GPS is one of those science-fiction technologies whose use is effortless for the end-user and endlessly challenging for the engineers who design it. It’s now at the heart of modern life: everything from Amazon package deliveries to our cars and trucks to our walks through national parks are centered around a pin on a map that monitors us down to a few meters.
Yet, GPS technology is decades old, and it’s going through a much-needed modernization. The U.S., Europe, China, Japan, and others have been installing a new generation of GNSS satellites (GNSS is the generic name for GPS, which is the specific name for the U.S. system) that will offer stronger signals in what is known as the L5 band (1176 MHz). That means more accurate map pinpoints compared to the original generation L1 band satellites, particularly in areas where line-of-sight can be obscured, like urban areas. L5 was “designed to meet demanding requirements for safety-of-life transportation and other high-performance applications,” as the U.S. government describes it.
It’s one thing to put satellites into orbit (that’s the easy part!), and another to build power-efficient chips that can scan for these signals and triangulate a coordinate (that’s the hard part!). So far, chipmakers have focused on creating hybrid chips that simultaneously pull from the L1 and L5 bands. For example, Broadcom recently announced the second generation of its hybrid chip.
OneNav has a totally different opinion on product design, and it placed it right in its name. Eschewing the hybrid chip model of mixing old signals with new ones, it wants one chip to monitor the singular band of L5 signals to drive device cost and power savings. One nav to rule them all, as it were.
Today, the company announced that it has closed a $21 million Series B round led by Karim Faris at GV, which is solely funded by Alphabet. Other investors included Matthew Howard at Norwest and GSR Ventures, which invested in earlier rounds of the company. All together, OneNav had raised $33 million in capital and was founded about two years ago.
CEO and co-founder Steve Poizner has been in the location business for a long time. His previous company, SnapTrack, built out a GPS positioning technology for mobile devices that sold to Qualcomm for $1 billion in stock in March 2000, at the height of the dot-com bubble. According to his LinkedIn profile, his co-founder and CTO at OneNav, Paul McBurney, has similarly spent decades in the GNSS space, most recently at Apple.