'Here' by Nokia: New cross-platform, cloud-based mapping service

Nokia Maps is evolving. "Here" is the name of the company's latest mapping service.

According to Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO, who was speaking at the launch in San Francisco, California, Here is "the first location cloud to deliver the best maps and locations services across more streams and operating systems".

So what can Here do?

Primarily it covers all the usual mapping that most of us are used to. Search, set up directions, track your current location and so forth are all existing staples.

Beyond that the service is more persoanlised and interactive. You can save the locations that matter to you in Connections, and even send feedback that will inform and update the system.

Yet more impressive is that the service can work in real time; it's advanced enough to flow in traffic and public transport networks' information to update how long your directions will take in real time, for example. The Around Me service is also able to not just show the locations of surrounding places of interest, but can draw in up-to-date feedback, such as Zagat ratings, number of people checked in here and, we're sure, there'll be plenty more examples of how that can be utilised in the near future.

Here isn't built to the usual "tile-based" format either. It uses vectors for a smaller build, but with no sacrifice to visuals or information. Why does this matter? It makes it far more accessible for offline use, which Here supports in full. In the demo that Nokia showed Pocket-lint, a Lumia 920 came loaded with an offline map of the entire United States. It totalled 2.5GB in size. Sounds kind of large, but that same map in a traditional tile-based format would total 122TB, according to Nokia. Yes, terabytes. Wowzers.

The 3D rendering is also rather ace. Head over to Here.com to get an initial taste of what's on offer - it's worth it just to look up a 3D render of where you live. The top-down view uses both satellite and on-the-ground imaging that is rendered in three dimensions with, for the most part, a great deal of accuracy. Check out the Houses of Parliament:

In the wake of Apple's "mapgate", Nokia is playing to its strengths. It's already a company that powers four out of every five car navigation systems and has been growing its maps and locations services in recent years.

Here is not only available to Lumia, or Windows Phone 8. Come 2013 there will be an Android version, while the HTML 5 site will also be wrapped up into an iOS App (subject to approval). Voice-activated walking directions, live traffic views and public transport feeds will be available in the coming weeks. Another nail hammered in for Apple Maps?

Whatever your phone, operating system, computer, satnav, and so forth, Nokia Here will be available in one form for free and it will import all your personal content too.

Pocket-lint is on location with Nokia and we'll be gathering up more information and tinkering with Here over the coming day. Keep those map-hungry eyes peeled...



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