The Nokia Location Platform's history can be traced back to Nokia's acquisition of Navteq in 2007 for €5.7 billion, but Nokia has continued to invest significant resources and has made further acquisitions (Plazes, MetaCarta) to strengthen its location business. Navteq's business model was built around the licensing of mapping and associated location data. Nokia ran Navteq as a separate business unit along these lines until last summer when it was integrated into Nokia's Location & Commerce division, but licensing remains the key revenue generator, helping offset the enormous costs involved in building, curating and maintaining the various geo-databases that make up the Nokia Location Platform.
Nokia uses the Nokia Location Platform extensively in its own products. Nokia Maps and its associated applications on Symbian, Windows Phone, Series 40 and the web are all enabled by the platform. Windows Phone 8 will have the platform deeply integrated and the Nokia Maps and Drive apps will be available to all Windows Phone licensees. This giving away of Nokia's "crown jewels" has caused some raised eyebrows, but it is clear that Nokia will be getting a direct financial benefit, even if it is not through the direct traditional licensing model. Moreover, Nokia believes that mapping and navigation is becoming commoditised on smartphones, and is more interested in owning the location platform.
That's reflected in Nokia's stated ambition to become the "where" company, in the same way that Google is the "what" company, and Facebook is the "who" company. This may seem something of a stretch at the moment, but it does highlight the importance Nokia attaches to location. Furthermore, it indicates that Nokia sees location as inherently being a platform play, the full benefits of which will only be felt if it can extend its technology and data beyond its own products, which is why it attaches so much importance to licensing and partnership agreements.
Location is becoming an important "index" for enterprise users. As in the consumer world, it is a way of both linking digita datal to, and representing (in a digital form), the physical world. Traditional location services, such as fleet logistics and distribution, are already well established, but location can also be an key part of business intelligence and analytics.
While Nokia does provide its own APIs many companies want to work within the service and application frameworks they are already using. This makes partnerships with enterprise software companies vital, such as Oracle, if Nokia is to fulfill its ambition to become the "where" company.
Oracle's Fusion Middleware provides software for the development, deployment, and management of service-orientated architectures (i.e. interoperable services for key business functions and applications). The integration of the NLP into Oracle Fusion Middleware provides enterprise uses with powerful tools for analysing and viewing spatial data within these services and applications.
As Nokia explains in the press release:
Oracle Fusion Middleware MapViewer is a J2EE service for rendering maps and creating mashups using spatial data. Oracle Fusion Middleware MapViewer provides services and tools that hide the complexity of spatial data queries and cartographic rendering, while providing customizable options for more advanced users such as developers of geographic business analytic applications. The integration of NLP allows users to easily include Nokia's map data into their Oracle business applications.
The partnership with Oracle is an important proof point for Nokia as it seeks to extend in licesning business into new markets and encourage the growth of location based services and applications. Oracle had a choice when looking for a maps partner. Given recent events in the courtroom Google was never a likely partner, but TomTom (TeleAtlas) would have been a viable option. By choosing Nokia Oracle signals it belief that the Nokia Location Platform is the best choice for a robust, enterprise-ready, and accurate mapping data and associated services. That's a strong endorsement that may well have consequences beyond the enterprise world of Oracle.
Partnership with BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Pioneer and Garmin
At the Paris motor show Nokia announced it was extending and expanding licensing agreements with a number of partners, cementing its position in the automotive market where four out of five in-dash navigation systems rely on Nokia map data.
BMW will be using Navteq Maps to power the next generation of BMW navigation systems, which will debut in the BMW 7-series. A key new feature is BMW's Eco Route Pro which generates the most fuel efficient route by avoiding congestion and steep hills. In addition data including historical speed patterns, traffic signals, driver alerts, bends and slopes will be used to alert drivers to road conditions which could influence driving speed. The idea is to minimise stopping and starting, allowing smoother and more economical driving.
Mercedes will be using Navteq Maps to enable navigation system in the full A-Class range. A variety of new features will be included such as 3D imagery, traffic data, driver alerts and speed limits.
Volkswagen will be using Navteq maps and associated data in its Discover Media and Discover Pro infotainment systems. This means systems for brands throughout the Volkswagen group will be powered by Nokia Location & Commerce content. The Discover Pro service will introduce 3D imaging and real-time traffic service.
Hyundai will be using Navteq maps in its new head units and will also call on Nokia expertise for technical support and customised marketing programmes designed to increase navigation business.
Pioneer, a leading maker of aftermarket car accessories, will use Navteq maps in its navigation units. Nokia will also be responsible for handling the associated North American and European map update distribution for Pioneer.
Garmin, a global leader in satellite navigation equipment, will be extending its existing license include global Transit and Pedestrian content for its new Urban Guidance function. This will give Garmin the opportunity to offer directions for walking and route finding for public transport. Urban Guidance will initially be available via In App Purchase for the following smartphones: NAVIGON for iOS, NAVIGON for Android and also Garmin StreetPilot Onboard for iPhone.
Amazon recently announced the Amazon Maps API, intended to allow developers to add interactive maps, with custom overlays and other features, to their apps for Kindle Fire tablets. The intention is to directly replace functionality that would be provided by Google Maps on standard Android devices.
Although Amazon did not say so when it launched the new API and SDK, Nokia were happy to confirm that Amazon Maps are powered by the Nokia Location Platform. The licensing deal is particularly notable given Amazon's consumer reach and the fact Nokia is replacing one of its main competitors, Google, as the provider of map data.