How WeatherSignal can contribute to forest fire monitoring

Knowing that a paper was published using our data always gives us a thrill. We enjoy the fact that our work can meaningfully contribute to different fields of research. Above all, we see it as proof of the value of crowdsourced data and the reliability of smartphones’ sensors.

This is certainly the case with Sagi Dalyot and Shay Sosko’s most recent paper, “Towards the Use of Crowdsourced Volunteered Meteorological Data for Forest Fire Monitoring”. You might remember these two researchers at Technion from a previous blogpost on our academic partners. We recently learned that their work was distinguished with the Best Paper Award by IARIA, the International Academy, Research, and Industry Association. Our congratulations go to them!

A big cheer for Sagi and Shay!

A big cheer for Sagi and Shay!

Sagi and Shay’s study focus on the evaluation of smartphone-gathered meteorological data, as a means to complement weather station data for the purpose of early fire detection. Fire spreading simulations, as well as fire danger rating systems, are largely based on two types of meteorological data: ambient temperature and relative humidity. Nowadays, some smartphones have incorporated sensors to measure both. Sagi and Shay chose the Samsung Galaxy S4, one of the first cellphones to include these sensors – integrated in the SHTC1 chip made by Sensirion. The app used to collect the data was our very own WeatherSignal.

The accuracy of the measurements was evaluated by implementing three different scenarios to gather the data, varying in duration and location – from series of short measurements to long periods of continuous collection, with the phone alternatively situated in the shade and exposed to direct sunlight. The data thus collected was then compared to that from weather stations.

The researchers found that when the smartphone was placed in a shadowed space, the measurements were accurate and reliable. And although exposing the device to direct sunlight resulted in some erroneous readings, a calibration algorithm developed by the authors permitted them to correctly identify these and discard them. Sagi and Shay went on to map how temperature readings crowdsourced by WeatherSignal can complement weather stations’ data, filling the gaps in areas not covered by meteorological stations.

Their conclusions are very positive and point to the possibilities offered by crowdsourced data from smartphones’ sensors: “with relatively small post-processing, and without having the need to use reference data to analyze the correctness of the data, the collection device can function as a reliable and accurate ‘dynamic geosensor station’ that serves as supplementary data source that is external and independent to the static network”.

In a time when new sensors and smart devices, released on a daily basis, are being tested as earthquake detectors and all-encompassing health-monitoring tools, their promise is turning more and more into reality.

Posted in Academic, Crowdsourcing, Sensors, WeatherSignal | Leave a comment

Smartphones in the classroom 1: A new educational tool

“Now children, close your textbooks and take out your cell phones.”

Such an utterance would have been preposterous when I was a high school student – and mind you, this was the late nineties/early two-thousands. But of course, ten years ago cell phones were not the touch-screened, Internet-connected, sensor-packed devices that we carry nowadays. With such characteristics, the smartphone opens up a wealth of possibilities teachers wouldn’t have dreamed a decade back.

The use of the smartphone as a pedagogical tool is a great example of “mobile learning” –  “m-learning” for short – defined by Crompton, Muilenburg and Berge as “learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices”. As a former French teacher, I find this field fascinating, and though of recent development, the literature on the topic is vast – I’ve included links to some noteworthy articles and reports if you want to have a further read.

The educational uses of the smartphone have caught the attention of teachers, tech developers and policy makers alike. A formidable teacher initiative is the “iStage 2- Smartphones in Science Teaching” brochure, authored by 20 educators from 14 different countries at Science on Stage, a European non-profit organisation. It is a glossy, carefully put together, booklet featuring 11 original science projects – in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and ICT, where the smartphone stars as a measuring tool to explore the world. The activities range from the calculation of the distance to the moon and the measurement of the terrestrial magnetic field, to the analysis of instruments’ sound waves and the effect noise pollution has on birdsong. The main tool employed to conduct all these experiments: the smartphone – and an ensemble of very cool apps, for the most part free, that tap into the sensors and advanced operating systems of these devices.

iStage2EN

An awesome work by Science on Stage teachers

If smartphones can play a major role in teaching and learning, it’s partly down to the work of the savvy programmers who create the apps that make this possible. Both Google Play and the App Store have dedicated “Education” sections  – apps to practice spelling, revise maths formulas, learn the basics of a language, test your geographical knowledge… even to manage a noisy classroom. However these are by no means all the applications – nor necessarily the best-suited – an educator can use to enrich her or his students’ learning experiences. Let’s consider, for example, the instruction on a foreign language in an exolingual learning context – that is, where the target language is only present in the classroom. The access to contextualised, authentic material can be hard to come by in these cases – and it can be quite dreadful to teach some topics, such as “giving directions” or “eating out”, using fictional maps and made-up menus. Here the smartphone could come in very handy indeed. Possible in-class group activities for French learners include discussing how to move around Paris using the RATP app, deciding where and what to dine with LeFooding or planning an outing to the cinema based on AlloCiné’s film reviews. Other interesting examples of this kind of “app repurposing” for educational means are described by language instructors Edwige Simon and Courtney Fell.

