LONDON, United Kingdom – They say real estate is all about three words: Location, location, location. And if Thom Brenner, VP Applications, Location and Commerce, doesn’t know exactly where Nokia is, nobody does. He’s Nokia’s go-to person for location services, and he revealed to us that he not only knows where Nokia is, but he also knows where its new Lumia phones are taking us.
At Nokia World, he said: “We’re trying to help you capture your footprint on the Earth, and make it easier to tell people where you are, or that you arrived safely, or that you’re somewhere and would like to meet them.”
He explained that Nokia’s new Lumia phones are taking apps to whole new level, by looking what’s out there and creating a whole new “super app” or suite of software that combines various functions seamlessly into one experience.
It was impressive enough that the new Lumia phones would have a free in-car navigation system including turn-by-turn instructions. That alone would save users $30 for software of the same quality.
But after talking to Brenner, it was clear Nokia’s ambitions go much further.
He gave us a fascinating tour of the future, aided by Nokia Maps and it makes the journey just as much fun as the destination.
Brenner revealed Nokia is working on making Nokia Maps the best location search engine in the market by making context, personal relevance and privacy paramount.
Currently, we search for something with an engine which typically gives us a link with some text.
But Brenner wants to provide Nokia users with access to a far richer picture by making your phone collect and process data about the real world in real time, as it travels everywhere with you.
As you engage with your environment, so will your phone, like a sixth sense. And when you stop at any point, your Nokia display will be ready to tell you anything about that exact location.
But, more importantly, it will tell you stuff that it has learned you will want to know.
Nokia phones will use every sensor available on the handset to build a contextually relevant picture. That means geographical coordinates, its altitude, whether it’s facing north or south, or anywhere in between. And it will do all this without you constantly having to open up this or that app, because it will make all of this functionality work together like a team.
As Brenner says, the future isn’t about databases and search engines providing loads of links, it’s about being personal and relevant.
And here are some examples:
Live View – an augmented reality app. When it comes to looking for things around you, such as ATMs or a bar, in the real world you use your eyes to look for one. Live View uses your built-in compass and GPS receiver to understand where your phone is and which way it’s pointing.
Using the camera view-finder, you scan the local environment and points of interest will appear on your screen and in the location of where they are situated. So, as you turn the phone from left to right, icons will appear and disappear from view. It’s as if someone is making notes for you on buildings.
But the way this is headed, in the not too distant future, once your phone has logged your searches, say for Pizza deals, and realizes you are mad about quality Italian food at the best price, it will have worked out the best place for you to go at your destination. And it will be highlighted in Live View.
Above the location, in the augmented reality image, the information will say something like: Mo’s Pizza, 2 for 1 deal, five stars. One click and the app is giving you directions and even how many tables are available or asking you if you want to book.
Behind that simple piece of information, Live View has been scurrying around between respected sites like Trip Advisor to check that the restaurant is up to scratch. It might also have visited sites listing special offers, as well as simple geographical lists of restaurants. And it will have accessed these other Nokia apps included in the suite, where relevant.
Nokia Pulse lets you tell your friends and family exactly where you are, using the GPS built into your smartphone. This is different to other check-in services, you can target the check-ins to specific people rather than the whole planet. Not everybody wants to know where you are, so tell only the people who do. Importantly, it will also protect your privacy, after all you don’t want anyone and everyone to know where you are. Especially burglars, when you are away from home.
Nokia Pulse will also be great for business meetings, because it will identify a person you have never met before, even showing a picture of them to assist you.
For those who frequently use public transport, getting from A to B can be a challenge, as public transport is sometimes unreliable. You can now navigate to anywhere you want, using the Public Transport app on your Nokia smartphone. Using GPS to find your location and the Internet to pull in transport data, finding your way around town will never been easier
If you’re looking to discover new places in an instant, Places does just that. Open this app and it will instantly show you what’s around, offering little pieces of information about the local points of interest.
What’s perhaps even more amazing about these quality apps, is that Nokia is giving them away and they’re ready to download today. Head over to the Nokia Beta Labs and download the Nokia Maps Suite.
Another app that’s not ready for public testing yet, but will be available soon is Nokia Tracks.
Again, it uses GPS to find your location but also records the altitude of where you are and the speed at which you’re traveling, with the ability to track and record your entire journey.
This app is aimed at non-urban environments – 80 per cent of the world – where it’s difficult to map the terrain, instead your phone can be used to help you get around in rural surroundings.
With the sharing capabilities, you can then go on to help others, too. By adding altitude into the equation, your phone can pinpoint more or less exactly where you are on the planet.
To give an example, let’s say a typical GPS system has told you that you need to be at a cafe with horizontal co-ordinates x and y.
You get to that location and find you are at the top of the cliff. Looking down, you realize that the cafe is at the bottom of the cliff. If the co-ordinates you were given had factored in altitude, it would have worked out that you needed to be there and taken you a whole different route.
It’s this kind of quest, to take Nokia’s app services to the next level, driven by people like Thom Brenner, that made us realize Nokia’s Lumia phones aren’t just heading in the right direction, they have pretty much arrived.
And soon our phones will play an even more vital role in helping us understand the world around us. We can’t wait. Can you?