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July 18, 2008

The way we live next 2008

ESPOO, Finland – Last October myself and a couple of coach loads of international journalists made our way up to Oulu in northern Finland. About 100km south of the Arctic circle, I thought it an odd place for a media event, until we found out what The Way We Live Next was all about. In short, it’s like a window on Nokia Research Centre (NRC), where the juicy future projects being worked on are rolled out for the
selected media to poke, prod and write about.

Lots of interesting stuff was shown off during the course of the two days and the most interesting I came across was the indoor positioning concept. Using WiFi and specially created maps, the devices we were issued with were running the software which enabled you to move through the NRC building and pinpoint exactly where you were. So, if the next presentation was in room 101, the device would simply, and quickly show you the way. It instantly made me think of the frustration of trying to get where I want in huge shopping centres – and I figured this had to be the perfect solution.

Of course, much of what we were shown was early stage R&D and few of the concepts have made their way into the real world. Most are, along with plenty of others, still being developed and worked on.

Dates for this year’s event have just been announced and it looks like we might need to book some time in our diaries for late September. No Arctic circle action this time, instead Espoo will host the event at the end of September and once again technology, strategy and innovation will be the order of the day. Shadow events will also be taking place in Palo Alto in October and China, though exact location and dates are still to be decided.

We’re constantly harping on about Nokia’s openness. Take recent major innovations such as the Symbian Foundation, Beta Labs drawing users into product development, and the recently announced Test Pilots program as prime examples.

Getting insight into the R&D labs is a fascinating experience, and has as much to do with Nokia’s openness as it does new innovations. One of the most insightful times I had last October was over a couple of beers with one of the NRC scientists. No, he didn’t reveal any trade secrets, but we did spend a lot of time talking about what it’s like being an engineer in NRC and the bit that struck me most was the passion he had for what he did. It was unbridled and I found it quite cool that the guy developing the stuff we’ll be using in the next five to 10 years is passionate and excited about it. And open too.

We can’t wait for September (hint, hint!).

Now, debate time. What would you like to see coming out of the NRC?

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