Nokia Maps Digitises Streets To Battle Google’s Threat
Nokia smells an opportunity. Maps have become one of the most closely-watched battlegrounds in tech after a user-backlash led Apple to apologise for the quality of its iOS6 Maps update.
The Finnish firm quickly capitalised by beating Google to the release of a native maps app for iPhones and iPads. Giving away a product that cost millions of dollars to create to owners of a rival’s products might seem like an odd business decision, but behind it lies a critical point. If Nokia’s 25-year-old mapping business is to survive the evolution from dedicated sat-nav systems to smart devices it needs to secure as much feedback data as it can. That means attempting to woo smartphone and tablet users with a series of innovations.
“As people use their devices we can see for example where searches are done or where people are tweeting with their friends about a restaurant or a nightclub,” Cliff Fox, Nokia’s Chicago-based senior vice president of location content tells the BBC. “So we are able to generate heat maps that show areas of activity that might be interesting.
Nokia is also investing in a fleet of True cars to help face off the challenge posed by Google’s more famous Street View vehicles.
The True cars are fitted with a range of sensors including high-precision cameras and an inertial measurement unit which measures the slope of each road – a feature which could allow trucking companies to identify the least hilly routes in order to cut fuel costs.
But the critical feature is a rotating sensor called Lidar (light detection and ranging) which uses 64 lasers to capture 1.3 million points of digital information every second of each vehicle’s journey.
“The lasers bounce off any reflective surface that allows us to capture lane markings [which use reflective paint], it shows us the exact location of road signs and it also allows us to capture the world in 3D,” explains Mr Fox. “That’s the primary purpose… we are able to create at street-level a digital representation of the real world.”
Nokia intends to offer a computer-created graphics-based version of the planet by combining Lidar-collected data with colour information gathered by panoramic cameras.
Read more at BBC News Technology