Apple acquires GPS firm Coherent Navigation

iPhone 5 (white, three-up, Maps)

Apple appears to have quietly acquired San Francisco-based GPS firm Coherent Navigation, MacRumors reported on Sunday. Several of the company’s employees, including the CEO and co-founders, all started working for the iPhone-maker in recent months, and its domain servers were recently updated to point to Apple.

Among Coherent’s technology is something called High Integrity GPS, which offers greater accuracy and precision and higher signal integrity versus standard GPS. It accomplishes this by combining signals from both mid-earth orbiting GPS satellites low-earth satellites used by data provider Iridium for voice and data.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2009 Iridium press release on iGPS:

The principle behind High Integrity GPS, also known in government circles as “iGPS,” uses satellite signals from the Iridium low-earth orbiting (LEO) satellite communications system and the U.S. Air Force-operated GPS mid-earth orbit navigational satellites. Iridium provides a high-power signal and rapidly changing ground track to accelerate an initial position fix by users. The GPS system provides navigational data in time, location and velocity. The result is an augmentation to GPS that provides iGPS receivers with improved navigation, higher signal integrity, precision accuracy and more jam-resistant capabilities. High Integrity GPS also has the potential to provide geographic positioning data to within centimeters, a vast improvement over current standalone GPS, which provides data within meters.

It’s not clear exactly what the Coherent team is working on inside Apple. Co-founder William Bencze’s LinkedIn profile states “Wireless Technologies; Locaton/Motion Engineering” and Brent Ledvina’s, also a co-founder, says “Wireless: Location Software Engineer.” Former CEO Paul G. Lego’s profile just says “Maps.”

It’s not hard to imagine what their up to though, given the issues Apple has had with accuracy in its Maps application over the past few years. It’s acquired several companies in an effort to bolster its mapping software, including crowdsourced business search firm Locationary, and the indoor location experts WifiSLAM.

Source: MacRumors

Update: Apple has confirmed the acquisition with The New York Times’ Mike Isaac, offering up its usual boilerplate statement “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”