Nokia navigates toward a living and breathing interactive Big Data world map

7 Jun 2013

Pictured: Floris van de Klashorst, vice president of Connected Car at Nokia's Location & Commerce business unit in Berlin

Mobile phone maker Nokia is employing Big Data technologies to reinvent the map and develop a living and breathing interactive mapping system for cars and mobile devices that adds new information in real-time, Nokia’s vice president of Connected Car told

Nokia vice president Floris van de Klashorst explained that the mobile giant sees its HERE Connected Driving solution as the forerunner of a more horizontal spread of location-based offerings and that already its existing mapping systems – used in 80pc of cars with in-dash navigation – are pretty close to the vision in mind.

“Our map is built out of 180 layers of content. We process about 2.7m changes in the map every day.

“We get about 100m positioning requests per month and we process about 20bn GPS probes per month. There are a lot of Big Data analytics within the platform that are focused on using and analysing the real-time data and making sure that the data arrives on the map and to our partner pipeline at the highest speed and quality,” van de Klashorst said.

He explained that Nokia’s HERE strategy is accelerating and that the company has consolidated its NAVTEQ division, which Nokia acquired for US$8.1bn in 2007, with its Nokia Services group into a 7,000-person division whose primary focus is on building high quality mapping and location services and deploying it into a global, tiered cloud.

“We are really reinventing the map and building the next generation of interactive maps. A living map with all the activity such as people, cars, planes, buses and trains moving on it as well as 3D buildings that are clickable as well as bringing this information to bear in navigation in cars or in the pocket of the pedestrian.”

Redrawing the map

A big part of the HERE vision involves taking in real-time information such as if there was a car accident or a bridge has collapsed to more commercial information that could lead a motorist or a pedestrian to a store or coffee shop.

“Everything we do is location-centric and we invest heavily in innovation. “It is very important that we have a horizontal charter and ensure that our services are equally available to everybody across all screens.

“We have come a long way already – 80pc of cars that have navigation use Nokia technology. Also services like Bing, Yahoo! and Kindle base their location services n our technology and platform.

“Our horizontal strategy gives us the ability to build more scale and drive usage data back to the various platforms and through analytics we can improve experiences.”

Van de Klashorst also said that much of the HERE division’s work feeds into the development of new Nokia smartphones, including Windows Phone devices.

“In this way we have the ability to influence hardware and spearhead new innovations on devices. We don’t build cars but we do build phones so the interplay between hardware and software is of vital importance to us and foremost in our mind is how can we optimise that.”

He said the influence of Big Data on existing and future mapping products and the idea of a living, breathing interactive map of everything isn’t quite science-fiction when you consider the current bidding war between Google and Yahoo! for Waze, the Israel-based GPS mapping service that overlays social media data to create digital communities.

“For years, if you look at the automotive industry, one of the issues was dealing with maps that went out of date because new roads were built or bridges demolished.

“But what we do is provide updates not only every quarter but eventually weekly and daily updates. Our partner pipeline is optimized for the high amount of probe data for traffic and literally we make millions of changes every day and we are churning out new maps.

“The key is the frequency and freshness of that data. A way of addressing that is with high priority updates – if there is a critical change like a road is closed – we have the architecture to patch that data and still have the map active by sending a few kilobytes over the air so that the critical changes can be done at a lower frequency depending on the use case,” van de Klashorst said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years