Nokia’s CTO Henry Tirri has spoken to ZDNet during Slush conference and the interview brings forth some interesting details about the tech and R&D focus of the New Nokia. While NSN and HERE Maps received lots of attention and discussions around them, the advanced tech unit has been less discussed and less is known about its future plans. So, Tirri’s interview provides good insights into the shape and future roadmap of this unit.
- This third unit will be rolled up under the banner of Advanced Technologies, and staffed by around 600 Nokians.
- The unit that Tirri now works on, the CTO office, will become what he calls one of the “backbones of Advanced Technologies”. The research-focused CTO office has traditionally contributed around two-thirds of the intellectual property that Nokia generates every year, and that work will continue when it’s rehomed.
- A key focus for the unit will be radio technologies — the things that once underpinned Nokia’s mobile empire — but the company is also turning its R&D eye on non-cellular types of connectivity too. Sensor technologies, imaging, audio and cloud are also on the new Nokia’s R&D horizon.
- Radio tech, cloud and sensors are the key ingredients of Nokia’s future tech vision. Tirri envisions tomorrow’s technology as today’s, but pumped up: everything connected (hence the radio research), everything digitised and updated in real time (hence the cloud), and everything larded with tech to make it aware of its environment (hence the sensors).
- Licensing of technologies, rather than purely licensing patents, is more likely to figure in Nokia’s future — where it researches and develops products at the behest of customers, who then license the technology from Nokia.
- Nokia will not become patent troll, as it still inherits HERE and NSN. According to Tirri, “Our R&D is heavier than many of the other licensing companies that are not looked at as trolls, the ARMs and others — we would be very equivalent to them,”. Also, “I don’t envision us buying patents and then selling them. Considering the amount of patents we have, I don’t think we have any need to go anywhere else. Of course, we might want to occasionally work in licensing mode where we want to help a company or a partner that would not have such IP protection, but that’s business as usual — it’s very easy for me to see these are different things.”
- Nokia staff demoed some hardware innovations at Slush, “Staff from Nokia’s research centre demoed projects including a product called Wireless Fast Flow which would allow users to automatically broadcast content from their phones straight to the nearest display, and an older project, Kinetic UI. Designed to work on a flexible device, the user interface would let smartphone owners control their device by bending it — zooming out from a photo by bending the sides of the device away from them and zooming in with the reverse gesture, for example.”
- Nokia’s vision of wearables is more than just being accessory to another device. Tirri says, “I still believe that, for lazy brains, there has to be some super-good benefit of using [a piece of hardware]… I personally am not interested in the watch form factor messaging device, but other people are. My main point is more that the wearables that people are talking a lot about are still accessories to another device. I’m much more interesting in devices which are augmenting my life, my senses, etc by themselves.”
Nokia is tipped to bring a smart watch in Q3 2014 and several patents reveal their interest in smart glass.