News Column

Nokia's True Cars Map the World

Nov. 23, 2012

Jessica Van Sack


Nokia Corp. is making a giant push for its navigation technology, showing off its so-called True Car mapping vehicle in the Hub and rolling out a new brand called "Here."

"One of the things that distinguishes Nokia is navigation," Aaron Dannenbring, vice president of product management and field operations for Nokia, told the Herald this week.

With $250,000 of equipment on its roof, the True Car captures information about buildings, street signs and roadways on its route, and then puts that information into its maps, which are used by Microsoft's Bing, Windows Phones and cars throughout the world.

Apple learned the hard way how difficult it is to map the world when it botched the rollout of its new navigation app. But Nokia has been working on this for 30 years, and now the mobile tech giant is rebranding its mapping mobile site as It can be used by anyone with a data connection. Little-known fact: Nokia is the world's largest private employer of geographers, with more than 2,000 mapping professionals in 60 countries.

Most of the data is collected by one of 15 True Cars around the world. A spinning cylinder with 64 lasers captures the distance to nearby objects, creating a 3-D representation of the world.

Atop the cylinder is a panoramic camera that records street-level imagery, which is integrated with the information captured by the lasers to make a realistic model of the world around.

Lower down, cameras are angled to record street signs, which are then extracted by software to inform the turn-by-turn navigation.

Boston is an important center for Nokia maps, with its search analytic and other data-crunching conducted at its Burlington office.

"At the height of the Big Dig we would have to drive that sucker weekly," Dannenbring quipped.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: (c) 2012 the Boston Herald

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