Ovi Maps Player API - how Nokia puts Apps on Maps

Published by at

At their recent developer summit Nokia described how it would be opening up the Ovi platform to third party developers. Apps on Maps was given as the initial example and now, at the Where 2.0 conference, Nokia has announced more of the technical details for the web side elements. The Ovi Maps Player API will allow developers to embed Ovi Maps on third party website and create 'mash-ups' by overlaying data and interacting with the map. As such it will be in direct competition with the Google Maps and its accompanying APIs. Read on for more details.

Ovi Maps Player API

Ovi Maps Player - showing 3D mode with building models

The technical details of the Maps Player API are still relatively limited. However we do know that it is Javascript based and it will be possible to embed a map, into any website, using just a few lines of code. Ovi Maps can also be embedded in both PC and Mac application (e.g. using a web control component). The API functionality will include the ability to mash-up content on the map (add markers and overlays), to 'optimise map and functionality and look' for different use cases (e.g. create a night mode, colour roads in a specific colour) and to tie into Ovi Maps routing and location sharing (sync) capabilities.

AP News Ovi Maps mash-up

Ovi Maps and AP News mash-up. More in this YouTube video.

A key component of Ovi Maps is its vector based mapping and 3D mode, which includes the ability to rotate and alter the perspective of the map. It's also possible to 'fly' around the map from one location to another using transitions. These functions, which significantly improve map viewing capabilities are similar to those found in Google Earth and other application-based geo-viewers.

However, in the case of Ovi Maps, is accessible from within the browser. However this functionality does not come without a cost - you are required to install a browser plug-in (available for Firefox 3+, Safari and IE 7 on Mac or PC), which does act as a barrier to entry.  Clearly if Nokia is able to drive widespread uptake of Ovi Maps, then the plug-in will become popular (e.g. like Flash). Indeed, potentially, Ovi Maps could act as a significant promotional tool for Ovi outside of Nokia's existing customer base.

Update: Nokia have recently added a Java powered version of Ovi Maps, to which the maps.ovi.com website defaults to if you have not installed the Ovi Maps plug-in. During our testing this only worked with Firefox 3. In the Java version 3D mode and the associated 3D buildings were not available, which suggest a plug-in will still be required for the full Ovi Maps experience.

During the Where 2.0 conference Nokia also too the opportunity to promote Nokia Maps 3.0 for mobile (a.k.a. Ovi Maps for Nokia phones) and Ovi Maps, both of which are still in beta. However, considering the previous six-monthly release schedules, we should see Nokia Maps 3 become a release product soon (or at least a release candidate update from the February beta).

Nokia Maps 3   Nokia Maps 3   Nokia Maps 3

Nokia Maps 3: 3D buildings, traffic mode and walking mode.

Ovi Maps Player API, Maps 3 and Ovi Maps are three parts of the same system; effectively they are three entry points into Nokia's social location ecosystem. Consumers will be able to access their saved locations (personal data), as well as public data, regardless of the entry point that they are using. The cross platform nature of Ovi Maps is already apparent in the sync capabilities of Nokia Maps 3, but this is now being extended to third parties.

Developers can register to be part of the Ovi Maps Player API beta program here.

Ovi Maps Player API

Ovi Maps Player API being used to embed Ovi Maps into the Lonely Planet website.

Ovi Maps Player API will be facing off against the poster-boy of the Web 2.0 mash-up world - Google Maps. Google Maps has set a very high standard for Nokia to meet and is continually innovating. For example, yesterday, it released details of its new Google Maps Data API, which can be used to store and share geo-data (the data added to Google Maps which makes a mash up). Nokia will point to its vector based mapping, and 3D view (get 'in' the map) as significant advantages over Google's current offering.

In its introductory video Nokia gave the example of Lonely Planet, which uses mapping on its website to help give a 'sense of place'. Currently Lonely Planet is using Google Maps, but the demo shows the same functionality being provided by Ovi Maps. The advantage is that an Ovi Map can be used in 3D and rotated, allowing a fuller appreciation of 'sense of place'.

Going forward this is likely to be a very competitive area because it is an on the key enablers for linking the 'virtual' and 'physical' worlds. Each company will look to leverage their own advantages: Google has a strong incumbent position (web), is cross platform, has search expertise and has made very significant investments in structured geo-data. Nokia has a dominant position in mobile devices (it's the world's largest manufacturers of GPS devices), and recently acquired bought Navteq the leading provider of digital maps and data.

Here's an extract from the press release:

Nokia also announced the release of the Ovi Maps Player API, a simple way to embed the rich and dynamic Ovi Maps experience into any compatible website using basic JavaScript. This opens the Ovi Maps service and technology for third parties wishing to add greater contextual innovation to their websites for a deeper level of integration, sharing and collaboration with their audiences. Now websites like lonelyplanet.com or social networking sites can include Ovi Maps which can be personalized with their users' collections of content and then synchronized onto their compatible mobile devices.

"The Ovi Maps Player API offers an open and easy-to-use map browser based on simple web technologies that can be embedded into any website. This is the first step toward an ecosystem where developers can access Nokia's unique contextual assets, such as location, to create mobile applications that will redefine how we use our mobile devices", says Michael Halbherr, vice president, Social Location services at Nokia.

Here are two YouTube video giving some more details on Ovi Maps Player API:


See Also

AP News / Ovi Maps mash-up demo (YouTube)

Lonely Planet / Ovi Maps demo (YouTube)

Ovi Maps and Nokia Maps 3 demo

Forum Nokia discussion forum for Ovi Developers

Forum Nokia Ovi section

Forum Nokia Apps on Maps