Nokia Conversations take a real world look at Point & Find

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Over on their “stories from around the neighbourhood” blog, the Nokia team have spent two days in Colchester, where a trial of the Point and Find information service is going on. By using a mix of GPS on the handset, scannable barcodes and a central database, the theory is you’ll know what’s going on around you and interact with the environment. So how does it work in practice?

As you would expect from a trial, it’s not perfect in practice, and the point is to go out and find problems on a small scale so you can get them out the system. Over the two parts, the Conversations team find lots of good and bad things, but this is probably the key paragraph for me.

Hot on the heels of this success, we were keen to try a movie poster, so hunted one down (Alice in Wonderland), but unfortunately on scanning the poster it brought up a trailer, running time, cast list, director and screenshots… for the wrong film (The Decent 2). We couldn’t find any other movie posters to test on our travels, which was a shame. As was the fact that we couldn’t get the 2D barcode scanner to work, repeatedly being met with a “no data” message. However, we quickly got over this set-back once we began to play with the manual search feature.


Point and Find

Point and Find needs three features to work well together. The first is the actual location part of the equation, either through GPS or network tower information. this is pretty well stable now. The second is the adoption of barcodes tied to a database of information, and that requires a huge buy-in from various market segments, including the advertisers; local businesses and retail establishments. That’s going to be a long road, but not as tough as you would first think. Just a matter of getting some momentum.

And then there needs to be user engagement – part of the trial must include working out how to market this to the public of Colchester and seeing what works.

So while there are a lot of flaws on display, Point and Find could mature into a very useful service – building it up into something that works even at a national level will take a lot of time and investment. But as we’ve seen with Ovi Maps, Nokia aren't above taking a big picture view and going for the spectacular.

Point and Find is definitely one of the services to keep an eye on.

-- Ewan Spence, Feb 2010.