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Nokia, Groupon bring real-time deals to Lumia phones

Chicago-based daily deals provider Groupon is partnering with Finnish mobile handset maker Nokia, building its real-time Groupon Now! offers into the Nokia Maps function on its Lumia smartphones.

The Lumia devices, which run Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating software, are available at T-Mobile and ATT in the U.S.  Nokia and Microsoft unveiled a major partnership last year, with the handset maker using Windows Phone as its main platform for smartphones. With the Groupon integration, a person conducting a search on Nokia Maps will see relevant, nearby deals marked with a green “G” along with other results. Selecting a deal calls up more information about the participating merchant and navigation directions on how to get there.

Terms of the partnership, which was announced Wednesday on Nokia’s corporate blog, were not disclosed. The Groupon integration is only available in the U.S.

Nokia views location-based services as a crucial area of investment and differentiation as it undergoes a significant turnaround in its business, which has been hampered by a sluggish entry into the ultra-competitive smartphone market. Chicago plays a major role in that strategy. In 2008, Nokia acquired Chicago-based digital mapping company Navteq. It then combined Navteq into its other location-related operations last year, calling the new business unit Location and Commerce.

About 1,200 people are employed at Nokia’s downtown Chicago office, most in Location and Commerce, and the company said its local workforce has increased even as it has conducted layoffs in other divisions. The Location and Commerce unit also has operations in Boston and Berlin.

Nokia is driving around 190 countries with its sensor-outfitted cars, gathering up-to-date information and offers turn-by-turn guidance in about 110 countries.

Michael Halbherr, executive vice president of  Location and Commerce, said nine out of 10 cars with in-dash navigation systems use Nokia mapping technology, and the company is looking to expand into more device categories and platforms as location takes center stage for consumers. A variety of functions can be improved with location-based services, Halbherr said. He cited a common text message, “I am here,” where the word “here” would be clickable and call up information about the person’s whereabouts.

“Every aspect of the mobile phone will be redefined using location,” Halbherr said at a Wednesday meeting with reporters.

The deceptively simple task of helping consumers get from A to B could be improved as well, Halbherr said. For example, in-car navigation can be made smarter to suggest better routes to the office or the airport that take into account real-time traffic and weather conditions. Nokia is also working on better navigation indoors and underground. Mapping technology should be able to predict, for example, when a person will be existing from a subway, and then push nearby Groupon deals to that person.

“There is no end game in A to B,” Halbherr said.

wawong@tribune.com | Twitter @VelocityWong

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