Nokia may not be limiting itself to handheld devices for long, with plans of a much loftier goal now surfacing, according to GigaOM. Nokia’s Executive Vice President of Location and Commerce, Michael Halbherr, reportedly said that the company is now considering an expansion in the automotive industry with some form of connected car platform in the future.
Nokia already has a considerable presence in the automobile market. The company currently provides maps for navigation systems through its Navteq group, which along with the rest of the company’s location services was recently renamed Here. Now the company is planning to add more complex connected car and infotainment services to its existing portfolio, according to Halbherr.
While talking about this to the source, the Nokia executive said, “Historically we’ve supplied content to the automotive industry – first maps and now traffic. As more cars get connected we have the opportunity to move up the stack from a content player to a platform player to a services player.”
Nokia's traffic operations centre in Chicago (Image credit:gigaOM)
What kind of system does the company have in mind, you might ask? While Halbherr was scarce on details, according to the source, he did say there would be more details surfacing shortly in the near future. The executive did say that the company was aiming beyond the car’s dashboard to the realm of autonomous or driverless vehicle technology. In addition, the Finnish company was also looking at integrating cars into a larger transportation and smart city network. This seems to be similar to what Ford was earlier reported researching on.
Nokia is reportedly looking at cars that can not only direct or drive you to your destination by the fastest possible route, but also send you on routes that can minimise carbon emissions, co-ordinate with traffic congestion and management systems being worked on in large cities and even integrate with public transport systems to help take people through cities. According to Halbherr, in the future, connected cars will not only be able to give you data about the best time to drive, but negate the need to physically drive altogether.
While talking to the source, the Nokia executive kept bringing up Nokia’s map applications. Halbherr said that while maps were integral to navigation systems, the scope for growth is much more. According to him, most of the connected car’s most promising applications depend on location. And maps help to give data that can be compared with other real-time sensor information and data from other connected vehicles while traveling.
In order to do that, a car will use a map not only to plot out its own location but also the location of objects around it. According to the report, the Finnish company already has plans to integrate virtual information with its maps feature. And it doesn’t end there, as the company plans to not only let users access this via an app interface but also wants to project it into the driver’s field of vision through augmented reality technologies like the company’s City Lens. This basically means that maps will make connected cars run. Nokia may face some competition on the mapping front, though. Its biggest competitor will obviously be Google. Over the last year, the search giant has established itself as the overlord of the interactive street map world. The combination of Google Maps and Streetview has ensured that Google has one of the most sophisticated navigation and location based service in the world. And the company is also not afraid to expand via acquisitions, more recently the crowdsourced traffic startup Waze.
That being said, it should be noted that Nokia still has a huge mapping operation. The company reportedly makes 2.7 million individual changes to its global maps everyday, according to Halbherr. And the apps provided, like Nokia Here mapping and Drive turn-by-turn navigation apps, are now commonplace on most Lumia handsets and are also available for iOS and Android.
The company also has traffic operations centres in North America and Europe that utilise roadside sensors, crowdsourced data from Here apps and even live traffic camera feeds to give real-time information to navigation companies and car makers globally. Nokia is clear that maps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a connected car. The company, thanks to its relationship with Microsoft, comes with an OS that is well known to automakers. Companies like Ford already make use of embedded versions of the Windows OS to work its infotainment systems. And the transition for Nokia to automotive OS should not be a difficult one. How the Finnish company will be able to shape up against the likes of Google or Apple is a good question. Audi has reportedly joined hands with Google Maps while many others have roped in Apple’s Siri Eyes Free voice interface, according to the source.