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EMEA: Here is on the move

The buzz has finally come to fruition with the announcement of the sale of Nokia’s Here to an automotive industry consortium made up of Audi AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG for $3.07 billion (EUR 2.8 billion).

Nokia today announced the finalization of its agreement to sell its Here digital mapping and location services business. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, which seems to align well with the projected closing for the inbound Alcatel-Lucent organization during the first half of 2016. At the time of the proposed Alcatel-Lucent agreement in April, the strategic review of Nokia’s structure, which resulted in this sale, was initiated. Upon completion of the sale, Nokia will move forward with two business units – Nokia Networks and Nokia Technologies. At the end of June, Here had 6,454 employees and reported a $50 million (EUR 46 million) non-IFRS operating profit. Going forward, Nokia will report Here under discontinued operations.

Here is developing a location cloud that utilizes the data generated by vehicles, devices and infrastructure to deliver real-time, predictive and personalized location services. The vision for the automotive industry is focusing on developing precise and accurate mapping functionality along with corresponding services to enable a new class of driver experiences and support the mapping requirements for autonomous driving in the future. It’s no wonder that three automotive giants, who happen to be leaders in the topic of autonomous and semi-autonomous driving, are interested in having a closer relationship with Here.

“I believe today’s announcement is a very good outcome for Here, its customers and employees. The new ownership structure of Here will allow us to accelerate our strategy, further scale our business and fulfill our intent to become the leading location cloud company across industries,” said Here President Sean Fernback.

The announcement from the automotive partners stresses the desire to keep these mapping tools open, independent and accessible to all customers from the automotive industry. I wonder if their competitors will feel the same way? Each of the partners will maintain an equal share in the new venture. Extremely precise digital maps combined with real-time vehicle data will enable automotive OEMs to increase road safety and offer a range of new products and services. By the sharing of raw data, all automobile manufacturers can offer their customers differentiated and brand-specific services.

Swarm intelligence was a key topic in the automakers announcement. By compiling information provided across multiple vehicles on the roadways, hazards can be identified earlier and reacted to before possible injuries and deaths occur. Real-time data could be utilized to facilitate the following scenarios:

  • Identification of icy road conditions based on calculations of individual data such as ABS activations and outside temperature.
  • Upcoming traffic jam notifications further in advance.
  • Data could be used to learn about critical bends on the road in order to warn drivers in time to prepare or to activate assistance systems.
  • Green phases of stoplights to enable a “green wave” in urban areas with the appropriate engine performance and minimized fuel consumption.

High-precision maps are required for all of these envisioned scenarios.

“Here will be able to offer users a continuously improving product, bringing highly automated driving and location-based services a step further. As the volume of anonymized data from the vehicles increases, services will become more convenient, more connected and further tailored to the users’ individual requirements,” said Ulrich Hackenberg, member of the board of management of AUDI AG for technical development; Klaus Fröhlich, member of the board of management of BMW AG for development; and Thomas Weber, member of the board of management of Daimler AG for group research.

Here supports markets beyond automotive and will continue to do so after the transaction is closed. Along with a separate management structure, this should enable autonomy that encourages usage and participation from other automotive OEMs. Let’s see how the race to autonomous driving between Google and the automakers unfolds with this latest development.

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Claudia Bacco, Managing Director – EMEA for RCR Wireless News, has spent her entire career in telecom, IT and security. Having experience as an operator, software and hardware vendor and as a well-known industry analyst, she has many opinions on the market. She’ll be sharing those opinions along with ongoing trend analysis for RCR Wireless News.

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