If you and your car, boat, or spaceship are lost, a chip made by SiRF (Silicon Radio Frequency) can help you find your destination or locate emergency help.
California-based SiRF Technology makes the chip sets and software that equipment manufacturers integrate as GPS (global positioning system) receivers in their products. With this chip, GPS satellites can identify the location of a piece of jewelry, cell phone, automobile, ship, spacecraft, missile, or any device it is attached to.
SiRF has about 85 employees in its two locations (San Jose and Los Angeles). SiRF’s chips and software are designed with the same GPS technology that the U.S. space program and military use to guide the space shuttle or missiles, with the help of 24 satellites in orbit around the earth. GPS relays location information such as latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, and direction.
SiRF is concentrating on four markets:
- Wireless handheld products
- Automotive products
- PC-based products
- General consumer and marine products
Chipmakers like SiRF expect the market for chips used in GPS devices to increase from $148 million in 1999 to $2.2 billion by 2004.
SiRF sees GPS products as a potentially booming market, with applications such as cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants), watches, and car and boat navigation systems. The GPS satellite signals can help users identify their location, whether they’re lost in a forest, on top of a mountain, or in the middle of an ocean.
SiRF calls it "location awareness." High-end cars and boats are already using GPS. So are buses, taxis, and other vehicle fleet companies. About two million of the four million GPS systems sold in 1998 were for navigating and tracking in automobiles. Dataquest estimates this car market will rise to 11 million GPS units by 2001, after it overcomes its two handicaps:
- High cost
- Unavailability of digital maps
SiRF and GPS device OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) are aided in their push for location awareness technology by the Federal Communications Commission’s mandate that by October 2001, cell phones must be able to be identified within a certain distance when they make 911 emergency calls.
|Research group Allied Business Intelligence predicts that the world’s commercial GPS market will grow from $4.5 billion in 1999 to nearly $14 billion by 2005.|
Time and experience are on SiRF’s side. Since 1995, the company has developed several generations of GPS products. The company has strategic relationships with Ericsson, Nokia, Hitachi, Intel, QUALCOMM, and others to use its GPS chip in their products.
SiRF Technology is privately owned and has raised $22.6 million in several rounds of financing since the company began in 1995. Investors include Acer, American Pacific Venture, Ayala Corp., ECICS Ventures Ltd., Fortune Venture Capital Company, FPHC International, ICCP Ventures, InveStar Capital Inc, Ionics, Mitsui & Co., Ltd., Nokia, Pacific Venture Partners, Umax, Yamaha Corporation, and the Walden Group.
- Dado Banatao, founder and chairman
- Jackson Hu, president and CEO
- Kanwar Chadha, founder and vice president, marketing
- Jerry E. Knight, vice president, engineering
- Mark Scheible, vice president, sales
- Robert H. Bagheri, vice president, operations and quality
What others are saying about SiRF
“’We have a vision to bring location awareness to virtually everything that moves,’ said Kanwar Chadha, founder and vice president of marketing for SiRF. Bolstering that claim, today SiRF announced a string of new technology developments that the company hopes will propel GPS deployment into wireless handheld devices, wristwatches, personal computers, automobiles and marine navigational systems. The company's new GPS architecture improves the performance of GPS location capability over its current SiRFstarI platform while reducing hardware to the size of a postage stamp.”
—“SiRF Unveils New Consumer-oriented GPS ,” by Peggy Albright, Wireless Week, Aug. 16, 1999.
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