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Xiaomi has officially opened its camera technology R&D hub in Tampere, Finland, three months after the Chinese smartphone giant announced that it had set up a local company in the area.

The choice of location is notable, insofar as Nokia built its mobile phone empire in the region, which means there should be an abundance of talent and resources relevant to smartphone technology — Nokia still has a hub in Tampere, where it develops network and cloud management technology. And very much related to this, Nokia and Xiaomi signed a patent and equipment deal two years ago, so the two companies have an existing foundation to build on, even though Nokia was not specifically mentioned as part of today’s announcement.

The new site represents Xiaomi’s largest team dedicated to camera technology outside of China, and the initial 20 employees based there will work on machine learning, camera algorithms, signal processing, and image / video processing smarts — “technologies that are driving the R&D of mobile cameras,” noted Xiaomi Finland R&D senior director Jarno Nikkanen. “We are a compact team of around 20 people now, but we are quickly scaling up by building up this team, especially talents specialized in camera algorithm.”

Software approach

As smartphone companies dabble with funky new foldable form factors, with varying degrees of success, the main area where manufacturers have been making giant strides in recent years has been in the quality of the camera. Part of this has involved shoehorning more lenses onto phones, as demonstrated with Nokia’s recent PureView 9 device which ships with a 5-camera array, while high-resolution cameras and experimentation around where to put the selfie camera has also led to some notable evolutions in smartphone camera technology.

While the hardware is important, the software side of things is also playing an increasingly integral part in improving the quality of photos and videos captured on mobile devices. And that, it seems, is what Xiaomi will be focusing on at its new Finnish R&D hub.

It is also worth noting that Xiaomi’s new R&D hub is located near Tampere University’s technology campus, which has a track record in signal processing.

“The setup of this R&D team in Finnish city Tampere is a milestone in our global expansion journey,” added Xiaomi senior VP Wang Xiang. “In this journey, not only do we consolidate ourselves in operations and business, but also work with local talents to further improve our products with highly innovative technologies.”

Xiaomi already has competition in the area, though — fellow Chinese smartphone maker Huawei set up an R&D hub in Tampere three years ago, with a focus on camera and imaging technologies.