Ovi Maps-How it work

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Have you ever woke up dreaming that you are alone in some desert? You go right, you go left, run forward, come backward, just to find sand everywhere. May be you are just half a mile from the way out, but which way?

Similar has been theme of many horror flicks, where a group get lost in desert or sea and then bad things happen … Have you noticed that such movies started loosing their effect now days? Because when we might be watching them in full ‘tension’, then some kid of our family jumps in to shout on screen “Don’t any of you all have Nokia with you?”

helmut_lost_at_sea desert

Sometimes enabling the invention to reach the masses becomes much bigger than the invention itself, same is with Nokia/ Ovi Maps otherwise we were hearing only stories about Jack’s compass 😉

How this all started?

It was path breaking move, when for the first time time Nokia started giving Smart2Go for free in February smart2go 2007, after acquiring German Route Planning Software Company Gate5 in August 2006. That time, it really made the statement that soon high charging navigation companies & gadgets will be out of market and normal users, who might have heard of it in flight navigation like big things only, will have their piece of cake right into their hands. Being the largest cellfone manufacturer of world and known for longer life batteries, it was expected to be a real life thing and it became the same.

With Smart2Go, Nokia was using Tele Atlas NV, but later, the rival full time navigation giant TomTom navteqacquired the same and before it could hurt Nokia, Nokia acquired Navteq (which earlier was powering Google Maps) to keep this lovely child within their own hands (it still operates independently under Nokia) and Smart2Go became a core part of Nokia Product line with the name, we been familiar from long Nokia Maps, which later on after association with Ovi Services and Ovi Suit renamed to Ovi Maps by public beta on August 28, 2008. So, this was the story behind Ovi Maps as we see it today.

Why Ovi?ovi

“Ovi” is a Finnish word that stands for “Door” and it really opened the door for so many possibilities. Ovi Sync,  Ovi Store, Ovi Maps, Ovi Mails, Ovi Share, Ovi Files, Ovi Player etc. It really changed the way, a normal user was using the Smartphone. Personally myself loved the way, I kept my contacts synced on all my Smartphones.

How Navigation devices work for mobiles?

This all started due to regulation encouragement for mobile phone tracking that was associated with E911 then (Enhanced-911) and lots of mobile phones started having built-in receivers with varying degrees of coverage and user accessibility.

There been one class of mobile devices, who works on A-GPS means wont work once out of range of their carrier’s cell towers and the another class that works worldwide on satellite GPS signals like dedicated GPS devices. Even the third class has been introduced as hybrid positioning system, which usages other signals like wi-fi spots etc.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is actually a constellation of 27 Earth-orbiting satellites (24 in operation and three extras in case one fails, though I am not sure about the numbers actually). The U.S. military developed and implemented this satellite network as a military navigation system, but soon opened it up to everybody else. Later many others joined the same like China, like Google with its own Satelites and its became an open world, when GPS tracking is concerned.

Each of these 3,000- to 4,000-pound solar-powered satellites circles the globe at about 12,000 miles (19,300 km), making two complete rotations every day. The orbits are arranged so that at any time, anywhere on Earth, there are at least four satellites "visible" in the sky.

A GPS receiver’s job is to locate four or more of these satellites, figure out the distance to each, and use this information to deduce its own location. This operation is based on a simple mathematical principle called trilateration. Trilateration in three-dimensional space can be a little tricky, for those interested in details, can check always amazing HowStuffWorks link or also the other link to know that how at least 8 satellites are always in line of sight or each position on earth still due to a number of factors, its always mentioned that the accuracy should be taken up to 15 m to 20 m .

What makes Nokia’s Ovi Maps different and better?

Nokia made it possible to reach this technology right into hands of common people, not only that but Nokia used Free Hybrid Vector design specially made of mobile usage and provides offline Maps (No Network coverage required, though if available then will assist in locking the location fast). Moreover, the coverage of over 180 countries make it best maps with best global coverage that even go up to street level navigation for 74 countries in 46 different languages (must be more by now).

When I am talking about Languages, then yes!! not only text, but Nokia started providing Voice based turn by turn navigation for many of its devices. I have used it several times (regularly you say) and always been fascinated by its accuracy. I really wonder sometimes that it knows my city and even street much better than any person living here from years. Yeah!! though these maps get updated only twice a year (might be the frequency increased by now), so there are limitation about quick and shot-lived changes, but even then you must give them credit for devising such a great system that much available to you.

I personally praised Google Maps a lot like Google’s other services, but still I must accept that Google stands behind when the actual usability for mass is concerned. Yes!! Google is excellent about coverage, about searching addresses and about other innovations like Street View and so clear satellite view, but what are you paying? Google’s Maps are always rendered online means they are of no use once you out of coverage (leave the data charges aside and draining of battery aside), moreover, still Voice based turn by turn navigation reached to only Android 2.0 devices (none of them below 25k I guess), while Nokia is providing you turn by turn voice guidance for life time free on devices costing around 10k.

Google might be great about Route Planning before start your travel and it would be quite handy to keep a route instruction generated by Google Maps including local landmarks etc, but you never know what network reception will you get while on the way, so Ovi Maps does matter a lot.

High Data Charges, Inability to serve without Network coverage and Non-availability of Voice based turn-by-turn navigation for low cost devices, there are the three points, which keeps Google still behind when it comes to actual mass and keep you fascinated that how Nokia actually does it?


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One day with Google-Ovi Maps and Nokia N97 Mini

Testing something is another thing and relying on them in unmanaged scenario as we are used to find in India is just another thing. Earlier I had used simple Nokia Maps to find the destination in one friend’s marriage and usually to know the distance left while travelling via public transport medium and also for using the badge on my blog via the link. This time thought to put it on a blind trial.

