GPS Industries, Inc.
GPS Industries, Inc.
Incorporated: 1995 as Diversified Marketing Services, Inc.
Sales: $5.81 million (2005) Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ OTC BB
Ticker Symbol: GPSN
NAIC: 511210 Software Publishers
GPS Industries, Inc. develops and markets Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and Wi-Fi wireless multimedia products, selling its products to golf facilities worldwide. The technology is incorporated into the company's Inforemer suite of devices, which provides detailed course maps, distance measurements, food and beverage ordering capabilities, and a wealth of other features available via a cart-mounted or handheld liquid crystal display (LCD) screen. For golf course managers, the Inforemer system helps improve the efficiency of operations by tracking each player's location and identifying pace-of-play problems. GPS Industries sells its products on a worldwide basis through distribution agreements with third-party vendors. The typical deployment of a wireless network and central computer system with management software costs between $100,000 and $250,000, requiring a monthly leasing fee of between $1,500 and $5,000.
A pioneer in the commercial application of GPS technology, GPS Industries owes its existence to research conducted under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Defense. The use of satellite navigation systems began with the Transit system in 1965, which was comprised of six satellites that were used to provide navigational aid to submarines carrying Polaris nuclear missiles. By analyzing radio signals transmitted by the satellites, which circled the earth continuously in polar orbits, a submarine could determine its location within 10 to 15 minutes. The deployment of the Transit system marked a major breakthrough in navigation science, but military officials soon demanded greater accuracy. GPS, a concept hatched during a brainstorming session at the Pentagon over the Labor Day weekend in 1973, became the solution. Scientists at the meeting determined that the deployment of 24 satellites, each orbiting the earth every 12 hours in a particular formation, would ensure that every point on earth always would be in radio contact with at least four satellites. The discovery led to the first launch of a Navstar satellite in 1978. In 1993, the system reached 24-satellite capability, offering pinpoint accuracy for every location on earth.
GPS Industries was founded not long after the Navstar system became fully operational, becoming one of the early adopters of GPS technology for non-military uses. Technically, the company traces its origins to a Nevada corporation named Diversified Marketing Services, Inc., but the only vestige of the company's relationship with Diversified Marketing is its incorporation date of December 1995. Diversified Marketing was formed for entirely different purposes than to develop GPS-based products for the commercial market. The company was created to develop third-party motor vehicle title and registration offices in California and neighboring states, but, as a development-stage company, it never fulfilled its original mission. In 1999, a reverse merger turned Diversified Marketing into a completely different company with a new name. Diversified Marketing acquired a Canadian corporation named In-foretech Golf Technology 2000 Inc., which had been formed one year earlier by Robert C. Silzer, Sr. Following the reverse merger, Silzer took control of the combined company, which changed its name to Inforetech Wireless Technology, Inc., the direct predecessor to GPS Industries.
Silzer intended to develop the first portable device to incorporate GPS technology for the golf market, a use presumably not envisioned by the developers of Navstar but one Silzer believed would find a receptive audience among the more than 50 million golfers worldwide. Described as a seasoned businessman with numerous entrepreneurial successes to his credit, Silzer was preparing to enter a nascent and promising market as he plotted his course from Inforetech's Vancouver, British Columbia, headquarters. To the south, a handful of companies were developing GPS-based golf management systems, each vying to take the lead in the market. U.S. competitors included Newport Beach, California-based ProShot Golf, Inc.; Sarasota, Florida-based Par-View, Inc.; Dallas, Texas-based PinMark Corporation; Charlestown, Massachusetts-based Player Systems Corporation; Chandler, Arizona-based ProLink, Inc.; and UpLink Corp. based in Austin, Texas. Each of the companies had been formed between 1994 and 1998, offering or in the process of offering GPS-based golf devices that were mounted on a golf cart. Although Silzer would not shy away from cart-mounted systems, he was endeavoring to make Inforetech the first company to market a portable GPS-based golf handset.
