Garmin Ltd. (shortened to Garmin and formerly known as ProNav) is an American multinational technology company founded by Gary Burrell and Min Kao in 1989 from Lenexa, Kansas and is based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.[11][12]

The company is known for its specialization in GPS technology development for its use in automotive, aviation, marine, outdoor, and sport activities and utilities.[13] Due to their development in wearable technology, they have also been competing with activity tracker and smartwatch consumer developers such as Fitbit and Apple.[14]


Founding and growth

In 1983, Gary Burrell recruited Min H. Kao from the defense contractor Magnavox while working for the former King Radio.[15] They founded Garmin in 1989 in Lenexa, Kansas,[11] as "ProNav". ProNav's first product was a GPS unit which sold for US$2,500. The company was later renamed "Garmin", an acronym of the first names of its two founders, Gary Burrell and Min H. Kao.[16] In 1991, the U.S. Army became their first customer.[17]

By 1995, Garmin's sales had reached $105 million, and it had achieved a profit of $23 million. By 1999, sales had reached $233 million and profit of $64 million. Garmin reported a 2006 total revenue of $1.77 billion, up 73% from $1.03 billion in 2005.[18][19]

On May 13, 1999, AirCell and Garmin International announced an alliance to develop new products that use AirCell's unique cellular air-ground link to bring affordable flight communications, navigation and safety to general aviation aircraft. By 2000 Garmin had sold three million GPS devices, and was producing 50 different models. Its products were sold in 100 countries and carried by 2,500 independent distributors. As of 22 August 2000, the company held 35 patents on GPS technology. By the end of June 2000, the company employed 1,205 people: 541 in the United States, 635 in Taiwan, and 29 in the United Kingdom.[20]

Public offering

The company began public trading on NASDAQ on 8 December 2000. At that time Burrell owned 19,911,155 shares. Kao owned 20,352,803 shares. Together their holdings accounted for 45 percent of the company's stock. Kao's brother, Ruey-Jeng Kao, an attorney in Taipei, owned another 7,984,109 shares, which when combined with Burrell's and Kao's shares constituted 54.22 percent of the shares outstanding.[21]

Continued growth

In August 2003, Garmin completed acquisition of UPS Aviation Technologies, Inc., a subsidiary of United Parcel Service, Inc., expanding its product line of panel-mounted GPS/NAV/COMM units and integrated cockpit systems for private and commercial aircraft. The acquired company changed its name to Garmin AT, Inc. and continued operations as a wholly owned subsidiary of Garmin International, Inc.[22]

Garmin has acquired Dynastream Innovations,[23] EME Tec Sat SAS (EME),[24] and Digital Cyclone.[25] Dynastream, located in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada, is a leader in the field of personal monitoring technology (ANT+) — such as foot pods and heart rate monitors for sports and fitness products — and is also a leading provider of ultra-low-power and low-cost wireless connectivity solutions for a wide range of applications (ANT). EME Tec Sat SAS (EME) is the distributor of Garmin's consumer products in France; following the acquisition, EME will change its name to Garmin France SAS. Digital Cyclone Inc (DCI), located in Chanhassen, Minnesota, provides mobile weather solutions for consumers, pilots, and outdoor enthusiasts. Garmin also bought Nautamatic Marine Systems,[26] an Oregon-based company that makes autopilot systems for boats. In July 2011, Garmin finished its acquisition of the German satellite navigation company Navigon.[27]

In 2006, Garmin introduced a new corporate logo,[28] and opened its first retail store, located on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.[29]

In 2015, Garmin acquired South Africa's iKubu Ltd. for its Backtracker on-bicycle low power radar system.[30]

Products and brands


In addition to devices with integrated software, Garmin also produces a number of software packages for use on a personal computer. This software was designed to run on only the Microsoft Windows operating system until 2006, when Garmin released all of its software for Mac OS X.[31]

Marine GPS

The company’s first product was the GPS 100, a panel-mounted GPS receiver aimed at the marine market, priced at $2,500. It debuted at the 1990 International Marine Technology Exposition in Chicago. The product was an instant hit and generated a backlog of orders for 5,000 units. In response to the demand thus created, Kao traveled (January 1991) to Taipei to set up manufacturing facilities.