Choosing a restaurant en français to practice your vocab

Choosing a restaurant en français to practice your vocab

Beyond the individual efforts of teachers engaged with this new technology (we’ll get to know a few of them in our next blogpost), some public organisms and private institutions have encouraged the educational uses of the smartphone. A series of insightful reports published by UNESCO between 2012 and 2014 give account of different government-sponsored and privately-funded mobile phone learning initiatives around the world, focusing particularly “in communities where educational opportunities are scarce”. A fascinating case study is that of mobile reading: a 2014 UNESCO survey shows how a non-profit organisation’s app, Worldreader Mobile, has increased reading habits in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. On a different front, schools in the United States and Spain have promoted the incorporation of cell phones in the curriculum, either issuing devices to the students or allowing them to use their own. Among such undertakings, a very promising one is the mSchools programme launched in Catalan high schools, featuring app development elective courses and awards to innovative student-led projects.

Worldreader Mobile: reading without books

Worldreader Mobile: reading without books

Of course, in welcoming the smartphone to the classroom there are challenges to be faced, including:

  • financial limitations – students or schools cannot necessarily afford the purchase of these devices.
  • technological obstacles – teachers might not have the training required to use them with their students.
  • privacy and security issues – worries about the kind of information the kids would be accessing and sharing.
  • pedagogical concerns – educators might be wary that their students will get easily distracted.

These difficulties, however, can and are being tackled. Initiatives to incorporate the smartphone in the classroom are often funded by private capital – GSMA, for instance, is one of mSchools main partners, and Worldreader counts billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos among their donors. A series of teacher training workshops are part of the Science on Stage initiative we mentioned earlier. Privacy and security issues might be solved with a model like the one promoted by Divide (now part of Google) – an app meant to separate personal and business data on devices used in the workplace. As for students getting distracted by their cellphones, in the words of Information Systems professor and technology advocate Enrique Dans, can they not get equally distracted doodling on their notebooks or looking out the window?

It’s then a question of using this new technology wisely, and we believe that in repurposing the smartphone as an educational tool there’s more to be gained than to be lost. We’ll be discussing this in the next blogpost of the series, “Smartphones in the classroom 2: Teaching Physics”. So stay tuned!

Posted in Academic, Education, Other, Sensors | Leave a comment

Introducing WifiMapper: the app for free Wifi

WifiMapper Logo

WifiMapper is here!

It’s official – WifiMapper is in beta, and ready to be used by anyone who wants to be an early explorer of our newest app for finding quality free wifi.

This is big (data)
Based on our crowdsourced database of over 475 million global hotspots, WifiMapper shows you free Wifi hotspots anywhere in the world. To help you get a no-hassle Wifi experience, you can filter these further depending on whether hotspots require registration or have a time-limit. We’ve also matched our hotspots with Foursquare locations, so you can plan to spend the afternoon working in a café or map out the best places to get connected on your next trip abroad.

Own it!
We can only do so much – the ultimate power to make this tool awesome lies with you. You can add or edit hotspots, adding location information, Wifi types and more. Sign in with social media to leave comments too – how good was the coffee in your café-with-Wifi, and by the way, how do you sign on to the city’s public Wifi network? Just by using it, you’re already improving the app!

Check it out!
WifiMapper hasn’t been publicly released yet, so if you want to see what’s coming, and help us make an app that you need and want to use, now is the BEST time to get involved! Here’s how.

Beta-Testing on iOS
To join WifiMapper’s iOS beta-testing program, please submit the email address you use for your iTunes account in the form below. Afterwards, please follow the instructions on the confirmation page to set up your testing environment. We will send you the invitation to test the current beta shortly.

Beta-Testing on Android
To begin beta-testing WifiMapper on an Android phone, please join our WifiMapper Beta Google+ community. Afterwards, click ‘Get the Beta!’ in the community about section to confirm being a tester. (If this doesn’t work, you can confirm being a tester with this link: https://play.google.com/apps/testing/com.opensignal.wifi.

