Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nokia N97 finally available, and at a discount

Nokia N97 finally available! Save $97 at Amazon by clicking here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nokia Friend View 2.0: Social Route Planning?

Nokia Friend View is definitely one of the cooler mobile location-based applications, maintaining a list of friends (similar to social networks) and showing you on a map where all your friend are.

Nokia Friend View is released by Nokia Beta Labs, so Nokia will probably release a Nokia Friend View 2.0, and then (if it's well received) will either release NFV as its own application, or integrate its functionality into another Nokia application.

The obvious target for ultimate integration is Nokia Maps. But what will Nokia add in NFV 2.0?

A new patent application may give us the answer: Social Route Planning. The patent covers a method of finding a route between two sources (like all GPS systems do) while taking into account where your friends are. The patent relates to three categories of people: people you don't know, people who are "familiar strangers," and people who are friends. Presumably an implementation would be designed to get you from point A to point B, seeing friends along the way, and avoiding the people you want to avoid.

When will this be out? The patent application obviously gives no indication, but judging from how Nokia Beta Labs usually operates, we hope to see social route planning in Nokia Friend View 2.0 sometime in March 2009.

What do you think of Social Route Planning? Would you use it? What features would you want included?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bob Iannucci sacked for trying to move Nokia R&D out of Finland

This just out from the media in Finland...

Sacked Bob Iannucci attempted to move Nokia R&D out of Finland

The former Chief Technical Officer and Head of the Nokia Research Center Bob Iannucci, whose departure from the mobile phone manufacturer was announced at the end of September, apparently planned to move the research & development facility away from Finland.

The company's senior management did not warm to the idea, and this was allegedly part of the reason for his downfall within Nokia.

The news is based on information collected by Helsingin Sanomat from a number of independent sources.

Iannucci was appointed to the CTO position only at the beginning of this year, but had led the Research Center since 2005.

Around 450 people work at the Research Center in Finland. Though the facility is located in the Ruoholahti district of Helsinki, Iannucci based himself in Palo Alto in California.

Late in September it was announced that Iannucci would be leaving the company for personal reasons, effective immediately.

Formally he is to remain as an adviser to Nokia on "key technology issues", but in practice it appears he has been sacked or forced to tender his resignation.

Iannucci's management methods reportedly caused much consternation and bad blood among Nokia staffers.

Many of his close colleagues found it impossible to get on with him. There have been claims that he was unable to listen to the opinions of others, and it was alleged he made precipitate decisions that many felt were damaging to Nokia's R&D activities.

The word was passed up the chain to Nokia's top management. Relations with the Executive Board remained sound at least in the early stages, as Iannucci was said to be a good performer and it has always been acknowledged that he has a very profound understanding of mobile phone technology.

Under his leadership, R&D activity was expanded vigorously in California while units elsewhere were shut down.

The overall staff complement in research and development was cut by half.

The end-product was that Palo Alto became the second-largest Nokia research facility, with around 80 employees.

The Nokia Research Center is currently being headed on an interim basis by Henry Tirri, the former Head of NRC Systems Research.

A new CTO for Nokia has yet to be appointed.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Google Mobile Maps: Soon tracking locations?

Google recently released their Google Mobile Maps for transit, enabling mobile Google Maps users to get mass transit schedules based on their current locations. In a nutshell, this extends mobile location-based services from driving directions (the most common) and walking directions (recently introduced by Nokia and Google) to bus/subway directions.

So what's next?

A friend of mine believes that Google's next version of Mobile Maps will actually track the GPS locations of busses, either by partnering with transit authorities or by tracking its mobile users while they're using mass transit, so that we can find out where the busses REALLY are, as opposed to relying on their schedules.

The interesting connection is to Google's internal project (discussed here and here) that gives its employees access to real-time GPS information about the locations of employee shuttlebusses. Google might be building this system just as an employee perk, but TechAHA agrees that it's more likely using it to experiment a future version of Google Mobile Maps, which will give real-time bus location information.

The remaining question is this: Will Google partner with transit authorities to get bus locations, or will it track its mobile users locations?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nokia acquires Plazes for location-based friend alerts

Nokia just announced that it has acquired Plazes, a small German company developing a social network system based strongly on locations. Their system is mostly a small version of Twitter, but with one twist: Every status update is tagged as being at a specific location.

Even if a user updates his status by SMS, the system is built to parse out a location (based on a list of named locations) so that the person is always keyed to a location.

The system then supports SMS queries to find out which of your friends are nearby.

Their interface is lousy, especially their mobile interface, but Nokia can certainly build them a new one, based on GPS and with a mobile app on the handsets. But the key thing here is the location-orientation of their social network.

But take this one step further, and we see the AHA!

Plazes maintains a database of friends locations.

Nokia is working on mobile alerts based on important things that are nearby.

Put these two together, and we see that Nokia Maps 3.0, or 2.5 Beta, will be even cooler than we thought. Besides getting beeped whenever you're near a store that sells the asperin you need, you'll get a beep whenever you pass near a friend. And the two will be integrated into a single system for location-based alerts.

If they do it even better, the social network in Plazes will be based on the phone's address book, not a seperate social network.

This moves us into a new phase of social networks. Rather than a social network being something that we go to a special web site to use, it will be integrated into a more general cellphone feature. Contacts locations will be just like drugstore locations, all managed by a single system on the phone.

Farfetched? Fun? Comments welcome.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Nokia hints at Nokia Maps 3.0

With the recent success of Nokia Maps 2.0, Nokia hasn't said much about what's next. In fact, the phrase Nokia Maps 3.0 hasn't been used at all. But now Nokia seems to have slipped a hint of what we may see in Nokia Maps 3.0: Location-based triggers

The hint comes in a patent application filed in 2007 and now published here.

The idea is simple yet powerful: Suppose I need to buy something in a drugstore. I create a location-based alert in my Nokia phone to beep me when I go, say, within a block of a drugstore. My phone then watches my GPS location, and checks the map info it has for my location to see when I go near a drugstore. As soon as I do, I hear a beep.

As maps get more and more detailed, alerts of this sort will get more and more powerful. Drugstores, department stores, food stores, etc, are all likely to soon be on mobile maps. And location-based triggers will remind me when I'm near somewhere to get something done.

Of course, the concept isn't really a new one, but Nokia's the market leader now in cellphone-based pedestrian maps and location-based services, and they can probably take an old idea and make it practical and usable. So this seems like a nice fit.

Any comments?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Welcome to Tech AHA

Welcome to Tech AHA! I plan to post occasional messages here that go beyond the kinds of news available on other blogs, and provide an "aha!" type of insight into the implications for the future.

Feedback is always welcome.