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Magellan positions itself to target the recreational market

TEN years ago Global Positioning System (GPS) devices cost more than $100,000 and were used only by large mining and surveying companies.

Today, a small hand-held device costs only a few hundred dollars and is used by recreational boaters, bushwalkers and four-wheel drive enthusiasts as navigation aids.

The eastern states currently enjoy the lion’s share of the recreational user GPS market, but several small Perth companies have been able to carve out a niche servicing Western Australia’s large resources industry.

Navaids director John Keely established his GPS retail and consultancy company in February 1995 and marketed its products almost exclusively to the mining and exploration sector. Mr Keely said Navaids’ biggest client was Anaconda Nickel, although the small company also provides GPS devices and support to several WA Government departments.

Micronics, the winner of this year’s Health/Environment category in the Yellow Pages IT & T awards, is developing a unique GPS device that can be worn as a vest. Technical director John Coles said the design was an alternative to heavier, backpack models already on the market.

The Stirling-based business employs three people and is targeting government departments and the surveying sector. Micronics has supplied the vest to Rockingham, Swan, Albany and Ballarat authorities.

Despite being based in WA, Magellan GPS Systems has decided to target the recreational GPS market in Victoria and NSW. Managing director Doug Lloyd estimates 90 per cent of Magellan’s client base is in the eastern states.

The company began life in 1988 as The PMH Survey Centre, selling $100,000 GPS units to the WA mining sector.

In the early 90s, Magellan Corporation in the US began production of hand-held GPS devices priced at $1000, within reach of recreational users.

In 1994, Mr Lloyd took over the Australian distribution of all Magellan’s products.

“Previously, the different products – marine, mining and four-wheel drive – were distributed by different retailers,” Mr Lloyd said.

“We took over the distribution in 1994 and changed our name to give the products more branding.

“The way that the market has moved since the early 1990s, most Magellan products are for a mass market.

“Although the mining industry does buy a few of them, they are not really our client-base.

“We sell to customers who use the technology for hiking, in car navigation and fishing.”

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