Help us with Wifi Hotspots
In addition to testing the app, we’re also looking for some help auditing our Wifi hotspots database. In order to ensure that the most Wifi hotspots are categorised correctly before our public launch, we’re looking for category-level insight on Wifi networks in different parts of the world, including details on municipal Wifi, registrations / time-limits, and common locations of free Wifi (e.g. banks, parks etc.). Please let Teresa know if you would be interested in helping with this.

Stay tuned for more news on the app that will help you find free Wifi: WifiMapper!

Posted in WifiMapper | Leave a comment

The State of LTE March 2015

This year’s State of LTE report, published today, illustrates that there is a high degree of variation between LTE networks worldwide, both in terms of speed and coverage. While 4G LTE is considerably faster than 3G, it still lags someway behind the speeds promised in the initial excited burst of advertising – with no nation averaging speeds faster than 18 Mbps.

In the report we see South Korea as the first nation to achieve nearly 100% experienced LTE coverage – with the average user having access to LTE 95% of the time, an extremely impressive achievement. LG U+ are the best network in South Korea in terms of coverage, with the average user experiencing over 99% time on LTE.

For Speed we see Spain as the fastest nation worldwide (18Mbps), with Vodafone ES the fastest network globally with speeds of 25.2Mbps. Norway’s NetCom also performs extremely well for speed – averaging 23.6 Mbps.

In terms of US networks T-Mobile perform the best for speed, averaging 10Mbps and Verizon perform best for coverage – with their users having access to LTE networks 86% of the time.

Our report also finds that the average global LTE speed is 9.3 Mbps, almost 4 times faster than the average 3G speed.

Read the full report here – http://opensignal.com/reports/2015/02/state-of-lte-q1-2015/

Posted in Reports | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Beta-Test your way to MWC!

As you may have seen already, we have some extra tickets for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and we are looking for someone to claim them!

Some of these tickets we’re giving away to three people who give us the best reason for why they should go (via Twitter or Facebook, as explained in this Ticket-Giveaway post).

However, we have also reserved one ticket for a current beta-tester that gives us the best feedback for any of our apps (OpenSignal, WeatherSignal, or CrisisSignal). Here’s how to enter:

  • Send me an email (at teresa@opensignal.com) with your feedback and include #MWCbeta in the subject
  • Write answers to the following three questions:
    1. Why did you download the app?
    2. What do you think works well in the app?
    3. What would you change about the app and do you know of a good way to do it?

We’ll announce the winner on February 18th! Please note that this is a giveaway for the MWC ticket only; flights and accommodation are not included.

Hope to see you at Fira Gran Via!

Fira Gran Via, venue for MWC 2015

Fira Gran Via, venue for Mobile World Congress 2015

Posted in Android Beta-Testing, Beta-Testing, Competition, iOS Beta-Testing, Mobile World Congress | Leave a comment

MWC Ticket giveaway 2015

**Update as of 23 February 2015** We have one more ticket available for MWC! Follow the instructions below to place your bid for the ticket. The winner will be announced tomorrow at noon.


At the end of February the OpenSignal team will be heading to Barcelona to attend MWC, the biggest event in the mobile industry calendar. As with previous years we have several tickets to give away – three in total this year (worth €700 each) – so if you want to spend the first week of March learning about what to look forward to this coming mobile year (as well as checking out the OpenSignal booth) then enter our competition to win a ticket to Mobile World Congress! It’s very easy: 1) Follow us on twitter and tweet us the reason why you should be the one to go. Or 2) Like us on Facebook and post the reason you should go on our wall in under 40 words. On Wednesday the 18th of February we’ll announce the winners over Twitter and Facebook, and send the them the code they need to claim their ticket. Just to be clear: this competition is for three tickets to Mobile World Congress only, participants are required to make their own way to Barcelona and sort out their own accommodation.

The OpenSignal Team at MWC

Come hang out with these cool guys!

 

Posted in Competition, Mobile World Congress | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mobile World Congress – Fiesta!

Going to MWC 2015? We’ll see you there! Come by our booth in the UKTI Innovation Pavilion, or meet us at one of the MWC parties and events we’ll all be attending!

Speaking of parties – what/where/when/who? Here is OpenSignal’s resourceful map and calendar of the parties in Barcelona during MWC. Enjoy!

For the map: Number in marker indicates day of event (e.g. 1 = 1 March 2015); Green – Free; Blue – Pay to Attend; Red – Invite Only;
Click here to see the map in your browser.

