Minds behind the Maps – Peter Skillman

London
51° 30' 23.112" N, -0° 7' 37.956" E
25th Nov 2013
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As Head of Design for HERE, Peter Skillman has a tough, yet rewarding job.

“My mission is to unlock the creative potential of other people and it is a privilege to represent the work of our team. It’s in that process that we gather insights to meaningfully impact our strategy and develop designs that inspire and delight.”

After 20 years of experience leading design teams for both hardware and software, Peter understands that creating beautiful and relevant user interfaces is all about context. Successful design focuses on the environment, whether it is a physical setting, or a digital one on a mobile device.

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Designing HERE

The latest challenge for Peter and the HERE Design team is applying those design principles to mapping and location services across all devices including in-car. As more people begin to own multiple devices, they expect their map experiences to be unified, accessible, and effortless. The key to this will be how we manage and promote a single cloud account with state sharing across devices.

“Today, mapping is about providing beautifully relevant answers to everyday questions. HERE can help you discover shops within a mall, can tell you what time a bus is due, or show you where to eat with the real world as an interface using LiveSight

To craft meaningful design, the HERE team begins by considering the needs of real people. “We can’t get arrogant about what we think people want. We need to observe, prototype and test our ideas directly.”

“Location is such a personal thing. If you ask ‘Where am I?’, ‘How do I get to..?’, or ‘Where’s the nearest..?’ it’s all depends on something that’s physical and mostly just relevant to you – where you are, your geographical location in the world, but perhaps more importantly: the places that are meaningful to your circle of friends. This is very different than a search engine optimized approach that is impersonal. This distinction is a key to our strategy.”

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Contextually aware

“Our goal is to make HERE Maps, HERE Drive, HERE Transit, HERE in the car and here.com as a single unified brand experience.

“HERE will increasingly provide the right map at the moment you need it – updating you on changing traffic conditions, suggesting a new restaurant close by, presenting a contextually relevant map and making it easy to coordinate with family and friends.

“That sort of deep personalization – learning about your behaviour and patterns – requires a massive amount of data crunching and predictive analytics in the background. Despite the back end complexity, the user experience needs to feel seamless and simple,” says Peter. “It’s difficult to simplify something but also make a contextually intelligent and relevant service. All the hard work goes on behind the scenes and you only see the information that’s relevant to you.”

That’s true whatever the device and whatever the operating system.

“We’re bringing HERE to new platforms, such as Nokia Lumia 2520, to give people the same features and experience but on a larger scale. No matter how big or small your world is, you can find contextually relevant maps and information no matter where you are, even offline,” Peter says.

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Where does Peter see HERE and location services in the future?

“In general, I think the smartphone is going to become less of a hub and instead there will be lots of smaller devices that all interact seamlessly with each other via the cloud. Location as a platform will be distributed into the Internet of things.

“As people integrate devices into more aspects of their lives, location services will continue to become even more personal and social, while mapping technology will advance to be even more accessible.

“This requires we create an actual model of the real world, so that when you ask the question of where, you can see where you are accessing an accurate 3D representation of the world with fully clickable elements that can be explored more deeply. This allows you to navigate with what you see around you as opposed to just relying on street names. This is natural guidance…and I think that’s pretty cool!”