Highlights from the annual Mobile World Congress, Google creates some Buzz, NAVTEQ launched Enhanced 3D City Models, and more …

Highlights from the annual Mobile World Congress, Google creates some Buzz, NAVTEQ launched Enhanced 3D City Models, and more …

By Andrew Tolve

Thousands of mobile companies descended on Barcelona, Spain, for the annual Mobile World Congress, from February 15th to 18th. The Congress was a celebration of innovative mobile solutions, a discussion of industry challenges and opportunities, and a forum for mobile companies to unveil new phones and platforms. Among the highlights were two new phones from Samsung, the Samsung Wave and the Samsung [email protected]; a new phone from Motorola, the Zeppelin; and a new phone and smartphone software from Microsoft, the Windows Phone 7 series.

“There is no question in our minds that we needed and wanted to do some things that were out-of-the-box and clearly differentiated from our past,” Steve Balmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, told Congress delegates. “In a crowded market filled with phones that look the same and do the same things, I challenged the team to deliver a different kind of mobile experience. Windows Phone 7 Series marks a turning point toward phones that truly reflect the speed of people’s lives and their need to connect to other people and all kinds of seamless experiences.”

The new Microsoft series includes the Windows Phone 7, whose features range from a hardware button for Bing to so-called “Windows Phone Hubs,” which collect related content from the Web, applications, and services into one of six hubs. Similarly, Microsoft’s new smartphone software arranges tasks—like email, photos, and music—around a number of large and intuitive icons on a phone’s userface. Though the software represents a marked change from Microsoft’s previous Windows Mobile line, Microsoft will continue to charge for the software, unlike Google and Apple, which offer their operating software for free.

Another highlight of the Congress was the announcement of the Wholesale Applications Community, or WAC, a new mobile app alliance among 24 mobile companies aimed to rival Apple’s App Store, Android’s Marketplace, and Blackberry’s app store. The alliance will include Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, and T-Mobile.

Toyota

Still reeling from its major recall of the 2010 Prius, Toyota announced plans to install new brake-override systems in all future Toyota models. The problem with the Prius stemmed from the car’s regenerative braking system software, which caused a slight delay in brake response on bumpy surfaces. Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, acknowledged that his company is investigating new reports of steering problems in the Toyota Corolla and will issue another recall if a defect is found. That recall would be the company’s third in two months.

BG selects MiX Telematics

BG Group, the integrated natural gas company, selected MiX Telematics to supply vehicle telematics systems for BG’s worldwide vehicle fleet. MiX Telematics’s Fleet Manager system presents managers with comprehensive data on driver and vehicle performance, visible through an online portal called FM-Web. MiX Telematics also will provide the natural gas giant with consultants to manage all aspects of its fleet management, the stated goal being to optimize performance and driver safety.

Google Buzz

Google unveiled a new social networking site called Buzz that allows users to post updates, load photos, and share video. The site is seamlessly incorporated into the popular gmail platform and likely will pose a real threat to popular social media sites like Facebook. Google announced that Buzz mobile software applications would soon be available on Android platforms and on the Nexus One.

UK launches a new space program

Britain is set to adopt plans for a new Space Innovation and Growth program that will, among other things, launch a new constellation of satellites into outer space. The program constitutes a 20-year strategy to transform Britain’s space industry into a £40-billion-a-year business. If adopted by UK ministers, the plan will aim to create 100,000 new jobs by 2030. Britain currently ranks a paltry 21st in space-funding nations.

NAVTEQ

NAVTEQ, the leading global provider of digital map, traffic, and location data for in-vehicle solutions, announced the launch of NAVTEQ TrafficT in the United Kingdom. Traffic T will provide real-time traffic coverage to all major cities in the UK and will add complementary data sources including GPS data from commercial fleets and consumer devices. The UK launch expands NAVTEQ’s real-time traffic European coverage to nearly 400,000 kilometers of total coverage, across 35 major cities in 13 European countries.

At the Mobile World Congress NAVTEQ also introduced Enhanced 3D City Models. The program adds texture and colors to cityscapes so that they appear more authentic and thus more helpful to those using navigation systems. For instance, buildings in the foreground of a projection can be made transparent so as to reveal in detail what lies around the next corner.Additionally, the program provides system developers with a range of customization options on functions such as texture and camera perspective, which can be used to differentiate products and brands.“Insights from consumer research indicate that people understand visual cues very differently when driving or walking and this led to much of the innovative design in Enhanced 3D City Models,” says Frank Pauli, vice president EMEA map & content products at NAVTEQ. “We are focusing on how consumers process visual information in order to develop more intuitive navigation for both drivers and pedestrians.”

Enhanced 3D City Models is now available in Western Europe with further expansion across the continent and into Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America planned for later this year. The product has also been launched in the United States.


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