Now, the calendar view:

Friday, 27 February 2015

Imagine Express Hacktrain Departs
“Imagine Express is a program aimed to generate businesses in the Mobile sector. Imagine Express will take place during a 4-day trip by train that will travel from Barcelona-Paris-London.”
Time: TBD
Where: Mobile World Center, Barcelona
Registration: Free – Applications close 16th February

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Innovation on the Fringe
“The fourth annual Innovation on the Fringe event is happening on Sunday 1st March 2015. See the latest apps and services from your peers, chat about the challenges of running a mobile app or service and network with like-minded mobilists and enthusiasts.”
Time: 14:30- onwards (Festival lasts until 6 March)
Where: Talent Garden Barcelona, Carrer de Mutaner 239
Registration: Tickets @ €5

ShowStoppers
“Meet the press at the eighth-annual edition of ShowStoppers @ Mobile World Congress, the one event where the wireless industry, mobile leaders, innovators, award winners, visionaries, startups, upstarts and studios make new connections, promote brand, take leadership and open new business markets.”
Time: 16:00-19:00
Where: TBD
Registration: Invite Only

Mobile Sunday
“Mobile Sunday is where the stories that matter are launched the day before the conference starts. Connect with C-level industry leaders, influencers, creators, developers, investors, press & media and entrepreneurs working in mobile, wearables and the Internet of Things in a relaxed social networking environment before the hectic week begins!”
Time: 18:00-22:30
Where: Antigua Fabrica Estrella Damm
Registration: Tickets @ €20

Innovative Spanish Tapas and Cocktails with 2 Michelin Chefs
“We are two chefs with years of experience in Michelin restaurants who preferred to step out of the kitchen and share with our guests our story, inspirations and attention. The menu will consist of surprise signature tapas from traditional catalan cuisine, paired with famous regional wines.”
Time: 18:00-21:00
Where: The Hidden Factory, Carrer de Joaquín Costa 24.
Registration: €25

Monday, 2 March 2015

Next Executive Expedition
“In 2015 we will continue to deepen the dialogue about the key topics of the Digital Transformation. From March 2-4, we will travel to Barcelona with a group of CDOs and CMOS to join the Mobile World Congress.”
Time: TBD, Until 4th March
Where: Hotel Vincci Bit, Carrer de Josep Pla, 69
Registration: Separate Event Registration

10th Annual Ladies Lunch Barcelona
“Part of the Heroes of the Mobile Fringe Festival the Annual Ladies Lunch is a chance for us ladies to get together for an hour or so over a relaxed lunch.”
Time: 12:30
Where: Caravela Gourmet
Registration: Tickets @ ~€30

4YFN – Disrupted by Mobile
“4 Years From Now is an international programme presented by Mobile World Capital Barcelona and GSMA that brings together the best mobile start-ups and entrepreneurs with investors, accelerators, incubators and corporations from the mobile ecosystem.”
Time: 10:00, goes until 4 March
Where: Hall 8, Fira Montjuïc
Registration: Free to MWC Attendees

MEF Connects
“MEF Connects MWC 2015 also supported by TIMWE and Viacom International Media Networks, returns to the prestigious Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) to bring together over 650 international members and guests representing the global mobile ecosystem.”
Time: 20:00 onwards
Where: Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona
Registration: Invite Only, Waitlist for Non-Members Available

Hot Topics – European Leaders
“Hot Topics hosts this must attend, invitation-only event for its 5th successive year! With the world’s mobile influencers, investors, entrepreneurs and game changers, all in one room, this is the one event you need to be at.”
Time: 19:00-22:00
Where: Hotel Omm Barcelona, 265 Carrer del Rosselló
Registration: Invite Only, Register Interest

Mobile Premier Awards
“The MPA 9th edition in Barcelona on 2 March 2015 will feature 16 of the most innovative Apps from all over the world pitching live on stage. The lucky 16 finalists have been selected among winners of the final season of Appcircus competitions and Appcircus challenges.”
Time: 17:30-22:00
Where: Sala Apolo, Nou de la Rambla 113
Registration: Tickets @ $10

IoT Stars
“IoT Stars is a startup pitching event for Internet of Things startups during the Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona. 10 startups will be pitching in front of a top-notch jury at the emblematic Agbar Tower.”
Time: 18:00-22:00
Where: Agbar Tower
Registration: €25 Early Bird, €35 Standard

Imagine Express Hacktrain Pitch Event
“Imagine Express will take place during a 4-day trip by train that will travel from Barcelona-Paris-London. On arrival to Barcelona these teams will pitch their project at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress.”
Time: TBD
Where: TBD
Registration: Free – Applications close 16th February

