Posts Tagged ‘nokia’

Farewell Ovi, Nokia And HERE; It’s Time To Open The Next Door

This may be a personal foible but when I join a new company I mentally set myself two targets. The first is what I want to achieve with that company. The second is how long it will take to achieve this. If you reach the first target then the second is a moot point. But if the first target doesn’t get reached and your self allocated timescale is close to coming to an end, then it’s time to take stock.

Sometimes you can extend that timescale; when reaching your achievement target is so so close and you can be happy to stretch those timescales a little. Sometimes though this just doesn’t work, not necessarily for any reason of your own making. Large companies are strange beasts and a strategic move which is right for the company may not align with your own targets and ideals.

In 2010, I left the Geo Technologies group at Yahoo! and departed from a very Californian large company to take up a new role with a very Finnish large company called Nokia. Though Nokia started life as the merger between a paper mill operation, a rubber company and a cable company in the mid 1800’s, by the time I joined Nokia it was best known for mobile and smart phone handsets and the software that makes these ubiquitous black mirrors work.

In addition to mobile data connectivity, apps and GPS, one of the things that defines a smartphone is a maps app and the suite of back-end platforms that drive that app as well as all of the other APIs that enable today’s smartphone location based services. Just as TomTom acquired digital map maker Tele Atlas in 2008, Nokia had acquired rival maps provider NAVTEQ in 2007, putting in place the foundations for Nokia’s maps and turn-by-turn navigation products, part of the company’s Ovi brand of internet services.

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I spent the first 18 months of my time with Nokia commuting weekly from London to Berlin, where the company’s maps division was based. The pros of this weekly commute of almost 600 miles each way was rapid progression through British Airway’s frequent flyer program, getting to know the city of Berlin really well and developing deep and lasting friendships with my team, who were behind the Ovi Places Registry, but more about them in a moment. The cons were living out of hotels on a weekly basis and the strain it placed on my family back in London.

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In 2011, Nokia pivoted its strategy as a result of new CEO Stephen Elop’s infamous Burning Platform memo. The company’s NAVTEQ division finally started to be integrated into Nokia, resulting in the rebranding of Ovi Maps to HERE Maps, by way of a brief spell as Nokia Maps and just before we were ready to ship the next major revision of the Places Registry, effectively powering all the data you see on a map which isn’t part of the base map itself, the project was shelved in favour of NAVTEQ based places platform. This was probably the right thing to do from the perspective of the company, but it had a devastating effect on my Berlin based team who had laboured long and hard. The team was disbanded; some found new roles within the company, some didn’t and were laid off and after spending several months tearing down what I’d spent so long helping to create, an agonising process in itself even though it was the right thing to do, I moved to help found the company crowd mapping group, driving the strategy behind the HERE Map Creator product. Think of a strategy not dissimilar to OpenStreetMap or Google Map Maker, only with a robust navigation grade map behind it.

Gary-Gale

All of which is merely a prelude to the fact that after almost 4 years with Nokia I’ve been taking stock and it’s time to move on. The door marked Nokia, Ovi and HERE is now closed and it’s time to look to the next adventure in what could loosely be termed my career. The metaphor of doors opening and closing seems fitting as Ovi just happens to be the Finnish word for door.

There’s been a lot of high points over the past 4 or so years. Launching Nokia’s maps and location platform at the final Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco. Negotiating the places section of Nokia’s first strategic deal with Microsoft in a meeting room set against the amazing backdrop of Reykjavik in the depths of an Icelandic winter. Judging the World Bank’s Sanitation Hackathon in Dar es Salaam.

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But most of the high points have been people.

Someone who leads a team is only as good as the team and in the original Ovi Places Registry team and the subsequent Nokia Places team I found an amazing group of individuals, who made a roving Englishman feel very much at home in Berlin.

There’s also been a lot of lows over the past 4 years, but I don’t want to go into them here.

Instead, I want to close the door on the Nokia chapter with a brief mention to five people who made my time in Berlin so rich and rewarding. There’s Aaron Rincover, HERE’s UX lead, who taught me so much about the user experience in a relatively short period of time. There’s also four members of the Places Registry team, Enda Farrell, Jennifer Allen, Mark MacMahon and Jilles Van Gurp, who made me welcome in a new city, who it was an absolute pleasure to work with and who will, I hope, remain close friends. Enda and Jennifer are still both at HERE as Senior Technical Architect and Product Manager and a damn fine ones at that. Mark and Jilles were amongst those who moved on when the Places team was disbanded and are now the founders of LocalStream. Thank you all of you.

