Jennifer Allen

Nokia Project Manager,

NATASHA What does location intelligence/geo mean to you?

JENNIFER Location intelligence is about understanding where you are and what is in the world. My first conscious experience of location was through a map. I think that is the case for most people. Unconsciously we’re all using and benefiting from location thinking every day.

NATASHA How did you get into location?

JENNIFER We had a set of encyclopedias at home when I was growing up. Around age 10, I found an atlas at the back of one of the encyclopedias. I had one of those moments of marvel and exciting discovery. I loved the visual sense of it—a set of pictures telling me about the real world. It helped me to understand where I’m from, how big the world is, and how I could be connected to it.

This set the course for a life long interest in mapping, cartography and ultimately the location business. I followed my heart’s desire and so went on to study geography in University for a B.A., then later a Masters in GIS.

NATASHA How does location inspire?

JENNIFER Firstly I think about a sense of being grounded, or feeling secure. It can be comforting and informing to have a sense of place. Location helps people know about where they are, where they fit in, what’s going to help them live their lives in the moment or for a sustained period. At its most simple, it’s a map saying “you are here.”

At the next level, location is about the potential and excitement of new things. That will always be inspiring. Think about how if you click the “nearby” button on the map on your phone and you’re told about things that you might like.

Something that’s also inspiring to me is the way in which location information is presented. Maps are works of art. Cartography is the science of making the complex understandable. I feel proud that I work on products that help people in their lives, and that are beautiful to look at.

To me, there are two types of map personalities in the world. There are “map geeks” like me—people who get excited when they see a map or beautifully rendered way of looking at the world. Map geeks will always want to understand how these maps, apps and services work. And for us, we live in exciting times.

And then there are the “map reluctant.” They don’t get a frisson of excitement pouring over a paper map; they’re not “wowed” by checking into a place and they’re very likely worried about sharing too much about where they are.

A friend of mine is one of these. But interestingly she has an app on her phone which helps her to hail a taxi and she loves it. According to her, it’s the most useful service she has available on her phone. This app works by knowing your location and then deriving your address (reverse geocoding, in map speak). It’s also integrated with a payment system. She trusts it, uses it and evangelizes it. This is the way to inspire the “map reluctant.” Make services that are useful, integrated and intuitive to use.

NATASHA How does location-based thinking improve business, the world and society, the economy?

JENNIFER Maps have always been used by governments to manage assets and plan strategies. Corporations use them for the same purposes and for identifying and helping customers. What I’m particularly interested in today is how location has gone beyond the domain of the big organizations.

You no longer have to have a huge budget or infrastructure to take advantage of location information. If you’re a local business, you can use a plethora of free services to put your place on the map. The power of this new world is that location becomes more local and therefore more human.

On a social level, location is a good way to help build communities. Have you noticed with all the social applications available today the human desire to express oneself? Right now the world is exploding with people who want to say things, comment, contribute, debate, illustrate and collect. So much of this expression is about being part of a community. And so much of community forming is based on location. If we, the makers of location services, can build simple and compelling ways to help people express them- selves in relation to the world around them, we’ll contribute enormously to communities and people’s lives.


“Maps are works of art. Cartography is the science of making the complex understandable.”

NATASHA What is your role relative to location in your position?

JENNIFER I am the project manager for the HERE Places API at Nokia. It’s the back end service, or gateway to the Places experience available both on Nokia’s mapping applications and those of our commercial customers. It’s a fundamental part of our Business to Business offering. My role as project manager is to plan, guide, record, and in uence the product development process, and translate the business needs into the applicable technology. Previous to this, I was at Vodafone, and previous to that, at Ordnance Survey, U.K.’s national mapping agency. I’ve brought my map know-how and diverse experience within government and telecommunications to my role in product development.

NATASHA What is the future of location?

JENNIFER I think the future of location is intrinsically linked to building compelling experiences that allow people to express themselves and then to harness the data—what I call a gift to build more intelligent products that are better for people.

I know that some people are reluctant to embrace the benefit of some fantastic location applications because they’re not naturally map aware and also because they’re cautious about exposing information about themselves and their location.

Companies that provide location-based services and applications need to demonstrate that they take their users’ privacy seriously, treat them with respect, and give individuals control over their information. Building beautiful, compelling and useful products that respect people is the secret to long term success of location-based products.

NATASHA How does location benefit women in the world?

JENNIFER Instead of asking, what can location do for women? I think we should be asking what women can do for location. When female thinking is integrated into product development, or when products are speci cally designed for a female audience, we have found that the end product produced is actually relevant to a wider audience. Women have basic requirements when it comes to products—they want it to work properly, want it to work well, don’t want to experiment with it, and want it to be beautiful. In developing products, you need to think about the diversity of the audience. If you include more women in that process, you are more likely to produce more relevant and diversi ed products, which is good for everyone!