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Nokia introduces Here, a cross-platform location platform with live rendering, sophisticated 3D models, and personal search

News by Andrew Kameka on Tuesday November 13, 2012.

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Nokia today announced Here, an expansion of its mapping services into an integrated product that delivers more than 120TB of location data to smartphones. Encompassing map data and use cases across multiple devices, Here aims to be as much about personalized search and "sensing" a user's surroundings as it is learning how to get to a location.

Here is a "dashboard for your life," as Nokia VP of UX Peter Skillman put it, with a focus on maps that meet the user's personal needs at any given moment. It is an improved map application that provides 3D renders, navigation, personal collections, and display formats that best suit the user or use case. Among the many things Here is capable of accomplishing, it can:

- Search for specific businesses or types of places
- Search for directions according to walking, car, or public transit
- Create incredibly-detailed 3D maps that can filter data based on user demands
- See how live traffic information affects commute
- Render maps live on a device whether online or offline.

Here is a big push from Nokia to switch from the traditional tile-based map models to one that is more flexible, faster, and has a more content-rich, interactive model. CEO Stephen Elop notes that the company has more than 80,000 data sources and multiple app uses in Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transport, and Nokia Lens. Its map data also appears in 4 out of 5 in-dash car navigation systems and is the backbone of Rand-McNally, Yahoo Maps, and bing Maps. The company has seen more than 75x times as much of its map services increase in the past year, and Here will be the way to make location data more valuable.

"Maps and location experiences should bring places to life...they should inspire us to sense our world," Elop said at the unveiling of Here.

Nokia merges LIDAR with satellite imagery and street-level photography to create 3D models that provide a sense of depth. Nokia acquired earthmine, a mapping company that drives through city streets to take street-level photos, as a way to make its maps more sophisticated. A demonstration of shows detailed 3D maps that can fluidly be navigated from aerial or street views in ways that are comparable to Google Maps and Apple Maps Flyover feature in the latest version of iOS. It can then incorporate business and venue data to explore a local area.

Here uses a hybrid rendering system that mixes offline settings and cloud data. The system uploads data from the user - such as a request for navigation or a view of the best parks - and then locally calculates how to best show the map. Nokia can create maps by rendering 60 frames per second, deliver on-demand maps and navigation offline, and use low bandwidth. It takes 12GB for the entire world, or 2GB for entire U.S. map data, so cities can be narrowed down to double-digit MB's depending on the size.

Here maintains freshness by looking at 2.7 million daily updates and more than 12 billion live updates it receives each month. The signals allow Nokia to notice when its maps need to be updated. For instance, Nokia showed a map on one October day that highlights driving activity. On the following day, activity suddenly split to an area outside of its database, signaling that a new road has opened up that requires Nokia to revisit the area and update its map.

The signals will get stronger with the expansion of Here beyond just Nokia Windows Phone Lumia devices. Nokia announced that Here, in some capacity, will arrive for Android and iOS as well. The Here SDK for Android will be available for Android manufacturers who want to create a new map experience that includes Nokia's data for directions, transit information, live traffic views, and abstract city models. Here Maps will arrive for iOS in the form of an HTML5 app in a few weeks, though Nokia says it will act as a native app by accessing some device features. Here for iOS will include voice-guided walking navigation, live traffic views, and driving or transit directions (no voice guidance). Nokia will also work Firefox to bring Here to Firefox OS.

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Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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