So where next? My last two companies have been large multinational affairs, but to open 2014 I’m looking to keep things a lot smaller and more agile. I’m going to take some time to do some freelance consulting, still in the maps, location and geo space of course; this industry continues to grow and innovate at an astounding rate, why would I want to work anywhere else?

For the first quarter of 2014 I’m going to be joining London’s Lokku, consulting for them as their Geotechnologist in Residence. Since 2006, Lokku have built up an impressive portfolio of geospatial and geotechnology assets under the lead of Ed Freyfogle and Javier Etxebeste, both alumni of Yahoo! like myself. Through the success of their Nestoria and Open Cage Data brands and the #geomob meetup, Lokku are in a great position to take their expertise in open geospatial data, OpenStreetMap data and open geospatial platforms to the next level. My role with Lokku will be to help them identify where that next level will be and what it will look like. It’s going to be a refreshing change to move from the world of a large corporate, with staff ID badges and ID numbers to a world where everyone fits into the same, albeit large, room and where everyone literally knows everyone else. So say I’m excited by this challenge would be a massive understatement. If you want to know more about Lokku, check out their blog, Twitter feed or come and say hello.

As for the rest of 2014 and beyond, it’s time to follow up on all those conversations that you tend to have about the next great thing in maps and location. Who knows precisely where 2014 will take me, but no matter where, it’s going to be geotastic and I can’t wait.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Making Maps Underground

Warning. This post contains a sweeping generalisation. Yes, I know that Places are not just part of today’s digital maps; see the James Fee and Tyler Bell hangout The One Where Tyler Bell Defines Big Data as a proof point. But for the sake of this post, just assume that Places and maps are synonymous.

It’s never been easier to make a map. Correction. It’s never been easier to contribute to a map. Today we seem to be makingcontributing to maps everywhere, even underground, or should I say Underground?

To makecontribute to a map, you used to have to be a professional map maker, with easy access to an arsenal of surveying or an industrial grade GPS.

Then came the notion of community mapping. Be it OpenStreetMap, Navteq’s and Nokia’s Map Creator or Google’s Map Maker, anyone armed with a GPS enabled smartphone, hell, anyone without a GPS, could help make a map.

And now it seems, all you need to do to help make a map is to be somewhere unmapped with some form of internet access, be it a 3G or 4G cellular data connection, or a wifi connection. As part of the London 2012 Olympic Games, some London Underground stations (finally) got wifi access and sure enough, where wifi goes, so does mapping, even platforms on the London Underground.

With apologies to Steve Karmeinsky for exposing part of his Foursquare check-in history.

Written and posted from the Arcotel Velvet, Oranienburger Straße, Berlin (52.52602, 13.38834)

Foursquare Checkins, Maps And WordPress; Now With MOAR Maps

If you’re an avid Foursquare user you can already display your last checkin, visualised on a map, in the sidebar of your WordPress powered site with the WP Quadratum plugin. Foursquare, checkins and maps … what more could you ask for? Maybe the answer is more maps.

Version 1.1 of the WP Quadratum plugin, which went live this morning, now has added maps. The previous versions of the plugin used Nokia’s maps, because I work for Nokia’s Location & Commerce group and I wanted to use the maps that I work on. But if Nokia’s maps aren’t the maps for you then how about Google’s, or maybe CloudMade’s OpenStreetMap maps or perhaps OpenLayers’ OpenStreetMap maps.

Thanks to the Mapstraction JavaScript mapping API, WP Quadratum now allows you to choose which mapping provider you’d like to see your checkins appear on. And if you don’t want a map on the sidebar of your site, you can embed the checkin map in any post or page with the plugin’s shortcode too.

As usual, the plugin is free to download and use, either from the official WordPress plugin repository or from GitHub.

As a fully paid up and self confessed map geek I may be somewhat biased but surely most things can be improved with the simple addition of more maps.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Two WordPress Plugins And The (Missing) Nokia Map

It’s a glaringly obvious oversight but a few month’s back I realised that given what I do for a living, there’s something missing from my blog and that something is a map.

