Mapping Giant Esri Adds Real-Time Traffic Information From Nokia’s Here

While Nokia continues to plug away at picking up more consumer users of its new Windows Phone-powered smartphones, it’s also looking for more licensees for its Here location data business. Today the company announced one such deal, in which Here’s real-time traffic information will get integrated into mapping software from Esri, whose geographic information system technology is used by some 350,000 organizations worldwide.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but this is on its most basic level an enterprise deal. The information will be used in software that in turn gets used by government and fleet-management companies, Nokia said today. Indirectly, Esri has a fairly wide and significant reach, working with most U.S. federal agencies and national mapping agencies, 45 of the top 50 petroleum companies, all 50 U.S. state health departments, most forestry companies, over 24,000 state and local governments, education institutions and more.

This is an extension of an existing agreement between the two companies, with Esri already using Here basic mapping data for the last 10 years. “Through this combination of traffic and map content, Esri will be able to provide a richer location-based analytics offering that will help businesses make more informed decisions,” Roy Kolstad, VP for mobile, web, and enterprise, North America, for HERE, said in a statement.

The move is significant for a few reasons.

For one, it gives Nokia more ubiquity for its mapping data, and furthers the idea that the company is taking it beyond being a repository of information for its proprietary products alone — thereby giving Nokia another revenue stream. Like its bigger parent, Nokia’s Here division is in strong need of more revenues. The division is still loss-making but has been highlighted as a core part of Nokia’s wider mobile software strategy. Here’s mapping patents are one of its most lucrative assets.

And the Esri/Here deal is another sign of the growing sophistication that we’re seeing in wireless, real-time mapping services. As basic maps (and services that used to be the terrain only of GPS devices) become more commonplace, what may be more valuable longer term are the services around how we use that information, whether that is crowdsourced or real-time traffic information, how we track and share those routes, and other things. Just last week Apple filed an application for a patent on crowdsourced navigation services, which sound not unlike what Waze (being bought by Google) is doing.

It’s also a sign of how Esri is gearing up to take its platform to an even wider audience with more functionality. This is a strategy also underscored by its acquisition of Geoloqi in October 2012 when it also indicated that it was preparing an iOS developer-friendly mapping library.

“Launching real-time traffic from HERE on Esri’s platform for our ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS for Transportation Analytics software products will offer a deeper level of logistic and analytic capabilities for enterprise and government fleet companies,” notes Chris Cappelli, sales director at Esri, in a statement.

Nokia says it gets its real-time traffic information from “both commercial and consumer probe data, the world’s largest fixed proprietary sensor network, event-based data collected from government and commercial sources, and billions of historical traffic records.” It’s a real “big data” business: Nokia says it processes 20 billion real-time GPS probe points each month, “almost half of all the data less than 1 minute old and more than three-quarters less than 5 minutes old.”

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