Nokia wants to become the default location services provider for Microsoft products and expects eventually to combine all of its new location-based services into one, unified experience.
The Finnish company’s new location services include a check-in service called Pulse, a route recorder tool called Tracks and augmented reality product called LiveView.
Christof Hellmis, vice-president for location and commerce at Nokia, says the company is already providing services to Microsoft’s search engine, Google rival Bing. He says part of Nokia’s agreement with Bing is that Microsoft will its location-based offerings to Nokia.
With so many other check-in services on the market, some of which — like 4Square — have already gained traction, is Nokia assuming that because its equivalent service, Pulse, is built in to new devices consumers will use it simply because it’s integrated?
“I think Pulse is a different service. Pulse is essentially about addressing the social aspects around location,” says Hellmis. He says users can attach images to their ‘pulses’, in addition to the ability to use it in conjunction with chat or messaging services.
“Services like 4Square are essentially about gaming and broadcasting. Pulse is about small group communications,” Hellmis says. “We don’t believe in the group broadcast model.”
Hellmis says users’ privacy was taken very seriously in the design of Pulse. In a move reminiscent of the recent privacy changes to Facebook, and the model Google+ uses, “users must decide which group to ‘pulse’ something into.”
He describes Pulse as a “horizontal service” — it is intended to work on all except the most basic Nokia devices in future. Horizontal integration is an essential element of any social service, he says.
Nokia is considering expanding the functionality of Pulse by offering a mobile browser version or even SMS-based service for low-end models. Hellmis says the increasing prevalence of HTML5 support in handsets is also expected to help uptake and the range of devices upon which the service can work.
HTML5 will become important for mapping in allowing for the overlay of additional data efficiently and making the service available on a wide range of devices.
Another of Nokia’s new services, Track, which records routes using GPS and allows users to augment the route with information or images as well as share it with others, is “built on everyday use cases, from your daily commute to outdoor weekend activities”.
“We believe that eventually all of these [location] services will overlap and become integrated,” says Hellmis. “Users may want Tracks and navigation and the ability to send a pulse, and eventually they’ll be able to do each seamlessly. It’s about making places ‘referenceable’, from city streets, to mountain paths.”
Nokia’s augmented reality service, LiveView, overlays reference data on a live image from a user’s camera and offers points-of-interest information and user-generated data.
“Users can also offer corrections, create new places and match and merge their own information with content from our partners,” says Hellmis.
Nokia acquired mapping company Navteq in 2007 for US$8,1bn. Hellmis says that although in at the time mapping was still driven by the automotive industry, today it is “moving from car-centric to seamless daily use across various modes of transport”.
Any mapping service is, however, only as good as its updates, and Hellmis says “use is the greatest source of data”. As part of the licence agreement, users must allow Nokia to collect “anonymous traffic data”. The company recently began offering live traffic data in SA.
Nokia says it is this “use” data that allows the company to constantly update and improve the service. “It’s what makes the asset useful, and it’s how we keep the service free.”
The company is clearly hoping location-based services, and how it integrates and updates them will help get users back who may have abandoned the company’s devices for alternatives like Android.
“Location services are one of these phenomena that are extremely hyped at the moment and that will only become more pervasive in future,” Hellmis says. “There’s a unique chance for Nokia to shape that future. Location offerings are only one of our differentiators, but they are one of the most important ones.” — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
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