More Detail on Ovi Maps & Maps Booster

March 1st, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nokia Maps 3.0 with Ovi

On Friday I mentioned that v3.04 of Ovi Maps was available from Nokia Beta Labs.  Since then I’ve discovered that one of the main ways that this version can claim “Improved positioning speed and accuracy” is that within the application Ovi Maps now includes support for WiFi positioning.  Now, many of us are used to seeing this feature within Google Maps, which uses both Cell ID and WiFi positioning as well as having GPS support.

This now makes 3 different solutions available for Symbian; Google and their Cell ID and WiFi positioning within Google Maps (Google positioning is also used within the latest Alpha version of Gravity, the Social Networking client for Symbian via the fairly new public API), Skyhook Wireless and their Maps Booster solution (which we covered here, and adds support for Cell ID and WiFi positioning into the OS, making it available to all apps), and now Nokia are supporting WiFi positioning within Ovi Maps (in a similar way that Google support it within their Maps application).

This is a nice feature to see, although personally I would have preferred Nokia to either work with Skyhook Wireless, or to integrate the solution into the OS in the same way that Maps Booster does, as just providing it within their own application seems a little selfish, however, it’s a good start.  After all, on the iPhone there is a single positioning system used by all applications, although I do note that Android is expanding; whereas the base OS uses Google’s system, GoWalla (a social location app similar to FourSquare) now uses the Skyhook Wireless Cell ID and WiFi positioning information.

Apparently Nokia have been working on this for some while, to the extent that for the last 6 months Nokia employees across the world have been collecting WiFi location data for Nokia, allowing them to start with a fairly comprehensive database, as opposed to starting with no data at all.  I’m still waiting to understand from Nokia how exactly the WiFi location system will work in the long term; for example, if you have GPS enabled within Google Maps, then you will help Google self-learn new Cell IDs and new WiFi access points by providing the data to Google.  This self-learning also helps when an access point moves due to the consumer moving house (something I experienced when I purchased a WiFi access point from a friend, where Google constantly placed me in the old location of the access point until sufficient GPS-based survey data lead Google’s self-learning system to move the location to my house).

In comparison, Maps Booster from Skyhook Wireless relies upon their own data collection, although there is a website where you can notify them of errors in the database, which (again, based on personal experience) only takes a few days to update with the new information.  Having said that, I don’t know whether the iPhone location positioning (that is provided by Skyhook Wireless) has any element of self-learning.

As I said, at this stage, I’m not sure what method Nokia are using for learning of changes, although I hope to be able to report on that soon.

On the other hand, I have been using Maps Booster on a couple of Symbian phones since writing about it, and I am finding it very useful.  It has had the odd little blip, where it has put me in the US a couple of times, but then over the same period of tested it, Google Maps has placed me hundreds of miles away from phone too.  It seems to me that Maps Booster has some element of caching of data, as when I am at home and in range of a number of WiFi access points, my location appears pretty instantly in Ovi Maps, whereas at work, where it relies upon cell ID only, it seems to take a little longer to place me.  Although this still relies upon having an internet connection, using it with Ovi Maps (with the maps already downloaded via the Nokia Map Updater) it uses a lot less data than Google Maps for a similar journey, which is good news.  For longer journeys, I would still recommend using the GPS to keep the location information accurate, but for short journeys, especially walking (and especially when in between tall buildings, such as London), then Maps Booster is proving to me to be as useful as Google Maps’ equivalent.

Of course, ironically just after I wrote about wondering whether I could live without Google Maps and use Ovi Maps instead, Google released Google Buzz, which shows Google is still innovating within their client, and which has probably lead to me using both clients; I would love to switch away from Google Maps, but until Nokia integrate more sharing options into their client, or applications take advantage of the Ovi Maps SDK, I’m pretty tied into Google Latitude (more than I realised when I thought I could move away from Google Maps).

Finally, over the weekend I asked Nokia to comment on the situation regarding coverage on elder phones, and received the comment “It’s coming”.  Now I can’t guarantee that was aimed at FP1 (as opposed to supporting more FP2 phones which is still formally missing), but I think we’ll see an announcement from Nokia on this issues soon, but not immediately (I would suggest another few months before we see anything definitive).


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