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Garmin Looks to Location Tracker to Stay Relevant

With Garmin’s (s grmn) automotive navigation device sales declining and its Garminfones and Nuvifones disappointments, the company is looking to a GPS locator service for people and property as a new business that can expand on its core competency in location. The GTU 10, a small tracking device, represents a new opportunity for Garmin and shows how a company that can identify and then focus on its core strengths can keep marching on as technology changes fundamentally disrupt their primary lines of business.

The GTU 10, a three-inch device, is easily attached to a dog collar, backpack or other object that needs tracking. The tracking service works on AT&T’s (s T) network, and is accessed through a web browser or through mobile applications. A user can set up to 10 geofences that trigger a text or e-mail notice when the device enters or leaves a set area. The Li-ion battery in each tracker can last up to four weeks before it needs a charge. Garmin is selling this as a way for parents to keep an eye on children, pet owners to track their pooches or people to follow their cars, boats, bikes or other property. The GTU 10 will sell for $199.99, which includes one year of standard tracking that enables a person to track the flow of one item through 10 points in the day.

As we’ve noted, dedicated navigation device makers are having a tough time as they compete against a number of free and cheap cell-phone solutions. Garmin’s third-quarter revenue was down 11 percent to $692 million with a 19 percent decline in its automotive and mobile segment, its biggest business. In August, Garmin admitted its smartphone business added just $27 million in revenue during the second quarter, a figure that disappointed Garmin officials.

But Garmin isn’t throwing in the towel. It reported 9 percent growth in its outdoor and fitness segment and just launched a StreetPilot navigation app for the iPhone. It’s likely Garmin won’t be selling car navigation devices in the same numbers it has in the past, but location has a lot of uses, and the company is rightly figuring out how else to use its GPS technology and databases. The mobile app is a no-brainer, but the tracker app shows Garmin is looking to figure out all the ways that it can implement location and provide value. And while AT&T has helped hurt Garmin’s personal navigation sales through its own navigation services, Garmin sees an opportunity in leveraging the AT&T network to build out a tracking service. Garmin still has a way to go to recapture its big growth of the past, and there’s no guarantee it will realize any of that, but the company clearly knows what it’s good at and is really trying to parlay that into a profitable business as times change.

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3 Responses to “Garmin Looks to Location Tracker to Stay Relevant”

  1. I’d love to see them get into mass transit WiFi/GPS. Equip buses with a WiFi base station with GPS. It would display, via a bus-borne WiFi website, a moving display of where the bus is and what businesses and interesting sites are nearby as well as other bus connections. It’d be funded by advertising revenue and could offer material the weather, movie trailers, ads, and online newspapers to keep passengers from getting bored.

    User’s would not get a direct Internet connection, since that would be too pricey, but the data on the server could be constantly upgrade via a cellular link.

    The customer base would be the 1/3 or more of bus riders who fiddle with their mobile gadgets while riding the bus.

  2. A 3″ dog-tag? That’s kind of huge.

    Still would be useful for tracking the kiddo, but the dimensions (3×1.3x.8 inches) is about the size of a small cellphone.