Handheld GPS

Another early product, a handheld GPS receiver, proved popular with military personnel serving in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War. In the early 2000s (decade), Garmin launched a series of personal GPS devices aimed at recreational runners called the Forerunner. A similar wrist-worn GPS device with two dimensional GPS tracking and waypoint projection called the Garmin Foretrex is popular among day hikers, off-road mountain bikers, and sailboat racers.


One of the most popular of the Garmin handheld GPS receivers, the compact eTrex series, was introduced in 2000. Within the eTrex line are several models packaging several different features and options. The original eTrex, commonly nicknamed "eTrex Yellow", was a sensation when it first appeared, as it offered a lightweight (5.3 oz/150 g), waterproof, palm-sized 12-channel GPS receiver to backpackers, hikers, and others afoot in remote areas, along with a battery life of up to 22 hours on just two AA-size batteries.[32] The eTrex "Yellow" was replaced in 2007 by the eTrex H, which added a high-sensitivity receiver.[33] Other more advanced eTrex models include the Summit, Venture, Legend, and Vista, each with various additional features such as WAAS, altimeter, digital compass, city database, and highway maps. Many of these models come in color and expandable-memory versions.

In May 2011, Garmin "refreshed" the eTrex product lineup with improved mechanical design and support for the latest advances in cartography and hardware technology; with its release of the eTrex 10, eTrex 20, and eTrex 30, Garmin became the first company to manufacture and distribute a worldwide consumer navigation product supporting both GPS and GLONASS satellite constellations.[34][35]

May 13, 2015 Garmin release the eTrex 20x and 30x, which succeeded the eTrex 20 and 30. The main upgrade was a higher resolution screen and 4GB storage, double of the previous models.[36]

July 2, 2015 Garmin introduced its eTrex Touch line, releasing tree models (25, 35 and 35t), all featuring an 2.6" touch screen.[12]

eTrex Model10203020x30xTouch 25Touch 35Touch 35t
Release dateMay 2011May 2015July 2015
Release price$120$200$300$200$300$250$300$350
Production stateIn ProductionDiscontinuedIn Production
Satellite systemsGPS & GLONASS (with WAAS & HotFix)
Screen size,


color & touch

Monochrome65K color
Other featuresIPX7 waterproof, 2x AA battery, USB interface, Relief basemap, geocaching friendly.
-MicroSD storage, automatic routing, add custom maps.
Model10203020x30xTouch 25Touch 35Touch 35t

The Geko series was a compact line of handheld GPS receivers aimed at the budget or lightweight hiking market.

In 2004, Garmin introduced its 60C line of handheld GPS mapping receivers, featuring increased sensitivity and storage capacity along with a battery life of up to 30 hours in battery-save mode. This was followed by the 60Cx and 60CSx with improved color map displays.

With the GTM-11, GTM 20 and GTM 25, a Garmin GPS device receives and uses traffic message channel (TMC) information.[12] Also, some Garmin nüvi (1690, 1490T, 1450T, 1390T, 1390, 1350, 1260, 1250 and 265WT, 265T, 265W, 265, 255w and 255) comes with an integrated TMC receiver.

iQue PDA receivers

In 2003, Garmin launched the iQue line of integrated PDA-GPS receivers. On 31 October 2005, the iQue M4 became the first PDA that did not require a PC to preload the maps. The American version came with built-in maps of North America, while the UK version was supplied pre-loaded with maps of Western Europe.

Automotive GPS

In 1998, the first Garmin StreetPilot was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show. It had a black and white screen and no voice. In 2002, the StreetPilot III added a color display and voice navigation. In October 2005, Garmin released the StreetPilot i-Series, compact GPS navigators which come in three models, i2, i3, i5. The i2 has a monochrome display, and maps need to be loaded on a Transflash card. The i3 is similar to the i2, except it has a color screen. The i5 has a color screen and the maps come preprogrammed into the device. More advanced versions of the StreetPilot include the c-Series, some of which sport large color touchscreens, FM traffic notifications, support for weather and information updates from MSN Direct, and Bluetooth support.