Verto Data and Tapas
“Start the MWC week by meeting the thought leaders of the digital ecosystem at our exclusive invitation-only cocktail event!”
Time: 17:00-20:00
Where: Doble @ L’Eggs, 116 Passeig de Gràcia
Registration: Free

Mobile Marketing Party
“Join us for the second annual Mobile World Congress Mobile Marketing Party. Presented by the Application Developers Alliance.”
Time: 20:00-00:00
Where: Restaurante Marmalade, 4-6 Carrer de la Riera Alta
Registration: €20

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The MMIX – Official Mobile World Congress Party
“The Official Mobile World Congress 2015 Party features platinum selling Rudimental headlining with a DJ set, as well as International DJ and Dance star Roger Sanchez, both supported by Edu Natored and Ollie Humphreys.”
Time: 20:30-Late
Where: Italian Pavilion, Fira Montjuïc
Registration: €66

Mobile Marketing Mixer
“Look no further than the Mobile Marketing Mixer, which will be hosted at the spectacular Cerveceria Moritz, a unique building, transformed from the old Moritz beer factory into one of Barcelona’s coolest venues.”
Time: 20:00-00:00
Where: Fàbrica Moritz, Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39
Registration: Free (Event password is MobileMixer2015) – Register

GSMA Global Mobile Awards
“First presented at (what was then) the GSM World Congress in Cannes in 1996, the awards have grown and evolved alongside the industry and phenomenal growth of global markets to reflect the positive impact of mobile on all walks of life.”
Time: 18:00-22:00
Where: Fira Gran Via, Barcelona, Hall 4 Conference Village, Auditorium 1
Registration: Free for MWC attendees

Women in Mobile
“This event is the perfect opportunity to learn from some of these leaders and listen to their mobile success stories. Our speaker lineup is 100% female but our male colleagues are more than welcome to attend and contribute.”
Time: 19:30-21:00
Where: MauMau, Fontrodona 35
Registration: Free

We ♥ Mobile
“Be part of the first “WE ♥ MOBILE” party presented by LOVOO and adjust. During the MWC15 we’ll have a unforgettable night in the centre of Barcelona.”
Time: 20:00-Late
Where: Shôko Club, 36 Passeig Marítim Barceloneta
Registration: Request Invitation Code

TechCrunch Barcelona Mini-Meetup and Pitch Off
“Participants interested in competing in the pitch-off will have 60 seconds to explain why their startup is awesome. These products must currently be in stealth or private beta. Applications open.”
Time: 19:00-22:00, Pitch Off @ 20:00
Where: Ailaic, Passatge Utset 14,
Registration: Open to All, Cost: €5.50

Inneractive’s Casino Royale Theme Party
“Inneractive is hosting the party of all parties. Join us for a Casino Royale theme party! Win prizes at the roulette and blackjack tables, enjoy tapas and exotic drinks and meet fabulous people in a night of class and mayhem.”
Time: 20:00-23:00
Where: Restaurante Marmalade, 4-6 Carrer de la Riera Alta
Registration: Free

Mobile Apps Party
“Join us for the {un}official Mobile World Congress Mobile Apps Party, an all-out celebration of all things apps!”
Time: 20:00-00:00
Where: W Hotel, Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents, 1
Registration: €20 (Sold out)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Connected Women Mobile Summit
“The Connected Women Summit at Mobile World Congress will explore how the industry can accelerate the female digital economy.”
Time: 8:30-13:30
Where: Fira de Barcelona – Gran Via: CC2 Auditorium, Upper Level, Hall 2
Registration: Free for MWC attendees

Swedish Beers
“It’s that time of year again when we all get together to celebrate all things mobile. And this year is an even bigger celebration as we are celebrating our 10th Swedish Beers party in Barcelona.”
Time: 19:00-02:00
Where: Calle Carme 40
Registration: Free

Airpush Cocktail Party
“Join us this year, along with over 600 of the mobile industry’s most influential players, in one of the best venues in all of Spain.”
Time: 20:00-23:00
Where: SALT Beach Club
Registration: Free for MWC Attendees

Wip Developer Smackdown
“What’s a Smackdown? It’s a live debate and cross-examination between developers on today’s hottest and most important topics. It’s developers talking with other developers to cut to the heart of the matter.”
Time: 16:00-19:00
Where: Fàbrica Moritz, Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39
Registration: Free

WiP Jameoke + Party
“Join us at the historic Fàbrica Moritz Barcelona on the evening of Wednesday, March 4 for the best developer event in Barcelona.”
Time: 19:00-23:00
Where: Fàbrica Moritz, Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39
Registration: Free

