Google Quietly Operating Sensor Startup Following Stealthy Buyout

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has acquired a San Diego startup that invented new sensor technology for precisely tracking changes in direction, according to two industry experts who would only discuss the deal anonymously.

The Mountain View, CA-based technology giant agreed to buy Lumedyne Technologies in November for about $85 million, one expert said, just months after Lumedyne demonstrated a working prototype of its innovative accelerometer technology.

The sensor is presumably intended for use in smart phones and robotics, but it could have broad applications in navigation. For example, Lumedyne’s CEO gave a talk on the future of motion sensors in the automotive industry at the 2013 Automotive Sensors and Electronics Expo in Detroit.

Lumedyne’s technology offers a big advantage over conventional accelerometers because so far it has been far more precise—showing little “drift” from a device’s actual location, another expert said.

“One of the big problems with accelerometers today is that once you walk into a building and lose GPS, the accelerometer starts to drift,” the source said. “It’s designed to track your location by measuring your direction and turns, but you might end up on one side of a building and it thinks you’re on the opposite side. By the end of the day you could be off by hundreds of meters or even miles.”

While conventional accelerometers are relatively inexpensive, the cost of manufacturing Lumedyne’s sensor would be substantially lower, and it draws less power, which would extend battery life, the source said.

Google has not disclosed the Lumedyne buyout, however, and media representatives at the technology giant’s corporate headquarters did not respond to several e-mail inquiries sent yesterday, or to a request left on Google’s media hotline. The Lumedyne deal also does not appear on Wikipedia’s informal list of Google mergers and acquisitions.

Nevertheless, there’s been a lot of curiosity about the stealthy deal.

If you use the search terms “Google” and “Lumedyne Technologies” in a Google search, one of the first results to appear is a question on Quora that reads: “What does Google intend to do with its acquisition of Lumedyne Technologies? Is it intended for the ATAP [Advanced Technologies and Projects] group?”

No one has answered the question, but it has been viewed 2,542 times, and 23 individuals have registered to get the answer once one is available.

Lumedyne CEO Brad Chisum declined to comment by phone yesterday, saying, “The acquirer of Lumedyne is not public and has not been disclosed.”

However, Chisum publicly acknowledged last week that Lumedyne had been acquired during a … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Good write, it’s always interesting to read about developments that companies are trying to keep quiet…

  • Mark Bowles

    Brad is a stud!