Skip to main content

Some of the most innovative startups at Slush won’t actually be startups

slush image

Prepare for an out-of-body experience at the Slush conference in Helsinki this month. A venture called Real-time eXtended Reality Multimedia, or RXRM, is streaming live 360° video to enable real-time situational awareness. RXRM is capable of delivering a hi-fidelity, fully panoramic picture while reducing bandwidth needs by as much as 80 percent.

Right next to RXRM, a venture named Autonomous Inventory Management Service (AIMS) will take attendees on a virtual ride aboard a drone controlled from the cloud. They will watch as this drone – without any human intervention – goes about the tasks of monitoring an indoor farm, flying among the vertical towers of greenery to analyze crop growth.

RXRM and AIMS may sound like startups, but they are both ventures that live inside Nokia. They are part of the new Nokia Incubator program, which aims to accelerate the early-stage commercialization of innovations targeted at markets outside of Nokia’s core business. Through Incubator we move projects quickly out of the research phase into viable products by utilizing small technical teams augmented with product and business-management expertise. Incubator’s goals are to rapidly establish product market fit, win customers and generate new non-linear value for Nokia.

While Incubator clearly demonstrates Nokia is thinking and acting like a startup, that doesn’t mean we’ve tossed our established way of innovating out the window. Nokia remains committed to researching the next generation of RAN, core, fixed, optical and IP software and technologies for our customers. But when addressing exciting new areas in tech like the industrial metaverse and Web3, we have opportunities to move more nimbly. This new, energetic, innovative Nokia can tackle the challenges of the future in multiple ways, combining the most creative aspects of the ICT industry and Silicon Valley.

Innovating at startup speed

While Incubator is a key pillar of Nokia’s new approach to innovation, it’s certainly not the only one. We are approaching new markets from many different directions. Alongside its core research, Bell Labs seeks to identify promising solutions that could one day expand Nokia’s businesses or become spin-off ventures of their own. It is exploring the technologies that move beyond connectivity, including exciting areas like Industry 4.0, robotics, automation and AI/ML.

The innovations that have emerged from Bell Labs are some of the most cutting-edge in the tech world and tackle problems with deep human ramifications. For instance, Remote Environmental Monitoring (REM) has developed multi-modal sensors that can be deployed anywhere in the world (land, sea or air) to monitor the slightest change in environmental conditions. REM’s technology will not only help us track the impact of climate change, but also provide critical early warnings of environmental disasters, from forest fires to undersea earthquakes.

Another Bell Labs innovation, Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), has found a new way to utilize Nokia’s expertise in laser and optical-chip integration. Nokia is collaborating with the Alfred E. Mann Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California to commercialize OCT for hearing-loss diagnostics. Together they are developing a medical device that uses light to probe inside the ear for signs of infection and hearing loss – instantly imaging auditory impairments and diseases.

While Bell Labs is innovating within, we are also looking at external innovation. Nokia is engaging with the startup community by funding NGP Capital, an external venture investment fund that acts as our eyes and ears in the startup innovation ecosystem around the globe. Its investments allow Nokia to participate financially and directly interact with ventures that are exploring new markets and inventing new technologies, which, in turn, helps shape Nokia’s own innovation agenda.

Finally, we are always looking for new ways to innovate within Nokia’s core markets, applying a startup approach to creating products and services within the ICT industry. For instance, a new venture called Nokia Data Marketplace (NDM) has developed a new forum for enterprises and service providers to exchange data assets efficiently and securely by harnessing the power of blockchain technology.

Another Nokia venture called Immersive Voice is pushing the boundaries of the audio experience in voice calls, video conferencing and extended reality (XR). By utilizing new spatial audio techniques in real-time, Immersive Voice is creating rich sound environments for every form of digital communication.

See for yourself at Slush

Nothing demonstrates more our commitment to this new way of innovating than Nokia’s participation at Slush, the world’s premier startup event. RXRM, AIMS, REM, OCT, NDM and Immersive Voice will all be at Slush, Nov. 17-18, along with many other ventures from across Nokia’s research and business divisions.

Nokia won’t just show the world our new venture-centric approach to innovation; we will learn directly from the startup ecosystem. Nokia staff and leadership plan to immerse themselves in the exchange of ideas that has come define Slush. We have much to learn from the startup world, but Nokia is no stranger to innovation. We feel we have plenty to share with the startup community as well.

Nishant Batra

About Nishant Batra

Nishant is the Chief Strategy and Technology Officer (CSTO) of Nokia with responsibility for corporate strategy, technology architecture and pioneering research at Nokia Bell Labs; Nokia’s information technology (IT) infrastructure and digitalization initiatives; centralized security domains; and Nokia’s venture capital activities. Across his career, Nishant has been intimately involved in bringing cutting-edge products to market across industry domains and has a deep understanding of the silicon, software and system requirements necessary for innovation. An avid fan of cricket and a world-traveler, Nishant is based in California and has lived and worked in Asia, Europe and the US.

Connect with Nishant on LinkedIn.

Article tags