WebRTC Meetup Barcelona
“WebRTC is a web standard and movement to bring the power of real-time, peer-to-peer voice, video, and data communications with a few simple JavaScript APIs. This meetup will have speakers from Quobis, Disruptive Analysis, Tokbox and other companies leading in this space.”
Time: 17:00-22:00
Where: Poblenou Campus Auditorium – Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Roc Boronat, 138
Registration: Free – 40 spots left

Mobile Media Summit
“Mobile Media Summit @ Mobile World Congress will focus on mobile media and advertising global best practices from the top global brands and agencies. With superior keynotes, panels, and case studies, our agenda will combine world class speakers and insights.”
Time: 09:30-16:50
Where: Fira Gran Via, Hall 8
Registration: Separate Event Registration

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Mlove MWC After Party
“A grand finale and a true local experience after a hectic week at Fira!”
Time: 19:00
Where: CLDC Barcelona, Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 32
Registration: Free

Have we missed anything? Would you like to see other things on the map as well? Coverage, maybe? Stay tuned for our next blog post on getting connected in Barcelona – with the latest coverage map and curated list of Wifi hotspots.

See you at MWC!

Posted in Events, Mobile Trends, Mobile World Congress | Leave a comment

Microphones: the potential uses of a common sensor

At OpenSignal we love sensors. We’ve written several blogposts on the different types to be found on Android and iPhone devices and have recently published a comprehensive report on the topic.

But when thinking about sensors, one of the most basic and widespread is often overlooked: the microphone, present in every single cell phone – be it a super slick smartphone or the Samsung X840 I had for many years.

Even my old Samsung X480 had a couple of sensors...

Even my old Samsung X480 had a couple of sensors…

Some well known applications take advantage of this ubiquitous sensing device. On chat and social apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat or iMessage, the mic is put to work to record and share voice messages. The microphone is also used by Apple’s Siri and Google voice search – my husband “OK Google”s his phone at least a couple of times a day, often with questions (“How high is Cusco?”), sometimes with requests (“Show me a picture of a polar bear”). It is likewise thanks to the microphone that Shazam, SoundHound or TrackID™ can take a digital fingerprint of a song you’re listening to, which is then matched against large databases of tracks to give you the title of your tune of choice.

The potential uses of the microphone as a repurposed sensor are in fact multiple, diverse and very promising, as I discovered diving into a bunch of extremely interesting articles and papers. Here are some of the projects, apps and proof of concept software that reinvent the functions of the mobile’s mic.

Mapping noise pollution

I recently came across a wonderful website that any French-speaker map lover should check out: http://veillecarto2-0.fr. Among their many cool blogposts features an entry on crowdsourced maps to measure noise pollution. Some of these are generated through Android and iPhone apps that employ the cell phone’s microphone to take readings of urban ambient noise. Examples include NoiseWatch, Noisemap, NoiseTube and WideNoise. The literature on the subject is quite extensive as these applications are mostly the work of academics and environmental agencies – have a look at the table at the end if you want to read further!

Into the wild

But it’s not all about urban noise: cell phones also lend an ear to nature’s voice. And if you happen to be planning a visit to the New Forest National Park, you might consider downloading beforehand the Cicada Hunt app, an original piece of software that uses your phone’s mic to capture the sounds of the surrounding environment and let’s you know if there’s a cicada anywhere near you. More info about it can be found in one of our previous blogposts. Another wonderful project that plunges into the woods is Rainforest Connection. Their aim is to fight illegal logging by camouflaging solar-powered cell phones in the tree canopy; when the microphones in these devices catch the sound of chainsaw, the responsible authorities are instantly alerted.

Phone's mic can help save trees

Phone’s mics can help save trees

 

Health comes first

Smartphones’ microphones could open up an array of possibilities in the field of mHealth. They have been tested as a mean to monitor sleep patterns by listening to your movements – HappyWakeUp does exactly that to rouse you from your dreams at the most convenient stage of the sleep cycle. The microphone can be equally employed to measure social isolation based on the duration of ambient conversations: this is one of the functions of BeWell, an app that keeps track of your general wellbeing focusing on your sleep habits, physical activities and social interactions. The developers of BeWell have also been working on StressSense, a software that uses the microphone to identify stress in the user’s voice. As a matter of fact, cell phones’ mics can listen up not only for stress signs but also for pathological lung sounds, as shown by the creators of SpiroSmart, a smartphone-based spirometer. Last but not least, apps such as BioAid or soundAMP Lite can transform your phone into a hearing aid by amplifying the audio feed from the microphone and playing it back through your headphones.

What was that noise?