One of my friend was coming to New Delhi for an Interview with HDFC Bank. As she was unaware of Delhi locations, so it was up to me escort her. Address was something like HDFC Bank, Vertika Atrium, Sector 53, Gurgaon. I should admit, I am dumb about locations around in Delhi. Schedule goes monotonic in a way that I know about places like home and office only and even though now getting aware with new locations, still I find me dumber than others. So, the responsibility becomes tougher in my case.

It sound nerd, but I used Google Map to search for the location as Ovi Maps wasn’t able to come up with any result related to HDFC, Vertika Atrium. Even Google wasn’t able to find or I might not be using proper search terms, but I found Vertika Attrium for sure and that seems enough to reach there. I used the Get Directions link and taken print out of the route instructions by copy/ paste. I wish Google may place a print button or link for printing out the route instructions. Anyway…

Yes!! I missed a few turns and taken rounds of few places at moments, but that’s all due to misinterpretation of instructions not of fault of any of the two maps. Sure, it didn’t went blind as once or twice, I was to stop and ask people for confirmation that I am going right, but at the end, I was at exact place, I was to reach without many hassles.

Trip is completed but I am left with a few observations…

  1. Sharing: Ovi-Google: I am not sure that till now, I don’t know or there is no way till now for sharing a found location in Google Maps to Ovi Maps though Google Maps detect favourites made by Ovi Maps.

  2. Updates about Locations: When you think of technical aspects, then its sure a mammoth task, but I find that Ovi Maps due to their offline nature, aren’t that updated enough. Specially about places like we have in India, where when routes will be permanently blocked or re-routed via some other long route, no one knows. I come to hit places, where Ovi navigation kept on telling me that I need to turn right, but there was NO right turn? Yes. I was to go a few hundred meters and then by taking a U-turn, was to reach other side of the road to find that the instructions were right but not locally correct under traffic rules.

    While Google Maps was better in this sense due to highly detailed imaginary, whereas Nokia Satellite imaginary seems to be limited to City Level only not street level (understood due to vector nature of Maps for saving Data usages) and sure at some occasions, you get a better idea by the visuals you see. Not suggesting Nokia for doing so, but Google Maps is a must have for occasions.

  3. Heating of device: I am not sure that what caused that was it noon temperature or extensive usages of 3G data or heavily used Nokia N97 mini, but I found it heated up, when was coming back from the trip and found it better to switch the same off for a while. Must be some local issue otherwise, I have traveled longer with Maps and in comparison this wasn’t even a total of 100 km trip.

    Moral of the story: The navigation device should have excellent cooling system for longer trips as sometime choking/ fluctuating connections could cause a whole bunch of troubles for your beloved device.

Ovi tells you that you have to move straight till 3 km, when you reached nearer, it tells that after 300 m, you have to take left turn or have keep left if the turn is slight or you have two options, one flyover and one the road side by. Moreover, even after wrong turns, it instantly recalculate now renewed route instructions.

Means in all, the perfect solution it is. I have been in touch of a GPS technology related project through  one of my friend Manoj Tripathi under Prof. Anupam and aware of challenges in programming aspects of such a system. Dealing with something like whole world data, is something like amazing, which makes Ovi Maps and Google Maps technology the best of the apps on your smartphones.

Conclusion: Though my personal opinion, but I think such navigation is better for people driving cars as they could see the maps actually and not that better for people driving bikes and keeping the bluetooth headset on (like my case), but still work decently and you can actually rely over it.

Even if not that detailed (don’t have maps of my hometown Azamgarh in details), Ovi Maps is still the best about Voice Guided navigation. Technology is not about labs and research papers only, its about making in reached directly into hands of mass and Nokia and Google doing this at their best. I owe you!!!!


Google Maps Vs Ovi Maps-Ovi one is still ahead for mobiles

Just got to see a post from Aaron Baker on WomWorld about the same topic, I ranted about some times back. Google Maps Vs. Ovi. Although he is comparing it with Nexus one, which has the voice navigation with it (the prominent lacking factor in Symbian Version of Google Maps), but still he find Google Map more real time tracking. Although I am not convinced that much due to the factor that Nexus one is obviously much highly powered than E72 (with which he was comparing), moreover the differences were only a friction. So, its not conclusive that Google Maps/ Nexus is better about Navigation in cost effective way specially.

Yes!! I am quite a fanboy, when it comes to talking about Google and its services and as I wrote in my posts Google Maps Vs Ovi Maps and Things I don’t like in N900, I sure do over Google Maps imaginary and intuitiveness a lot. Street View, Integration with Buzz and latitude makes it invincible, while Nokia trying to cope up with lots of innovations, integration with Facebook and Ovi, but still I am not sure that there is some continuous tracking like Google Latitude, which could come quite handy like in my case, when I lost my Nokia 5800 (at least there was a possibility), there is anything like street view (although its not available for India till now) or Buzz.

What Nokia has at its best is powerful and rich voice navigation with offline maps, which is the core of the part. Its actually usable than just a play thing. Google provides maps online means if consuming your data channels even if you travel the same road. Yes! Nokia Maps also use bandwidth for A-GPS, but if you compare then its 10 times lesser than Goggle Maps. It means that even if Google starts maps with voice, they still sit behind due to offline nature of Nokia/ Ovi Maps.

So here my opinion is, Google Maps looks good enough, available easily on computers as well and provides many other small/ big thing as well, but still about Navigation Nokia one is better and actual thing. Accurate, cost effective, voice navigation even in Hindi and already built-in your cell. Its like some expert in era and Google one still has to go some way to be a favorable one for mobiles like support for offline maps, voice navigation and in-built compass (if available). For Nokia, I wish they could add something like Latitude, integration with twitter/ buzz and improve their satellite view (I know Google cant be defeated in this side at least).