With an uncertain future for Nokia's Windows Phone smartphone efforts, the Finnish company is pushing its way into cars with Here Connected Driving (HCD). The new infotainment and connected car platform is designed to tightly integrate a car's in-dash system with connected devices such as smartphones and tablets. HCD will make its debut at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany starting September 10, the company announced Friday.
Nokia launched the Here platform in late 2012 as an aggressive expansion of its mapping and location-based services. Most recently, the company released a Here Drive+ app for Windows Phone in August after temporarily pulling the app in July.
Similar to how Nokia's Navteq division is a white-label map provider to car makers, Here Connected Driving will be a platform that car companies can integrate into their current vehicle systems.
HCD is only an application layer that can sit on top of multiple car operating systems, Nokia recently told GigaOm. It's compatible with systems such as BlackBerry's QNX and Microsoft's Windows Embedded Automotive.
Nokia also plans on coming out with a software development kit (SDK) that car makers can use to encourage third-party developers to make apps for HCD. Since Here is a separate venture from Nokia's Windows Phone effort, the new car platform will integrate with Android, iOS, and the Web, in addition to Windows Phone handsets.
Breaking down HCD
Here Connected Driving is made up of several components including Here Auto, an embedded in-car navigation system that will be available in 95 countries. The system offers 2D and 3D satellite views, street level imagery, and a complement of onboard maps that can be delivered as you need them without a data connection.
Here Auto Cloud offers real-time traffic data via Here Traffic, recommendations for nearby places to eat, parking spots, fuel price comparisons, and electric vehicle charging stations.
There's also a mobile and Web application called Here Auto Companion that syncs your favorite places and travel routes across your mobile devices as well as the car's own in-dash system.
Car makers can customize Here Auto Companion to add Nokia features such as walking or public transit directions, indoor maps, and the ability to find a car's location using LiveSight augmented reality. Auto Companion can also provide live car data such as fuel levels and tire pressure.
In 2011, auto industry analyst Thilo Koslowski told The Wall Street Journal he expected in-dash systems to go mainstream by 2016. That sentiment still holds two years later, as Nokia quoted similar statements from Koslowski in its press release on Friday for Here Connected Driving.
If Koslowski is correct, Nokia's entry into the business could be a boon for the company as its smartphone business struggles. Of course, BlackBerry's QNX platform held out a similar hope for the long-suffering handset maker and we can all see how that one is turning out.
Nevertheless, Nokia is already a popular mapping choice thanks to its Navteq subsidiary, so in-dash systems are a logical extension of that work. The question is whether HCD can or would be adopted by major American car manufacturers such as Ford and GM.
During CES in January, both auto makers unveiled third-party software developer programs for their separate in-dash systems. Combined, the pair own around 33 percent of the domestic market, according to data from The Wall Street Journal.
Nevertheless, there's still a lot of room in the global car market, and the ability to sync data across devices and the car could make Here a desirable choice for car makers as Nokia branches out into infotainment.