How maps will make our future cities smarter

27th Feb 2013
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The UN estimates that by 2030 more than 5 billion people will be living in urban environments, with the fastest growth expected in Asia and Africa. Megacities, such as Mexico City, Mumbai and Lagos, with a population of more than 10 million people are emerging around the world.

But just as cities are important to foster economic innovation and human progress, they have a ‘dark side’ too, spreading pollution and other problems.

Michael Halbherr

These important issues were explored by Michael Halbherr, Nokia’s Executive VP of Location & Commerce, in a keynote address at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday.

He set out a compelling argument showing how location services will help to make these sprawling metropolitan areas smarter, more sustainable and more efficient.

City Living

It is easy to see why cities have become such a magnetic force for so many people. Michael Halbherr calls them ‘the nexus of human progress where social and economic trends emerge. ‘

People are drawn to cities because they offer hope for jobs, prosperity and a higher standard of living. However, the sheer number of people involved and the monumental scale of growing cities have created a whole new set of challenges.

Space and resources are limited. Congestion and pollution are other common problems. Public transport and infrastructure are being stretched to their limits. You could say that chaos has become normal.

But location services can now help people and businesses make sense of this chaos and can be an indispensable guide to the changing world.

HERE Maps

Reinventing the Map

Maps have been around since the Babylonian times, Michael Halbherr pointed out. He said though that maps are evolving and five trends are coming together to make maps more meaningful in how we manage our lives.

First there is the unprecedented growth of cities, but in addition the Internet is becoming mobile and sensors are embedded in every mobile device collecting tons of data. Plus there has been an explosion in the number of special purpose devices and the Internet is becoming more social.

Taken together these trends mean that ‘where?’ has become as fundamental to our lives as ‘how?’ and ‘why?’, especially in cities.

“We need to go beyond the map from the cacophony of the real world to the virtual world,” said Michael Halbherr. This is where Nokia has been reinventing the map.

Here Data Collection Vehicle

The location experience

Rather than a series of coordinates and lines on a page, Nokia’s HERE Maps are dynamic reflecting the changing world we live in and the numerous ways we now use maps. It is what Michael calls  ‘computational cartography.’

Take, for example, HERE City Lens, which shows people valuable information about the places around them on their smartphone’s viewfinder overlaid on top of what their seeing in the real world.

Michael said that the LiveSight technology powering HERE City Lens was just one example of reinventing the map and the possibilities were endless for helping people in their daily lives. He said that it’s an example of what now makes a phone a gateway to the real world.

Nokia City Lens

The HERE experiences such as HERE Maps, HERE Drive, HERE Transit and HERE City Lens all help to get people where they need to go and help them to discover new places.

Plus these location solutions also work across every major operating system and platform.

Making cities smarter

In essence Michael emphasized that as cities have become more crowded and more chaotic, location tools have become increasingly crucial. Our reinvented maps will need to become more dynamic, hyper precise and fresh.

The challenge now is to create the most comprehensive and accurate picture of the real world so we can use those maps to help us whatever the use and context.

‘The new map will not just be for the developed world,’ said Halbherr. ‘But for all the people across the world moving from rural to urban areas and who need to make sense of the world where they live.’

Top image credit: Girish Menon / Shutterstock.com