Nokia Revamps Navteq Location Services Unit

Nokia is merging Navteq with its other location operations, with the aim of kickstarting new services

Nokia has today announced plans to launch a new ‘Location & Commerce’ business unit, formed by the integration of its Navteq mapping business and social location services operations. Michael Halbherr has been appointed to lead the initiative as executive vice president from 1 July 2011.

The Finnish phone maker hopes the move will help to drive development and adoption of location-based services. It will also provide platform services and local commerce services for device manufacturers, application developers, internet service providers, merchants, and advertisers, the company said.

“Focusing on location and commerce is a natural next step in Nokia’s Services journey,” said Nokia CEO Stephen Elop. “We will provide next generation social-location applications and commerce to differentiate Nokia. We also aim to extend our content and services offerings to all consumers by making them available to partners and customers on a wide variety of devices and operating systems.”

Authority on social location

Halbherr (pictured) has worked for Nokia since 2006, most recently leading the product unit in Nokia’s Services business, based in Berlin. Before joining Nokia he was CEO of gate5 AG – a supplier of mapping, routing and navigation software and services – which was later acquired by Nokia.

“Michael is a widely recognised authority in the fields of mobility and social location services, and I am delighted to appoint him to lead an area of our business that will be crucial in Nokia’s transformation strategy,” said Elop.

Navteq was purchased by Nokia in 2007 for $8.1 billion, but the company had been operating independently from Nokia since then. Nokia said that Larry Kaplan, CEO for Navteq, will continue to support the transition work for the new Location & Commerce business through to the end of the year.

The announcement is likely to benefit Microsoft, following the recent announcement that Windows Phone would become Nokia’s platform of choice for its smartphones. As part of the deal, Microsoft offered to pay for the right to use Nokia’s patent portfolio, including its Navteq mapping products, for services such as geo-location and local advertising.

However, a Nokia spokesperson told eWEEK Europe that the services would not be exclusive to Windows Phone, but would also be available on phones running other operating systems.

Microsoft’s interest in Navteq stems from its use of the technology in previous product offerings – such as Bing Maps. Back in April, Microsoft announced plans to launch a new product called ‘StreetSide’, to rival Google’s popular StreetView service. Microsoft’s StreetSide cars will be equipped with Navteq technology to gather point-of-interest information, such as the location of landmarks, pubs, and other information.

Location based services and privacy

The location-based services market has been slow to take off, but is now starting to gain momentum with major social networks buying into the technology. Facebook Places launched in the UK in September 2010, encouraging mobile users to share their current location with friends on the social network. This was followed by Places Deals, which rewards users for ‘checking in’ to various locations.

Twitter and Google also offer geo-location services, and a number of social networks, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, base their entire business model on the technology.

However, these services do entail a number of privacy concerns. Only this year, Apple suffered a major privacy gaffe, after it was discovered that the company was recording the locations of devices running iOS 4 in a “hidden file” on iPhones and iPads. Apple blamed a software bug in its iOS operating system, but the incident has done untold damage to Apple’s reputation.

Meanwhile, The European Union recently adopted an opinion that classifies geo-location data as private. This means that mobile service providers will have to gain the user’s explicit permission to collect or relay location data.