There’s a whole slew of “where am I” style WordPress plugins out there, but after some careful research I decided that none of them did precisely what I wanted, which was to show the last check-in I made on Foursquare, on a map, in the sidebar of my blog.

Those that did come close still didn’t do the key thing I wanted and that was to use the map I work on as part of my day job. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against the maps that I could have used; Google, Bing, Mapquest and OpenStreetMap produce very fine maps and they all have the JavaScript API I’d need to display my last checkin. But none of them used my map and that means a Nokia Map.

So taking what I’d learnt about WordPress plugins during the course of producing 12 versions of the WP Biographia plugin, I rolled up my sleeves (mentally and literally) and started work on what would become WP Quadratum. I seem to have a thing about naming my plugins using a Latin derivation of their name; I have no idea why, but it seems to be better than something along the lines of WP Yet Another Foursquare Checkin Plugin. But I digress.

Several months later, after wrestling with getting a plugin to authenticate with Foursquare via OAuth 2 and learning how to write not only a WordPress plugin but also a WordPress widget, WP Quadratum appeared on the sidebar on my blog. It’s over there right now, towards the top right of your browser screen, unless your reading this on a mobile device, in which case you’ll just have to take my word for it for now.

Now Nokia allows free and unauthenticated use of the JavaScript Maps API, but only up to a certain number of transactions over a lifetime. So I also built in support for supplying Nokia’s Location API credentials as well. But then I stopped. Why build custom support for authentication and credentials into a plugin, only to probably have to copy-and-paste the code into another plugin I write that will use the same Maps API? So I digressed again and wrote another plugin, WP Nokia Auth, that handles the Nokia credentials for me, and then made WP Quadratum play nicely with WP Nokia Auth, if it’s installed, active and configured.

It took a while, but v1.0 of both plugins are now up on the WordPress plugin repository and on GitHub as well, for the usual forking, downloading, hacking and poking around. Whether they get the same number of downloads as WP Biographia has (over 7,000 to date) I somewhat doubt, but unless I release these, I’ll never know, so that’s just what I’ve done.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Farewell Ovi Maps, Hello Nokia Maps (On iOS And Android Too)

In May of this year, Nokia announced the retirement of the Ovi brand and the observant map watchers amongst you may have noticed that pointing your browser of choice at maps.ovi.com now automagically redirects you to the new, shiny maps.nokia.com.

What you may not have noticed is that Nokia maps doesn’t just work on your desktop or laptop web browser or on Nokia smartphones, as Electric Pig nicely pointed out, Nokia has invaded the iPhone too. Point your iPhone or iPad at the Nokia Maps for Mobile Web at m.maps.nokia.com and you’ll see something like this …

Nokia Maps on iOS

… a fully featured version of Nokia Maps that does search, satellite views, GPS and location fixes, navigation, even public transport and, of course …

Nokia Places on iOS

… places. And it’s not just iOS devices that the new Mobile Web maps supports, Android users can have this too as can Blackberry users.

Nokia Maps on Android

That’s not just geo-tastic, it’s geo-egalitarian.

Written and posted from theRadisson Blu hotel, Berlin (52.519648, 13.40258)

Farewell Yahoo! Maps API, Hello Nokia Maps API

Yahoo’s JavaScript and AJAX API was the first mapping API I ever used and it now seems hard to remember when Yahoo’s API offerings were the dominant player, always iterating and innovating. The Yahoo! API set formed and continued to underpin the majority of my online presence. When I wrote about leaving Yahoo! and joining Nokia in May of 2010 I said …

So whilst I’m going to Nokia, I’ll continue to use my core set of Yahoo! products, tools and APIs … YQL, Placemaker, GeoPlanet, WOEIDs, YUI, Flickr and Delicious. Not because I used to work for Yahoo! but because they’re superb products.

… and I meant every word of it. The Yahoo! APIs were stable, powerful and let create web experiences quickly and easily. But now a year later a lot has changed. I still use Flickr on a pretty much daily basis, but Delicious is no longer a Yahoo! property and I transitioned my other web presence from using YQL for RSS feed aggregation to use SimplePie as YQL was frequently down or just not working. The original core set of Yahoo! APIs I use in anger is now just down to Flickr and YUI.

