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David Zax

A View from David Zax

The Rise of Nokia's Maps

Is Nokia secretly the world’s greatest mapmaker?

  • October 6, 2012

Never mind that your favorite mobile mapping software may have disappeared the other week. It’s not all bad news from the world of mobile phone companies and mapping. This week, Nokia announces that is has struck a deal with Oracle to expand the usage of Nokia’s store of map data and its location services. (The Journal was among the first to report the news.)

Nokia has recently announced similar deals with Groupon and Amazon (see “All Over the Map(s)”).

Did you even know that Nokia had its own maps? Perhaps you didn’t. But it’s a serious operation, and the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal recently scrutinized why Nokia’s maps may even outstrip Google’s. Nokia, writes Madrigal, has “invested billions of dollars, employs thousands of mapmakers, and even drives around its own version of Google’s mythic ‘Street View’ cars.”

Madrigal’s piece is a fun look at the mechanics of mapping data collection. He shadows a driver of one of Nokia’s data collecting vehicles named Tony Cha. Cha will literally drive down every single street of a city. Since the cameras on the car work best in nice weather, Cha will hit northern cities in the summer, southern cities in the winter. Each car is tricked out with almost a quarter-million-dollars’ worth of equipment, including six cameras to capture street signs, a panoramic camera for street view shots, a pair of GPS antennae, three laptops, and a LIDAR system equipped with 64 lasers creating 3D images.

“We’re basically the world’s largest mapping company,” Hans Peter Brondmo of Nokia has asserted to CNET recently.

Though financial details were not given, the deal with Oracle is surely a boost for Nokia, and a bright spot for a company whose market value has declined over 90% since 2007. Oracle is the world’s third-biggest software firm, per Reuters, with a particular expertise in database management.

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