Nokia lauches $100M fund to fuel the connected car

Nokia will use the money to further HERE, its connected driving platform launched last year

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
May 5, 2014
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Now that Nokia is officially out of the mobile phone business, the company is free to pick any path it wants to choose going forward. With that weight lifted, it can invest in any type of technology is feels like. And so the company has already chosen its next move: it will put money into the connected car.

Nokia announced on Monday that was launching of a $100 million Connected Car fund, which will be managed by Nokia Growth Partners (NGP). The fund, the company said, "will identify and invest in companies whose innovations will be important for a world of connected and intelligent vehicles."

Nokia’s HERE, its connected driving platform, will work closely with the fund to identify investments that will "also support the growth of the ecosystem around HERE's mapping and location products and services."

HERE features include embedded in-car navigation; real-time updates via a cloud connection; and a customizable mobile and web application called Companion that allows users to synchronize their favorite places and routes across devices.

"For the last few years there has been a surge in innovation that has brought technological advances leading to safer, cleaner, increasingly connected, intelligent and more affordable vehicles. Vehicles are becoming a new platform for technology adoption very similar to phones or tablets," Paul Asel, Partner at Nokia Growth Partners, said in a statement. 

"We are excited to deepen our collaboration with HERE through the Connected Car fund to invest in companies that are driving the future of the auto ecosystem, local services and personal mobility."

The new fund brings NGP's commitments to $700 million total, with investments in the U.S., India, China and Europe. 

Connected car competition

Its not a huge surprise that Nokia would put money into the connected car, given that the company launched HERE in August of last year. But it is going to have some pretty big competition from Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Apple is probably further along than any of them when it comes to the connected car. 

The company first made the announcement of its car integration plans back at the WWDC 2013 keynote in June of last year. It said at the time that it would be making deals with car manufacturers to integrate more features from iOS into their cars, including maps and iMessages.

Previously known as "iOS in the Car," Apple's vehicle integration service got a new name, "CarPlay," in March.

Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo premiered CarPlay to their drivers the same week, though the service will be available yet. It will be rolled out in select cars shipping later  this year.

Other manufacturers, including BMW Group, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia Motors, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan Motor Company, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota Motor Corp, will be bringing CarPlay to their drivers "down the road."

Google, meanwhile, announced in January the creation of the the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), along with a number of manufacturers, including Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia. The point of the Alliance is for automakers and developers to deliver a product to customers, which will be both familiar and consistent across multiple brands. 

Basically, drivers will be able to get into any car and automatically know how to use the system, which will also make it easier for developers to work within that system.

If Google succeeds in setting the standard for vehicle integration, it could push CarPlay out as more manufacturers could opt for the universal system.

The most recent company to enter the fray is Microsoft, which just last month debuted Windows in the Car, which extends the functionality of a Windows Phone directly into a built-in car display.

Now, with Nokia gearing up to put more money into the space, it will no doubt become very exciting to see how all four of these companies eventually shake out.

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