YDN Maps Shutdown

Sadly, this trend is continuing and on September 13th, to badly mangle the quote from Cypher in The Matrix, “buckle up your seatbelts Map scripters, ’cause the Yahoo! Maps API is going bye-bye” and writing …

var map = new YMap(document.getElementById('map'));

… will be a thing of the past. Adam Duvander, author of the excellent Map Scripting 101, has written a eulogy for the Yahoo! Maps API over on Programmable Web, including some pithy quotes from old friend Tyler Bell, whom I worked with when I was part of the Yahoo! Geo Technologies group, which sadly echo my comments on the overall demise of Geo at the company.

Thankfully all is not doom and gloom in the world of mapping APIs and Nokia’s Maps API is firmly in the spotlight to take up the slack left by the addition of the Yahoo! Maps API to the deadpool. And if you’re using Mapstraction with the Yahoo! Maps API, it should be relatively trivial to swap your code over to the Nokia API as Mapstraction now supports Nokia Maps. I may have had a hand in that.

Written and posted from the British Airways Galleries Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5 (51.4702, -0.4882)

The Opposite Of Geolocation Is … Relocation?

First a disclaimer; there’s one elsewhere on this blog but this post merits another. I used to work for Yahoo! as part of the Geo Technologies group. I now work for Nokia as part of their Location group. The opinions and ideas expressed in this post are absolutely just my own, and should not be confused with, or taken for, those of my current or past employers. It’s just me here.

You may not have realised it but Friday May 27th. was a sad day for the Geo industry in London. Even without the benefit of knowing what was going on from ex-colleagues inside the company, the signs were there if you knew where to look for them and how to read them.

Before the Internet, companies, teams and projects could fade quietly into anonymity and into oblivion. But on the Internet, everything is in public and it’s much harder to hide the tell tale signs. API updates and bug fixes cease. A web site or blog stops being updated or goes down altogether. A Twitter feed stops being an active living thing and becomes merely a historical record. Ex-colleagues start following you on Twitter or you start getting connection requests on LinkedIn whilst other colleagues start polishing and updating their LinkedIn profiles.

And May 27th. 2011? That was the day that the last of the remaining members of my old team at Yahoo! Geo Technologies left the Yahoo! office in London and that was the day that Yahoo! ceased to have a Geo presence in the UK.

Sad Yahoo! Smiley

I joined Yahoo! in 2006 as Engineering Manager for Geo Location Targeting, also known as GLT (and not standing for Gay, Lesbian and Transgender, a mistake once made by someone at a conference with hilarious consequences), a group formed from the acquisition of WhereOnEarth.com a year earlier in 2005. As the name suggests, GLT was formed to use WhereOnEarth’s technology to build Panama, Yahoo’s geotargeting ad platform, a task which the technology was well suited to and a task at which the team succeeded.

But post Panama, we faced the challenge that most acquisitions face … “we’ve done what we were acquired for … now what“? In 2008 we started to answer the “now what?” question. With Tom Coates and the Yahoo! Brickhouse team, we provided the back-end geo platform for Fire Eagle. With Aaron Cope and Dan Catt, we provided the back-end geo platform for geotagging photos on Flickr. And with Martin Barnes, Tyler Bell and Mark Law we launched the GeoPlanet geodata gazetter API and the Placemaker geoparsing API. These were heady days for geo; GPS was reaching critical mass in consumer devices and web service mashups were ready to take advantage of powerful geo APIs and with Chris Heilmann evangelising furiously as part of YDN, the Yahoo! Developer Network, we were well placed to take the lead in the explosion of interest in all things geo that was starting then and continues to this day.

Yahoo!

Yet the company didn’t seem to know what to do with their Geo Technologies group. We were reorganised more times that I can remember, starting again with another Vice President and another group. The promising lead in this area started to loose ground and the long promised investment never seemed to materialise. In May 2010, Nokia made me an offer to be part of the their location group that I couldn’t refuse and I jumped ship. TechCrunch seemed to like this; twice to be exact. Over the next 12 months the group in London continued to shrink and continued to lack investment. The signs were all there for anyone to read … the YahooGeo Twitter feed was last updated in January 2011 with a total of 5 Tweets since I handed over the reins on May 28th. 2010. The blog at www.ygeoblog.com has been down for almost a year as well.

