Nokia predicts the mobile future

Nokia Technology Centre showcases future mobile applications

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By  Mark Sutton Published  November 1, 2007

As part of its Way We Live Next event, Nokia highlighted a number of new solutions that have been developed by the company and partners, that point to some of the possibilities of the convergence of Web 2.0 and mobile technologies.

The event, which was held at the Nokia Research Centre (NRC), in Oulu, Finland, included a showcase of solutions in various stages of development, along with presentations on other concepts and projects in progress.

Nokia Chief Technology Officer, Tera Ojanperä, said in his key note speech that the NRC has a wide remit to develop solutions: "At Nokia we work with experts in the academic, scientific and developer communities, and increasingly importantly, directly in interaction with our customers. Innovation can come from anywhere, and we need to have the tools and flexibility to respond to that challenge," he said.

One area of interest to the company, according to Ojanperä, is how mobile technology can be used in the developing world. "People's first experience of the internet might be through mobile phones. There is more and more demand for information from around the world - people want to access education - that access could be as simple as getting a mobile phone in their hands. We are running a pilot in China on mobile education, giving English lessons on mobile phones, and it is something people value a lot," he said.

Along with the developing world, Nokia is also looking at the potential of virtual worlds. the company has created an application to allow a virtual world user to send an SMS message to a real life user, and it has also launched the Connected Worlds photography exhibition, which not only features large scale panoramic images shot exclusively on a Nokia N95 multimedia computer, but which is also be held simultaneously in the real world in London and online in Second Life.

Nokia has its own thriving online community, through the MOSH site, which allows sharing of content for mobiles. Nokia research in Europe showed that the 86% of smartphone users believe that the ability to add applications is very important, with over half having adding some applications to their phone.

MOSH, which stands for Mobilize and Share, is intended to address this market, and the demand for custom content by allowing users to download new content and applications, upload their own content to share with other users, and to post requests for specific content. The site has had six million downloads since its beta launch in August, with over 80% of those downloads through mobile browsers.

Also in the mobile content field, Nokia demonstrated Widsets, a mobile internet service that pushes content from selected sites such as news, blogs, games and so on, to the user's mobile using RSS; and Mobile Web Server, which allows the mobile to act as an internet server, which allows remote access and sharing among mobile users.

Many of the demonstrations at the event used the combination of phone, camera and location based services to create new applications. A mobile reporting solution for journalists, developed in partnership with the Reuters news agency, allows reporters to create and file broadcast quality multimedia reports using just a multimedia handset, meaning no need to return to the studio or office or to rely on bulky mobile equipment.

One of the most interesting solutions for Middle East users was an application called Shoot-to-Translate. Using a Nokia Multimedia PC with a pre-installed dictionary, a user can take a photo of a written sentence in a foreign language - the demonstration used a Chinese language version of a Chinese restaurant menu - with the phone then using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to instantly translate the characters in the photo into English.

The Point&Find application uses a mix of image recognition and GPS location services to link directly to pre-defined content either online or that has already been downloaded to the handset. Developed by PIXTO, a start-up acquired by Nokia at the start of this year, Point&Find allows the user to simply take a picture of an object, be it a famous landmark, a movie poster or an item in a shop window display, which, once it has been identified by the application, then instantly links to more information on the subject of the picture.

Conference attendees also got a hands-on demonstration of a location based service, with each attendee given mobile phones loaded with another Nokia application, Ilpo. The application provides campus-level location services, using WLAN technology to determine position. With maps and the user can see their current location, can browse and find other locations on the map such as cafeteria's or bathrooms and track other users and see where they are on within the coverage area.

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