Nokia maps out strategy to compete with Google

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Nokia is hoping its first foray into digital maps for mobile phones won’t be a rotten Apple like a certain other competitor’s attempts to challenge Google’s map monopoly.

The Finnish firm seized on the opportunity provided by the troubled launch of Apple Maps to try and be the best new Nokia Maps app for iPhones and iPads.

Although Nokia is providing its multi-million pound product to one of its biggest rivals free of charge, the deal should still be a big boost for them. The Nokia Map App should dramatically increase the company’s market exposure, as well as providing it with a substantial amount of data from the activities of Apple’s highly mobile, affluent customer base.

The colour of money

One reason customer data is vital is because it can provide live information relating to traffic hot spots. Nokia can establish how busy the roads are by looking at the GPS and movement readings from users’ phones, as well as other Nokia-powered sat-nav systems. Traffic news is only one of many potential uses for the data in the future

Perhaps even more importantly for Nokia’s future in this area is the upcoming ‘Living Maps’ feature. The Finnish telecoms giant is able to take information from the social postings on smartphones to form a picture of how busy particular areas are for different types of leisure activities. This information will then be displayed use colour-coding on the Nokia Maps apps.

One way that the app is expected to work well is to assist party-goers when they are having a night on the tiles so they can look up to see where the buzzy areas are located. Of course, it can also work the other way, and help for those looking for that elusive quiet drink.

The key thing for Nokia is that as many devices as possible link to its app, so users generate detailed activity reports. In addition to the Apple deal, the company has succeeded in securing default map apps presence on Windows Phone handsets, Windows 8 computers and Amazon’s Kindle tablets.

Motoring on

Nokia has invested in more armoury in its duel with Google as well. It has built up a fleet of True cars to fuel a challenge against Google’s world famous Street View vehicles.

The hi-tech vehicles are equipped with a whole battery of sensors to add to the customary high-precision cameras. Uniquely the cars also have an inertial measurement unit that provides road gradient readings. There is a fair amount of scope for this gadget. Trucking companies could use it to calculate how to avoid hilly routes and cut fuel costs. Lazy cyclists, such as myself, could find their lives easier as they battle to avoid the hills of death that seem to lie around every turn.

Of course, Nokia would not be true to itself if it had not pulled something veritably more fancy out the bag. With LIDAR, a rotating sensor, the Finns have once again shown their ability to be at the forefront of modern technology. The sensor uses 64 lasers to capture 1.3 million points of digital information every second. Thus in an hour it captures…enough information to make me wish I had a calculator. Anyway, the bouncing lasers combine to pick up a variety of details, including the location of road signs, and build up a 3D picture of the streets.

In contrast, Google’s Street View uses photographic renditions to give its portrait of the world. The advantage of Nokia’s graphic portrayal is that it can be altered according to the users tastes. Thus a more content rich version can be offered to ambling pedestrians, whilst car users would benefit from a more stripped-down version that nevertheless includes representations of road signs to assist with directions.

Further benefits, such as graphic manipulation, can help users tweak imagery. This can include revealing otherwise hidden areas by making certain buildings transparent.

Nokia still has a way to go on its journey to map app dominance, but you could do a lot worse than try out their new technology.

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