Nokia seeks to link the What-Who-Where through mobility
With a renewed focus on consumers, Nokia is now entering a new era by driving greater engagement of users with their mobile devices. Interestingly, having placed its bets on the Windows Phone platform, the plan is to tie content, people and location together.
Even as we sit down to talk at Nokia’s sea facing office looking over the Dubai Marina skyline, Praveen Prabhakaran, Head of Developer Experience, Middle East, Nokia Corporation, asks me to name my favourite restaurant from hotel towers I was looking at. He then points his camera towards the window and tells me to look at the display screen.
The image looks better than what the eye can see, with each restaurant located at the distance literally mapped out on the screen, clickable and complete with information drop downs. That’s the new world of location based mobility – built to drive consumer experiences by integrating the physical world with the digital through the phone. Certainly, there’s more where that came from.
The mobile phone according to Prabhakaran is in the middle of all the action today and for Nokia it’s a perfect dovetail of its consumer as well as business focused initiatives. “We have always tracked consumers and their activities with their mobile devices and with Nokia now having committed itself to the Windows Phone platform, experiences for users can be seamless,” he shares.
Windows Phone to offer powerful experience
The key to the strategy is the fact that seamless integration between Windows 8 (set for launch soon) and Windows Phones with a common OS kernel that can truly drive an interconnected, multi-device and multi-screen experience. It also offers a natural progression for PC users to migrate to the Windows Phone or tablet and with Nokia’s future investments completely on this platform we can expect strong movement.
The Windows Phone platform itself has been seeing strong upward movement with the application ecosystem showing steady growth. “Close to 100,000 apps have been added for the platform in an eight month period making it the fastest growing mobile ecosystem today and combined with a heavy installed base of Nokia customers it looks really good,” Prabhakaran tells me.
What makes mobility so important?
Mobile ecosystems and platforms set aside, I ask him what makes mobility the biggest buzzword of the industry today? From what he tells me, it appears that mobility has been able to link the What-Who and Where of the internet together. Let me explain.
“The ‘What’ perspective is about knowing what is out there on the internet, driven mainly through web-based search. With social networking, people began to define the “who” on the web and finally with context aware and location based information we are able to define the ‘where’ factor.
“With content, social networking merging together on the mobile, it is today the only device that can effectively plug in the location context as well to fully engage the customer,” he emphasises.
I couldn’t agree more.
Looking beyond, the real opportunity lies in the fact that this potent combination of content, people and location can be layered with services at every level.
Nokia wants to own its services
Having firmed up its strategy for content and location based services; Nokia is now moving quickly to cement its position in the game. This will hinge on capabilities and technology the company has been developing and acquiring over the past few months.
As a company Nokia says it has the strength to own its location services and this has three layers – Content layer (developed by mapping the entire globe) which makes the system richer; mapping human activity and linking it to positions and points of exit and entry and finally navigation.
Having acquired Navteq, the supplier of automotive maps for GPS navigation, Nokia’s Windows Phones will now adopt this strategy in a big way. “Today Nokia Navteq maps have the highest standards and players like Yahoo, Bing are already using this. Nokia plans to rely more on our strength instead of depending heavily on user generated mapping,” he says.
With over 196 countries already mapped and over 100 ready for voice guided navigation, Nokia supports over 50 languages for navigation. By linking users to locations, the platform can actually feed and create information based on user traffic. This analysis will then feed back to create relevant links and applications based on the Nokia Location Platform which is also central to the overall strategy.
Prabhakaran is quick to add that as of today, Nokia already has five applications that are ready based on this platform including:
- Nokia maps 2D, 3D and satellite views available on the web and mobile and automotive
- Nokia Drive navigation which can offer offline navigation and walking navigation on a global level.
- Nokia Transport: public transport services covered in 500 cities globally to help commuters plan journeys
- Nokia City Lens: A beta augmented reality application using Nokia maps and the location platform to connect content together
- Nokia Pulse: a social networking application that allows users to tag their location
Ready for revolution or an evolution?
So where do we go from here? According to Nokia the next step is to use this layer of content and location to layer offers to entice consumer activity and eventually transactions.
“We offer APIs to developers to take our location data and make their application augmented reality ready. The next stage will be to move towards NFC (near field communication), a technology that makes transactions through the mobile possible,” he says.
Although Nokia’s new smartphones are NFC enabled, the industry still needs to wait a while before we see a tangible outcome to this technology. But it’s got the whole industry thinking on how adding this piece can re-define the consumer experience.
“NFC is far more complex because it involves multiple players to be in place before you can actually tap your phone and pay for that coffee. In the meantime however, there’s plenty for the tech savvy and gadget hungry market to watch for,” Prabhakaran says.
While he’s still keeping his plan for GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK 2012 under wraps, Nokia’s participation at the show is certainly expected to give us a glimpse into the future of mobility. We can’t wait to catch up.