Smartphones have the potential to become extremely precise sound sensing devices, as proved by several apps and projects. In 2009, a research team from Dartmouth College published a paper describing SoundSense, an iPhone application designed to recognise and classify sound events detected by the cell phones’s microphone. In a similar fashion, the Batphone app works as a novel method of indoor localisation by recording room ambiance – the little snippets of noise are used to identify rooms previously tagged by the user. What’s more, a study conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London has shown that acoustic scene classification algorithms, exploited by applications of this kind, can achieve a mean accuracy matching the median performance of humans. That’s right: phones can be as good as humans at understanding where they are based on noises heard.

Cell phones’ mics will not only process and analyse different kinds of sound: they can also be programmed to produce particular noises for very specific purposes. Sonar, for example, works exactly as its name suggests – emitting sound to calculate the distance of objects from the echo. Another innovative creation is Chirp: this application produces a short bird-like song that triggers a download when “heard” by another phone running the app.

Chirp away your data!

Chirp away your data!

 

The starting point for new developments

Several of the apps mentioned here are the work of academic research, and as such, not always available on Google Play or Apple Store; but the prospective uses of the microphone as a repurposed sensor are no less exhilarating for this. Even more is to be expected if new hardware and software are combined. We have smartwatches in mind, but also projects such as iBats – an app that uses an ultrasonic detector plugged into the phone to collect bat sounds and map their distribution. Similarly, a team at Cornell University are working on BodyBeat, a sensing system composed of a custom-built microphone and an Android app that studies non-speech body sounds – those of food intake, laugh, breathing, cough. We will certainly keep an ear out for promising developments such as these ones.