In the months following the reverse merger that gave birth to Inforetech, the company operated as a development-stage company. Hopes for entry into the golf market were pinned to the Inforemer 2000, a system designed to collect data from GPS satellites and transfer the data between a central computer and a number of peripheral components, including a base station, a repeater, mobile handsets, and carrying cradles. Silzer planned to install the Inforemer 2000 in three or four North American golf courses by the fall of 2000, using the installations to fine tune and balance the various components of the system before commencing commercial distribution at the end of 2000. A fine-tuned, market-ready Inforemer 2000 promised to serve as a valuable tool for both golfers and the operators of golf courses. For the players, the company's handheld devices were capable of providing a wealth of pertinent information via an LCD screen, including instant drive measurements from the tee, distance measurements to the flagstick, hazards, and landmarks, and a layout of each hole from maps created from digitized, image-enhanced aerial photographs. Equipped with a fully portable Inforemer 2000, a golfer could enjoy a level of familiarity with a particular course similar to that of a course regular. For golf course operators, the Inforemer 2000 offered numerous benefits, perhaps none more important than the ability of GPS technology to address pace-of-play issues. A major concern of golf course managers, pace-of-play directly influenced the revenue and profit potential of a golf property, reducing both financial figures if one or more slow foursomes created a bottleneck. Golf course managers traditionally relied on course marshals to keep players moving at an appropriate pace, but it was not always immediately apparent where a bottleneck existed. The Inforemer 2000 pinpointed the problem, offering far greater control over pace-of-play, giving course operators the exact location of each golfer.
Our GPS and Wi-Fi based business solutions are designed to provide more for the game and business of golf. Inforemer is a powerful tool for golf facilities to improve and manage operations, generate new sources of revenue and enhance the golf experience.
Although Inforetech was not the first company to apply GPS technology to the golf market, it became recognized as the leader of the industry during the first years of the 21st century. A crucial step towards market dominance was taken in mid-January 2001, when the company chose the most expedient route towards gaining a lead over its competitors. Inforetech bought one of its rivals, acquiring ProShot Golf, Inc. Founded in 1995, ProShot spent $25 million on research and development, engineering, manufacturing, and testing to develop its GPS-based distance and information system, the ProShot Golf System, which had been installed at more than 145 golf courses worldwide at the time of the company's acquisition. The company formed two strategic alliances to aid in the development and to enhance the features of its system, forging its first partnership with Trimble Navigation, the leading GPS hardware company, and Toro Company, the authority in turf care products and irrigation. The company also completed an acquisition itself, purchasing PinMark Corp. in 1999. With PinMark's expertise, ProShot was able to improve its graphics capabilities and provide a platform for color graphics, technology that Inforetech inherited by purchasing ProShot. ProShot, once under Inforetech's control, became a subsidiary named Proshot Golf Network, joining the Silzer-led organization just before it celebrated the first major milestone in its development.
COMMERCIAL DISTRIBUTION BEGINNING IN 2001
At the end of January, two weeks after acquiring ProShot, Inforetech unveiled its flagship product. The Inforetech 2000 made its debut at the PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) Merchandise Trade Show in Orlando, Florida. Attendees were introduced to the advent of a new age, one offering golfers high-resolution screens that provided a full course overview, topography of each green, distance measurements to the pin, green side bunkers, and water hazards. Club owners and course managers focused on the back-end system powering the Inforemer 2000, which allowed them to monitor course traffic, to communicate instantly with each player, and to use the handset as a platform for establishing an on-course, e-commerce side to their business. Golfers equipped with one of Inforetech's handheld or cart-mounted devices could order food and beverages, purchase merchandise from the club's shop, or receive advertisements. Orders soon followed, including an agreement for six installations at golf courses in Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, and California, each signed to five-year leases guaranteeing $1.2 million in revenue during the duration of the lease. No longer a development-stage company, Inforetech was beginning to flourish commercially, enjoying a promising start to a decade that would see the advancement of technology add substantially to the capabilities of GPS-based devices on the golf course.
"After years of development and thousands of test rounds, we have finally got the technology to work exactly as it's supposed to," Silzer declared in a September 9, 2002, interview with Internet Wire. As the company made the transition from installing its systems on an experimental basis to deploying them commercially, it forged an important partnership to aid in the promotion of its technology. In mid-2002, Inforetech signed an endorsement agreement with Greg Norman, a World Golf Hall of Fame member and winner of 86 international titles. The company paid for the exclusive rights to use Norman's name, voice, and likeness to promote its family of GPS-based products. With a golfing celebrity at its side (Norman also took a seat on the company's board of directors), Inforetech began courting golfers and course managers in earnest, promoting its technology not only to the more than 18,000 golf courses in North America but to the more than 37,000 golf courses worldwide. In the fall of 2002, the company began trading on the Berlin-Bremen Stock Exchange, a move taken to support its advances in Europe. "Having an additional public market and an operating presence in Europe are key steps in our establishing an active international GPS-based golf device business," Silzer explained in an October 4, 2002, interview with PrimeZone Media Network.