And on Friday May 27th. 2011, the last of the London team left the office in London’s Covent Garden for the final time as the Geo Technologies group transitioned and relocated to the Yahoo! corporate headquarters in Sunnyvale, California and to Bangalore; a sad day for the team in London and a sad day for the Geo industry overall. Hopefully the future will yield more developments of the YDN Geo APIs and the WOEID geoidentifier and while Geo Technologies in the company continues to live and to power the successor to the Panama geotargeting platform, the London presence where the technology grew and was developed is over.

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Through The (New Office) Window

At the weekend myself and the rest of the Ovi Places team found ourselves re-geolocated from the Nokia office in Invalidenstraße in the Mitte district of Berlin to a new office in Schönhauser Allee in the Prenzlauer Berg district. While the office coffee hasn’t improved, the view from my desk certainly has.

Through The (New Office) Window

From left to right the view takes in the Fernsehturm, (East) Berlin’s TV tower, Schönhauser Allee, looking towards Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz U-Bahn station on the U2 line and the dome of the Berlin Cathedral, better known as the Berliner Dom. I could get used to this view.

Written and posted from the Nokia gate5 office in Schönhauser Allee, Berlin (52.5308072, 13.4108176)

Berlin, Graffiti and Maps

Like most cities these days, there’s a lot of graffiti in Berlin. Some of it is just the mindless repetitive tagging where someone feels the need to display his or her tag over as much surface area as possible. But some of it aspires to art, especially the large displays found on the sides of buildings and high up on walls. A great example of this is the massive question (or maybe it’s a statement) of How Long Is Now, found on the side of the Tacheles on Oranienburgerstraße, complete with a giant cockroach emerging from the wall.

How Long Is Now?

This grand painting style, part graffiti, part mural, part art seems to be iconic to a lot of the Mitte area of what used to be East Berlin. With this in mind, it’s good to see that Nokia has decided to join in with this peculiarly Berlin trait with its own contribution, telling visitors walking along Invalidenstraße towards Nordbahnhof precisely what goes on in the Nokia Gate5 offices … Ovi Maps, made here.

Ovi Maps. Made here. In Berlin

Written and posted from home (51.427051, -0.333344)

Two Weeks In; Of Dog Food, Mobile Handsets and Finnish Doors

Two weeks into the Nokia and Ovi experience and I can finally pause and catch my breath. It’s been an intense two weeks and asking me what my impressions are of Nokia are akin to putting someone at the top of a very large, very steep and very fast roller coaster, watching them plummet down and then, before they’re even out of their seat, asking them to comment on what the scenery was like. So I won’t even try to comment on the scenery and will instead merely record the four things that have stuck in my mind.

I’ve been busy. I’ve been very busy. I’ve also been at home for all of two days in the last two weeks and whilst video chatting with my family over Skype is better than a plain old fashioned voice call it’s no substitute for being at home more; but things will settle down into a more manageable routine over the coming weeks. Being busy has meant that I’ve kept my head down and tried to assimilate all the new information with which I’m being bombarded, a fact that’s not gone unnoticed by Chris Osborne … “severe drop off in @vicchi’s bloggage and tweetage levels, means that maybe, just maybe, he is actually doing some work these days“. Quite.

Nokia gate5 GmbH

I learnt today that Ovi is Finnish for door, proving for once the adage that you learn something new every day.

At Yahoo! we used to talk about eating our own dog food a lot; thankfully meaning that a company should use the products that it makes rather than that the employees develop a predilection for Pedigree Chum. Although it took me the best part of the first week to notice, Nokia certainly eats its own dog food; apart from the ever present starfish style conferencing phones in meeting rooms, there’s no desk phones at all. None. But everyone has a mobile, and uses them a lot, either over the cellular network or hooked up to the internal VOIP system through the office wifi. Actually everyone seems to have more than one mobile handset, two, three and even four handsets doesn’t seem to be unusual.

I can haz new badge pleez?

In a previous role I seemed to spend a lot of my time talking about why location and all of the many geo facets it encompasses is important. Many was a meeting with a senior exec which started with the depressing question “so .. location … is it really important?“. Nokia gets location; there’s absolutely no doubt about that. The question is now how do we deliver real value and real market share with location … and that’s half the fun and half the challenge.

New Job. New City. New Desk. New Country

Written and posted from the Radisson Blu Hotel, Berlin, Germany (52.519426, 13.403229)