In 2005, the nüvi 300 series was released. It was the first modern-shaped automotive GPS. The slim rectangular shape meant that the device could fit in a pocket. In October 2006, Garmin began shipping the nüvi 660, a pocket-size widescreen successor to their nüvi 300 series. The 660 added bluetooth, FM transmitter, enhanced screen brightness and screen size, all in a small "flat" size. It was the last model to feature OSGB grid reference entry. Garmin's 2012 nüvi lineup includes "essential" models (nuvi 30/40/50 series); "advanced" models (nuvi 2405/2505 series); and "prestige" (nuvi 3400/3500 series). Advanced and prestige models carry additional features on top of the basic functions of the essential models. Models that carry an "LM" designation include free updates of the installed maps.

Garmin's Zumo line is designed specifically for motorcycles.

Garmin released its 2000's series in 2010, which includes 2200 (3.5 inch display), and 2300 (4.3 inch display).


Garmin also manufactures a line of sonar fishfinders, including some units that also have GPS capability.

Laptop GPS and mobile apps

In April 2008, Garmin launched Garmin Mobile PC, a GPS navigation software program for laptop PCs and other computers, based on the Microsoft Windows operating system, now discontinued.[12]

Garmin offers mobile apps for Android, Windows Phone, and for iPhone. On July 25, 2011, Garmin International, Inc. released Garmin StreetPilot Onboard N. America Version 1.0 for the iOS operating system 4.0 or later. It is compatible with iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation) and GPS-enabled iPads. The iPhone app is 1.61 GB and has In App Purchases available including Traffic, and Fuel Prices. Map coverage includes North America (United States, Canada, Mexico, plus Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthelemy, and Jamaica).


In early 2009, Garmin announced it would be manufacturing a location-specific cellular telephone in cooperation with Asus.[12] Called the Garmin-Asus nüvifone G60, the United States release on AT&T was scheduled for 4 October 2009.[12] Four other models in this line have since been released: two Windows Mobile-powered models for the European and Asian market, and two Android models, one for the Europe/Asia market and another for T-Mobile USA.

Personal trainers

The Garmin Edge and certain models of Garmin Forerunner is a suite of GPS-enabled devices for use while running or cycling.


Garmin has a dedicated division for aviation products, such as integrated cockpits, panel mount displays, multi-function displays (MFD), transponders, radar and other related avionics. For example, the G1000 is an all-glass avionics suite for OEM aircraft.[12] The G900X is similar to the G1000 but designed for use in experimental aircraft,[12] and the G600 is a retrofit solution for several certificated aircraft.[12]

Garmin entered the aviation market in 1991 with the GPS-100AVD panel-mounted receiver. Their first portable unit, the GPS-95, was introduced in 1993. In 1994, the GPS-155 panel-mounted unit was the first GPS receiver on the market to receive full FAA certification for instrument approaches.[45][12]

In 1998, Garmin introduced the GNS-430, an integrated GPS navigation receiver/communications transceiver.[45]

In April 2007, the Oregon-based aircraft company Epic AIR (subsidiary of Aircraft Investor Resources (AIR) LLC — United States) announced that it would use Garmin glass panel cockpits and related avionics in all its certified and experimental very light jets and turboprop aircraft. The Garmin G900X will be used in the company's owner-built airplanes, while the Garmin G1000 will be used in certified Epic aircraft.[13]

Garmin-AT subsidiary

Garmin expanded its presence in the aviation market in 2003 through acquisition of UPS Aviation Technologies, which included acquiring the latter's II Morrow Apollo line of aircraft MFD/GPS/NAV/COMM units product line. II Morrow was founded in Salem, Oregon in 1982 as a manufacturer of LORAN C marine and general aviation products. In 1982 its aircraft navigator 602 LORAN C receiver permitted point to point navigation. Some examples of its LORAN units are Apollo II 616B Aviation LORAN panel mount (1986), II Morrow Apollo 604 Loran Navigator (1987) and Apollo 820 GPS Flybuddy (1991). In 1986, United Parcel Service (UPS) purchased the company to expand the use of electronic technology in the package delivery and tracking business.

