At a Nokia news conference, the company shows off a sample view of real-time traffic in San Francisco. The system offers updates on traffic in select cities including Chicago.
Nokia is bringing 150 suburban employees to Chicago to expand a division that creates real-time traffic updates and other location-based services for mobile devices.
The move, announced at a Tuesday news conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, marks part of a wider effort by the Finnish cell phone company to grow its technology along with its Chicago office, already the company’s largest in North America.
The 150 employees will leave the western suburb of Itasca and join 1,200 Nokia workers already in the Loop. Nokia is planning to hire another 100 people for technology jobs in Chicago. A company official said Nokia will soon be about 1,500 employees in the city.
The Itasca workers are part of the Mobile Phones Xpress Internet Services group, which works largely in cellular Web browsing. They’ll join the location and commerce division, which has expertise in mapping and similar technologies. Combining those skill sets makes good business sense, said Ogi Redzic, vice president for traffic at Nokia Location and Commerce.
“We see a lot of synergy,” he said.
Nokia has three location and commerce division offices around the world, Redzic said, and Chicago’s is the largest. Real-time Nokia traffic service is now based in Chicago, guiding drivers through rush hours across the world in places as diverse as the Dan Ryan Expressway and Mumbai.
Before Tuesday’s news conference, Nokia officials had set up a demo version of the real-time traffic patterns in Chicago and other cities that feed information to customers’ phones. On interstates, green dots signified cars moving quickly overnight and during the day. But during the morning and evening rush hours, those dots turned yellow or red as the system detected a slowdown. The data points help drivers with the Nokia systems know how long they’ll sit in traffic.
Emanuel, who met with Nokia’s CEO in August, said the company needed more space than its Itasca location could provide. The mayor said corporate officials were considering a move to another suburb, downtown Chicago or another state.
Attracting Nokia is a coup for Emanuel, who has focused his efforts as mayor on bringing high-paying jobs to Chicago. His press office said 60 companies have announced 25,000 new jobs in the city since Emanuel took office last year. Many of those are in the tech sector.
“Chicago is becoming a wireless capital of the country and digital crossroads of the continent,” the mayor said.
Before speaking with reporters, Emanuel toured Nokia’s office and met with employees. He said many workers attended universities in the state, lived in the city and took public transportation to the office. Keeping those young professionals in town is important, Emanuel said, and jobs like Nokia’s will help accomplish that.
Redzic said Nokia works with several local colleges, including the Illinois Institute of Technology, to provide training for skilled technical workers who the company might one day hire.
The company is also working on innovations to help people find parking spaces more efficiently, Redzic said.
“We really believe we can change the way people interface with city infrastructure,” Redzic said.