LONDON Bluetooth chip market leader CSR plc. is acquiring two major players in the GPS technology sector and plans to incorporate their software to make global positioning and personal navigation a much cheaper and better performance option for mobile phones and other hand-held devices. CSR is paying in cash an initial $40 million for Swedish group NordNav Technologies AB, and $35 million for Cambridge Positioning Systems.
CSR (Cambridge, England) says it would apply its own experience in embedding radio technologies into the mobile platform and expects its first GPS product offerings that support satellite navigation and other location-based services to be available during the first half of this year, with cost expected to subsequently reduce to less than $1.
Matthew Phillips, Senior vice president CSR’s Mobile Handset Connectivity strategic business unit, told EE Times Europe "We felt this was the right approach to take with GPS. At $5-$10, existing solutions are too expensive and just not practical for mainstream cellphone applications. There are also performance restrictions in terms of both handset and network that have meant that the technology is not appropriate for the mobile platform."
He added the two acquisitions mean that CSR has removed the barriers for mobile handset makers and operators to provide location based services for the mass market.
"Ours is an innovative and disruptive approach and will make the hardware for GPS and personal navigation for mobile phones a really low cost and competitive offering compared to existing solutions that will drive attach rates for all kinds of mobile devices," Phillips suggested.
The total cost of buying NordNav Technologies AB, a specialist developer of software for personal navigation, could reach up to $75 million depending on some performance objectives being met.
Both NordNav and CPS are private companies, principally owned by venture capital. The acquisitions will both be financed entirely from CSR’s existing cash resources.
About 40 people are set to transfer to CSR from NordNav and CPS.
Phillips also added the acquisitions are in line with CSR's strategy of diversifying beyond Bluetooth. "We are already in the Wi-Fi sector in a big way, and working on UWB and cable free USB as well as WiBree."
In the first instance, the CPS extended GPS software algorithms and network server software which offers a quick fix and coverage in dense urban areas and even indoors as well as NordNav's software will be added CSR's Bluetooth stack and offered as modules with an external GPS receiver. "In time, and as the second phase, we will integrate all the elements including Bluetooth into a single device that will be offered to handset and personal navigation device makers. We are already talking to Tier 1 mobile phone makers about our approach," said Phillips.
NordNav has already implemented an embedded software receiver for mobile GPS positioning whose operational performance, according to Phillips, is as good as industry standard hardware centric implementations
He added the complete solution would take up 80 percent less area than competing hardware solutions and will be the lowest cost solution on the market, with a price that is set to fall to less than $1.