Nokia’s Here maps is showing the way forward with a navigation app for wearable devices, starting with the new Samsung Gear S. The Gear S is powered by Tizen, with Here keeping quiet on plans for Android Wear.
Here’s maps app has arrived in beta form today for Samsung’s Android smartphones, but when it comes to an app on your actual smartwatch or wearable, Tizen gets there first.
“Android is a fat OS”, says Sean Fernback, senior vice president of Everyday Mobility at Here, explaining the Here app for Tizen wearables. “Tizen is a lighter-weight operating system more compatible with wearable technology.”
Tizen is Samsung’s own operating system for running devices from watches to cameras, although the first Tizen phone has been delayed several times. As well as Tizen, Samsung also has plans for wearable devices that use Google’s Android Wear, which powers smartwatches such as the Motorola Moto 360 and LG G Watch R. Here hasn’t ruled out working with Android Wear devices, but settled on Tizen first.
“Anything that is scaling well we will adopt,” says Fernback. “Wearables are a big opportunity, but we haven’t seen the best of it yet. We are watching the Internet of Things very closely.”
Directions on your wrist
Here is the part of Finnish company Nokia that builds maps and provides that data to a smartphone and tablet app and to third-party apps that work just about everywhere, from smartphones and tablets to in-car sat-nav systems.
This is Here’s first foray into the burgeoning wearables sector, putting directions on your watch to save you fishing your phone out of your pocket every hundred yards as you make for your destination, and saving you standing on unfamiliar street corners waving your expensive smartphone around.
Here powers an app for the Gear S called Navigator, which offers turn-by-turn navigation when you’re walking or getting public transport.
The small screen is fine for showing you where to go next, but not ideal for actually planning a route. So the watch pairs via Bluetooth with your phone, where the new Here Android app lets you look up your destination and figure out how to get there, whether on foot or public transport, before zapping the route to your watch, and setting off with your phone safely stowed in your pocket.
Handily, you can save maps on your phone and on the watch so you can still see where you’re going even when you’re not connected to the Web. The app will even calculate a route and give you directions when you’re offline.
Offline maps are available for almost 100 countries, which means when you’re overseas you don’t need to spend a fortune on connecting to the Web to work out where you’re going. And if you happen to be in any one of 750 cities across 40 countries you can also look up public transport information without a data connection.
‘Modernise the map’
The rise of wearables and the connected car means the hardware is there for companies like Here to look to the next generation of mapping, going beyond the roads and lines we’re used to from paper maps. “We want to modernise the map,” says Sean Fernback.
One of the next stages is indoor mapping, showing you how to get around inside shopping centres, train stations, museums and other venues. Here has indoor maps of more than 90,000 buildings in 71 countries, the data collected from information submitted by the venues or by teams of people exploring and mapping the venue — Here calls this “gig walking.”