II Morrow shifted focus from marine business to development of package process automation technology for UPS such as vehicle management systems, automated high speed package sorting systems, as well as delivery and tracking systems. In 1999, II Morrow was renamed to UPS Aviation Technologies, and it was re-focused towards modernizing UPS' Boeing 7xx series Heavy Iron Transport Category Aircraft fleet, as well they also re-entered the general aviation marketplace. It certified the first Gamma 3 WAAS GPS engine for FAA Certified Precision GPS approaches. The new certified WAAS engine yielded vertical and horizontal accuracy of one meter RMS in guidance into airports without existing ILS approaches. This GPS technology met the FAA's TSO-C146a primary navigation standards for en route, terminal and approach phases of flight- with WAAS augmentation as the sole means of navigation. This primary GPS "sole source" navigation capability was integrated into the CNX-80. The CNX-80 WAAS GPS/COM/NAV integrated navigator was the first product in the industry approved for primary GPS navigation. It also enabled LPV "glidescope" approaches without requiring ground nav aids. New LNAV (GPS) approaches provide the accuracy and safety of an ILS – without the ground-based localizer and glideslope equipment. Later, the CNX-80 was renamed the GNS-480, under Garmin.

As UPS Aviation Technologies, this subsidiary was also fundamentally involved with development, engineering, and manufacturing functional products for the FAA's Capstone program, which also included ADS-B transponder (UAT and FIS), datalink services, and the MX-20 Multi Function Display that in addition to NAV, it displayed terrain, real-time weather, Jeppeson plates, other ADS-B aircraft, and a variety of other functions in 2000.

Under the FAA Capstone Phase I program, a fleet of small commercial aircraft were equipped for an evaluation of the safety benefits stemming from the use of advanced technologies during day-to-day operations in Alaska's high-risk operating environment. The aircraft are fitted with IFR capable GPS receivers, a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) data-link system that enables Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Flight Information Services (FIS) including real-time weather, and a multifunction display (MFD) depicting terrain, other ADS-B aircraft, and weather graphics and text data. These avionics was installed on 200 aircraft used for commuter, charter and mail flights in southwest Alaska.


The Garmin Vivofit 3 measures your steps, measures your sleep, judges your body movement, your heart rate, and number of stairs you've climbed.[13]

The Garmin Vivomove is a classic watch with an activity tracking capabilities. It has a built in accelerometer (calculates distance for indoor workouts, without need for a foot pod), step counter, auto goal (learns your activity level and assigns a daily step goal), move bar (displays on device after a period of inactivity; walk for a couple of minutes to reset it) and sleep monitoring capabilities.[13]

The Garmin Forerunner 735 XT features multi-sport tracking capabilities, built in heart rate sensor, and a variety of special profiles for jogging, swimming, cycling, skiing, paddle sports, a variety of weight loss activities, and even hiking. It comes with built-in GPS to track the location and to calculate the distance. The Strava Life Suffer Score app that shows how the heart rate on a special activity has been changing over time.[13]


Most current Garmin devices can display its current location on a map. The maps are vector-based and stored in the built-in memory or loaded from additional flash media. The built-in (or 'basemap') displays all country borders and major cities. Garmin offers different maps for purchase, including detailed road maps, topographic maps and nautical maps. Non-commercial maps are also available and can be displayed on most Garmin GPS devices.

The maps used by Garmin products are currently provided by Navteq.[13] Map errors are handled using Navteq Map Reporter.[13] Errors can be reported using Garmin's report a map error page,[13] or by using the Navteq map reporter.[13]

Sport sponsorship

In 2007 Garmin began sponsorship of English Premier League football club Middlesbrough in a one-year deal that was carried into a second year for the 2008/09 season.[13] In 2008 Garmin began sponsorship of cycling team Garmin-Sharp to promote its Edge line of bicycle computers.[13] In 2015, the team became Cannondale-Garmin.[14] In 2014 Garmin paired up with Premier League side Southampton FC in a global partnership. Garmin's European head office is located in Southampton.[14]

Corporate governance

Burrell retired in 2003 as Garmin’s chief executive officer and in 2004 retired as chairman of its board of directors. He is now chairman emeritus. Kao became CEO in 2003, and chairman in 2004.[14]

In 2005, Forbes estimated Kao’s net worth at $1.5 billion. He has donated $17.5 million to the University of Tennessee. The same year Forbes estimated Burrell’s net worth as $940 million.[14]


Garmin operates in several other countries besides the UK, USA, and Taiwan. It operates as Formar (Belgium), Garmin AMB (Canada), Belanor (Norway), and Trepat (Spain), and Garmin-Cluj (Romania).