The following text is a condensed version of an article published on Nokia’s intranet (restricted access) on March 11, 2004. I’ve omitted part of the original text for reasons of company confidentiality and the confidentiality of interviewees.
Trust your life to a piece of Nokia
By Jos Schuurmans March 11, 2004, 16:00
HELSINKI, Finland. — A dozen brains at NVO Multimedia Applications in Ruoholahti have combined their visions of mobility, their entrepreneurial spirit, technological expertise and marketing skill to work on… the "memory prosthesis".
Well, sure, there you have an exaggerated metaphor. No external device is likely to replace the human brain any time soon. But the larger idea certainly holds water and the first tangible result of their efforts will be version 1.0 of Lifeblog, a preview of which will be shown at the CeBIT fair in Hanover, Germany, next week.
NVO Multimedia Applications team’s Director Christian Lindholm has been pushing the case for usability within Nokia for a long time. He invented the Navi-key and has, more recently, been standing at the crib of the Series 60 platform, which he is now actively promoting and developing.
Christian’s insight was captured, together with those of other
contributors, in ‘Mobile Usability; How Nokia Changed the Face of the
Mobile Phone‘, a book published by McGraw-Hill last summer.
The file manager is dead
The venture focuses on personal content management, an area that is
bound to grow very nicely indeed over the coming years. Today’s
fast-paced information society poses an increasing challenge for people
to remember, jot down, organize, and retrieve personal information such
as appointments, messages, names, addresses, phone numbers, notes and,
yes of course, multimedia content like photos, video clips and voice
Due to the sheer amount of digital communication and its variety of
formats and channels, putting files in folders on a PC is no longer a
sustainable way to handle personal content, Christian asserts. "We want
to become the leading consumer application in personal content
management. The file manager as we know it is dead. We want to
re-invent the file manager."
The problem that NVO Multimedia Applications is trying to solve is
how people can easily operate a mobile phone, while the concept of a
mobile phone is evolving from a communications device to a ubiquitous
Says Charlie Schick,
Senior Marketing Manager: "If you put people into a focus group and ask
them: ‘What do you take with you when the house starts burning?’, many
of them say: ‘My photos.’ Where do you keep them? ‘In albums and in
shoe boxes.’ They don’t say: ‘I’ll run out of the house with my hard
disk under my arm’ – yet."
This is likely to change once people start digitizing their old snap
shots and taking new ones digitally. Digital recording devices and
storage are becoming more and more affordable and, importantly, digital
content doesn’t require the physical storage space that analog content
does. Futurologists predict a content explosion whereby humanity will
produce more content in the next decade or so than the total amount of
information produced to date.
So where do we start in order to manage this explosion? NVO
Multimedia Applications starts by focusing on the mobile memory, on
managing pictures and messages. Because the software that handles this
personal content as well as the hardware that stores it will be very
The meta-data enabled life recorder
Input to the handset comes from the built-in camera, the keyboard,
the microphone, wireless connections to other devices, and of course
voice and data communications over the cellular network. All this
information can be stored. And all kinds of other input as well: think
about sensors that pick up light, temperature, air pressure, movement
and GPS location.
"In the future we will be adding an enormous
amount of sensors," [text omitted]. "What you then get is a meta-data
enabled life recorder." The software on the machine can attach
meta-data to each piece of content. Meta-data ads value to the content
by describing it in one way or another, for example where and what time
a photo was taken, or where and with whom a phone call was made.
omitted] see time, location and people as the fundamental meta-data,
but many more are imaginable. "Then you will have an automatically
augmented life diary. With the meta-data it becomes smarter than its
The emotional attachment to personal content is one of the major
challenges in developing and marketing personal content management
solutions. In the offering of a ‘memory prosthesis’ or extension of the
brain, trust is the most crucial asset.
"Of course this whole area is about trust," says Christian. "You
basically ask people to trust their whole life to a Nokia piece of
software. [text omitted]"
A trusted solution on a trusted device from a trusted brand may just be able to pull it off.
While the first version of Lifeblog, to be shown as a preview at
CeBIT, will essentially be an application that downloads pictures and
messages from the mobile phone to a PC and presents them on a timeline,
it is part of the roadmap to create a richer blog solution, that will
allow users to post individual images and notes as "diary entries".