Mobile World Congress News: Nokia’s vision of a location based future

Mobile World Congress News:  Nokia’s vision of a location based future

Mark Selby is an inspiration for all of us trying to figure out what the mobile market is about and where it’s going.

Selby’s ideas of the way things are connected involve NFC in the freight industry and the home, mobile payment, map tagging and tourism on mobile. If you don’t see the link, then you need to listen to him speak at the next Telematics Update conference.

Collaborative data provision is central to Mark’s argument. From RFID data circulated in the supply chain to the chip sending information to the end consumer, Mark sees the world overlaid with a large volume of data coming from products, assets, and, most importantly, people.

The mobile phone is, of course, central to that network as the receiver (as in the case of mobile payment) as well as the source (e.g. when using social networks). As the personalisation of that data increases, so does its value.

Geo-tagging is just another building block in creating more valuable information circulating on the mobile web.

How are we doing now and how far are we from being able to generate sufficient information on that web of located people for the data to be worth something – to advertisers, for instance?

Selby has an answer to this. When the world’s analysts talk about hundreds of millions of GPS-equipped phones by 2010 or later, he simply states that Nokia expects to sell 37 million GPS phones by the end of this year.

What will people do with their GPS-enabled phones?

Firstly, they will be able to use the second generation of maps about which Navteq has been very vocal (although Nokia still buys maps from Tele Atlas as well). The maps will enable people to use navigation while they are walking anywhere; not so much for determining their route, but more for finding places and shops as well as populating their own map with their own information, including picture and background information about a place depending on their interest.

Selby sees this as the creation of an urban tapestry that will overlay on the reality we see in front of us.

In order to get there, the first hurdle is improving the quality of the map. This means mass adoption pushing for more investment in more precise maps. The providers are still ahead of the demand at this stage, but people need to realise the value of these new maps so the demand grows faster in order to sustain the level of investment into new maps.

The next step is to nurturedevelopers into creating great apps; 3.5 million are already part ofthe Nokia developer forum. These people will provide us with ways to transform the usage of maps like Blogger changed the way people posted information on the web.

Selby sees the beginning of tribal activities mixing the use of mobile social networking, map mashups and geo-tagging. This can lead to people mapping skateable pavements in their town and sharing it with anybody else interested, who can then add information to the map as well as things like music-related POI whereby a location is related to background information related to an artist living, dying or having done something special there.

Suddenly your map becomes a 4th dimension enabling you to look back at where you are and understand what happened where.

Tourism is not the only application for this idea; the technology can have real social benefits.

In Japan, where the population is rapidly growing older, health and homecare applications have been developed to support the elderly and give them rapid access to paramedics or other services using their phones. In the tests, Polar Electro, one of the biggest manufacturers of heart rate monitors, linked the data taken from a sensor in a watch and relayed it through the Nokia 5140 to whoever needed it by text message.

Once the test phase is concluded and successful, one billion Nokia phones in the world could make such application (like healthcare) instantaneously ubiquitous.

Following on that line, Selby added that Nokia’s ubiquity in the world means that the company can provide or enable providers to give access to most city guides, digital cameras or FM radios in the world. The last barrier for all these people to use those tools and create this ideal 4th dimensional tapestry is the operators’ willingness to pushunlimited data plans.

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