- Diversified Marketing Services, Inc., is incorporated.
- Inforetech Golf Technology 2000 Inc., formed the previous year, merges with Diversified Marketing Services, creating Inforetech Wireless Technology, Inc.
- Inforetech unveils the Inforemer 2000, the first GPS handset for the golf market.
- Inforetech signs an endorsement agreement with golfer Greg Norman.
- Inforetech changes its name to GPS Industries, Inc.
- "Inforezone" is introduced, enabling golf courses to become Wireless Internet Service Providers.
INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION BUOYING HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
As Silzer sought to spread his company's presence throughout the world, he decided to do so under a different corporate banner. Inforetech changed its name to GPS Industries, Inc., in September 2003 to reflect its broader market focus and the additional market opportunities available to it. "Our company is unique in that we have a core technology which can be leveraged to deliver a wide range of business-critical, location-based applications to many vertical markets," Silzer said in an October 3, 2003, interview with the America's Intelligence Wire. The company was recording encouraging progress in expanding into new markets, becoming a truly global company. In mid-2003, the company signed a distribution agreement with Asian GPS Golf Ltd. that provided entry into mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, paving the way for installations at a minimum of 32 courses by 2008. In 2004, the company established a presence in Australia with installations at two of the country's leading golf courses, Brookwater and Noosa Springs, which led to a distribution agreement with GPS Golf Vision before the end of the year for sales in Australia, New Zealand, and the North and South Pacific Islands. In 2005, GPS Industries completed installations in France for the first time, establishing a presence in continental Europe's second largest golf market through a distributor named GEPSCO.
Against the backdrop of the company's global expansion, an arguably more profound type of expansion was taking place. Beginning in 2003, the company incorporated its devices into a Wi-Fi network that covered an entire golf course, clubhouse, and resort environs. The melding of the company's GPS-based technology with Wi-Fi created the broader market focus that, in part, inspired the adoption of a new corporate title. "Our core was this GPS product," a company executive explained in a January 27, 2005, interview with Wireless Business Forecast, "but what happened is that the infrastructure we put in the golf course has opened up new possibilities." Residential communities, sports venues, and other locations offered settings suitable for the company's technology, creating a wealth of business opportunities for the future.
For the company's mainstay golf market, the expansion of capabilities found expression in "Inforezone," introduced by GPS Industries in early 2006. Inforezone enabled any golf course operator to become a Wireless Internet Service Provider, or WISP, offering golf courses the ability to generate revenue from access fees to their own Wi-Fi "hotspot." GPS Industries' comprehensive Inforezone program included network design and deployment, Web-site hosting, network monitoring, access rate plans, technical support, and payment processing, representing an evolutionary step from the type of services offered at the beginning of the decade. In the years ahead, as GPS Industries strove to maintain its market lead, technological advancements promised to increase the company's importance to golf course operators. Exploiting such opportunity and turning it into consistent profits became the company's primary focus, as Silzer endeavored to remain on the technological vanguard during his company's second decade of business.
Inforetech Golf Technology 2000 Inc.
UpLink Corporation; ProLink/Parview, LLC; Player Systems Corporation.
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"From Cool Gadget to Wireless Windfall," Wireless Business Forecast, January 27, 2005.
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"GPS Industries Announces Turn-Key Wireless Internet Service Provider Program," Internet Wire, April 19, 2006.
"GPS Industries Gets N.A. Global Positioning Patents for Next-Generation Golf Course Apps.," Wireless News, November 29, 2004.
"GPS Industries Lands Two French Golf Resorts," Wireless News, February 16, 2005.
"Handheld GPS Display Unit for Golfers Gaining Momentum in Media," Internet Wire, September 9, 2002.
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"Inforetech's Inforemer 2000 on Par to Change the Way Golfers Navigate on Courses," Market News Publishing, June 8, 2001.
"Introduces First Portable Global Positioning System Golf Handset to the World," Market News Publishing, June 8, 2001.
"Wireless Channel: GPS Industries Extends Reach into Australia and New Zealand," Wireless News, September 30, 2004.