasons. The LinkedIn profile for Paul Lego lists him as the CEO of Coherent Navigation from April 2013 to present but also a member of the Apple Maps team from January 2015 to present. That would imply that Apple may use the company's technology to further enhance its Maps app, which was initially dinged after its 2012 launch for inaccuracies, omissions and other faults. Since then, Apple has worked to improve the app to compete with rival Google Maps.

Other employees of the San Francisco Bay Area company have also jumped over to Apple, as noted by ZDNet. The LinkedIn page for co-founder William Bencze shows him as working for Apple on wireless technologies and location/motion engineering since April. The page for fellow Coherent Navigation co-founder Brent Ledvina reveals that he's also been at Apple since April and has been working in the wireless area on location technologies.

So Apple may be using the technology of Coherent Navigation and the know-how of its former employees in a few different areas, but all designed to advance its own mapping and location services. With the same goal in mind, Apple has purchased other mapping and navigation firms over the past several years, including PlaceBase in 2009, Locationary in 2013 and Hopstop, also in 2013.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.