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Nokia teams with MIT on mobile software

Researchers investigate whether software from Semantic Web, elsewhere can transform a cell phone to a Net "gateway."

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Nokia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Friday opened the doors to a new research lab that has a distinct software flavor.

Nokia executives said the Nokia Research Center Cambridge has begun seven projects in collaboration with MIT's Center for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). The research focuses on simplifying user interactions with handsets.

Bob Lannucci Bob Iannucci,
head of Nokia Research Center

Although Nokia is a giant in handset manufacturing, many of the advances in mobile usage will increasingly come from software, said Bob Iannucci, senior vice president and head of Nokia's research operations worldwide.

"We see value in mobility moving from the devices to the software that runs on top of them," Iannucci said.

He said that an important goal of the research center is to make programming software for mobile devices, which can include sensors and varying wireless networks, as simple as writing applications for a single PC. Better applications will make it easier to do more sophisticated tasks with phones, he said.

A project called SwapMe calls for Nokia and MIT researchers to use concepts from the Semantic Web--the World Wide Web Consortium's growing collection of protocols designed to make a wealth of new information accessible and reusable through the Web--to let people use their phones to make queries over the Web. A person could, for example, send a text message, "Where am I?" and get a map with a location in return.

Company executives also demonstrated a prototype program to use voice commands to manage a phone's calendar.

Another project will investigate how to securely and easily transmit multimedia content. Researchers are also working on designs to make phones more energy-efficient.

Iannucci said that the goal of collaborating with MIT, and potentially other companies, is to speed up innovations. The fruits of the research will eventually make their way into Nokia products.

"We're seeing a general trend to have much more open innovation, at least on this pre-competitive side of things," he said.