Garmin Will Acquire DeLorme

Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN) announced it will acquire privately-held, family-owned and operated navigational company DeLorme, in what DeLorme VP of marketing Kim Stiver said is a “very friendly acquisition.”

Garmin will acquire “substantially all” of the DeLorme assets and retain most of its employees, continuing operations at its Yarmouth, Maine location following completion of the acquisition, the company said in a statement. However, added Stiver, “The map store here in the Maine headquarters is not part of the Garmin purchase, so we do plan on closing it some time in March. A very small number of employees will be adversely affected.”

Completion of the acquisition is expected to occur within 30 to 60 days. Financial terms will not be released.

DeLorme designs and markets consumer-based satellite tracking devices. The big focus in recent years has been on the inReach series– the only devices of its kind with two-way satellite communication. This technology, along with DeLorme’s global “digital cartography” database and enterprise GIS software, is why Garmin approached them, Stiver said.

According to Stiver, it’s here that Garmin sees the most potential for expanding DeLorme. The GPS-enabled devices allow users, no matter their global location–in or out of cell phone range–to send and receive satellite text messages. It also tracks and triggers an SOS signal for emergency help.

DeLorme’s inReach devices connect to users smartphones via an app, called Earthmate. “Even the coolest apps don’t function outside of cell phone range, and that’s the nature of being remote,” said Stiver. “The future for us is being able to bring satellite communication technology via the app, and together you’ll have everything you’re used to on your phone,” she said.

What the devices won’t do, however, is send images. For that, you need a much larger, more expensive device such as a satellite phone that connects via a “voice grade channel” or broadband satellite solution. DeLorme uses what’s called “small burst data technology,” or SBD in satellite speak.

“We’ve had so much interest in being able to transmit photos with the inReach,” Stiver explained. “We’ve been able to transmit photos, we’ve tested it, but we haven’t been able to reach the speed or the quality that consumers will appreciate. It is of great interest and the market is asking for it, I can confirm that. But we’re just starting those conversations about the future with Garmin.”