Title
Authors
Publication
Date
URL
"BeWell: a smartphone application to monitor, model and promote wellbeing"Nicholas D. Lane, Mashfiqui Mohammod, Mu Lin, Xiaochao Yang, Hong Lu, Shahid Ali, Afsaneh Doryab, Ethan Berke, Tanzeem Choudhury, Andrew T. Campbell5th international ICST conference on pervasive computing technologies for healthcare2011~05http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~campbell/papers/bewell_pervhealth.pdf
"BeWell: Sensing sleep, physical activities and social interactions to promote wellbeing"Nicholas D Lane, Mu Lin, Mashfiqui Mohammod, Xiaochao Yang, Hong Lu, Giuseppe Cardone, Shahid Ali, Afsaneh Doryab, Ethan Berke, Andrew T Campbell, Tanzeem ChoudhuryMobile Networks and Applications, volume 19, issue 32014~06http://niclane.org/pubs/bewell_monet.pdf
"BodyBeat: A Mobile System for Sensing Non-Speech Body Sounds"Tauhidur Rahman, Alexander Adams, Erin Carroll, Bobby Zhou, Huaishu Peng, Mi Zhang, Tanzeem ChoudhuryInternational Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services (MobiSys), New Hampshire, USA2014~06http://pac.cs.cornell.edu/pubs/body-beat-mobisys-2014.pdf
"Ear-Phone: A Context-Aware Noise Mapping using Smart Phones"Rajib Rana, Chun Tung Chou, Nirupama Bulusu, Salil Kanhere, Wen HuCoRR, abs/1310.42702013http://arxiv.org/pdf/1310.4270v1.pdf
"A continental-scale tool for acoustic identification of European bats"Walters, Charlotte L.; Freeman, Robin; Collen, Alanna; Dietz, Christian; Fenton, M. Brock; Jones, Gareth; Obrist, Martin K.; Puechmaille, Sebastien J.; Sattler, Thomas; Siemers, Bjoern M.; Parsons, Stuart; Jones, Kate E.Journal of Applied Ecology2012http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2012.02182.x/full
"Microphones as Sensors: Teaching old Microphones New Tricks"Not specifiedThe Economist2013~06http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21578518-sensor-technology-microphones-are-designed-capture-sound-they-turn-out
"MusicalHeart: A Hearty Way of Listening to Music"Shahriar Nirjon, Robert F. Dickerson, Qiang Li, Philip Asare, and John A. Stankovic, Dezhi Hong, Ben Zhang, Xiaofan Jiang, Guobin Shen, and Feng ZhaoSenSys’122012~11https://www.cs.virginia.edu/people/faculty/pdfs/MusicalHeart.pdf
"Crowdsourcing of Pollution Data using Smartphones"Matthias Stevens & Ellie D’HondtUbiComp ’102010~09http://soft.vub.ac.be/Publications/2010/vub-tr-soft-10-15.pdf
"NoiseSPY: A Real-Time Mobile Phone Platform for Urban Noise Monitoring and Mapping"Eiman KanjoMobile Networks and Applications, volume 152009~09http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11036-009-0217-y#page-1
"Towards Personal Stress Informatics: Comparing Minimally Invasive Techniques for Measuring Daily Stress in the Wild"Phil Adams, Mashfiqui Rabbi, Tauhidur Rahman, Mark Matthews, Amy Voida, Geri Gay, Tanzeem Choudhury, Stephen Voida8th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare2014http://pac.cs.cornell.edu/pubs/stress-pervasive-health-2014.pdf
"Use of Mobile Phones as Intelligent Sensors for Sound Input Analysis and Sleep State Detection"Krejcar, Ondrej; Jirka, Jakub; Janckulik, DaliborSensors 11(6)2011http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/11/6/6037/htm
"SoundSense: Scalable Sound Sensing for People-Centric Applications on Mobile Phones"
Hong Lu, Wei Pan, Nicholas D. Lane, Tanzeem Choudhury and Andrew T. Campbell
MobiSys’092009~06http://web.media.mit.edu/~panwei/pub/S3_mobisys09.pdf
"SpiroSmart: Using a Microphone to Measure Lung Function on a Mobile Phone"Eric C. Larson, Mayank Goel, Gaetano Boriello, Sonya Heltshe, Margaret Rosenfeld, Shwetak N. PatelUbiComp’ 122012~09http://abstract.cs.washington.edu/~shwetak/papers/SpiroSmart.CR.Final.pdf
"StressSense: Detecting Stress in Unconstrained Acoustic Environments using Smartphones"Hong Lu, Mashfiqui Rabbi, Gokul Chittaranjan, Denise Frauendorfer, Marianne Schmidt, Andrew Campbell, Daneil Gatica-Perez, and Tanzeem ChoudhuryProceedings of Ubicomp 2012 2012~09http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~campbell/ubicomp-2012.pdf
"A Survey of Mobile Phone Sensing"Nicholas D. Lane, Emiliano Miluzzo, Hong Lu, Daniel Peebles, Tanzeem Choudhury, and Andrew T. CampbellIEEE Communications Magazine2010~09http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/~campbell/papers/survey.pdf
"Acoustic Scene Classification"D. Barchiesi, D. Giannoulis, D. Stowell and M. D. Plumbley.Accepted by IEEE Signal Processing Magazineto be publishedhttps://danielebarchiesi.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/asc.pdf
"Participatory noise mapping works! An evaluation of participatory sensing as an alternative to standard techniques for environmental monitoring"Ellie D’Hondt, Matthias Stevens, An JacobsPervasive and Mobile Computing 9(5)2013~10http://www.ademloos.be/sites/default/files/partnoisemaps.pdf
"Participatory noise pollution monitoring using mobile phones"Nicolas Maisonneuve, Matthias Stevens and Bartek OchabInformation Polity 152010ftp://progftp.vub.ac.be/tech_report/2010/vub-tr-soft-10-14.pdf
"The era of ubiquitous listening dawns"David TalbotMIT Technology Review2013~08http://www.technologyreview.com/news/517801/the-era-of-ubiquitous-listening-dawns/
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Meet us at MWC

This year, yet again, OpenSignal will be at Mobile World Congress. The conference in Barcelona is one of the high points of the year for everyone involved in the mobile space and a great space to see the developing trends in mobile and related industries. Our stand is in the same place as last year, so if you’re going to be at MWC then do come and look us up. The map below is a handy guide on how to find us, we’ll be in Hall 7 at booth 7b15. mwc_booth_directions

 

The map is slightly confusing (the aerial walkway looks suspiciously like a river) but if you’re in that area then the booth (and people within it) will look something like this:

2014-02-27 16.14.24We hope to see you at MWC, the conference is always productive and exciting and we’re looking forward to forming many more fruitful partnerships there again this year.

See you at booth 7b15!

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Mobile Sensor Networks: Creating a Social Laboratory

What is a smartphone? That seems like a simple question. On one level a smartphone is a communication device that allows people to communicate with each other, either by text or call, or over the Internet. The focus is always on person-to-person communication, but the modern smartphone is capable of communicating in ways that don’t require the involvement of any person at all.

Smartphones are increasingly laden with sensors, with common devices containing a barometer, lightmeter and compass amongst others. This means that the surface of the earth is increasingly being covered by a dense network of always-on sensors, capable of gathering huge amounts of information about the world and its inhabitants. This network is now being tapped into for the purposes of scientific research.

Our new White Paper on Mobile Sensor Networks examines the new research that can be carried out with this technology, arguing that crowdsourced mobile sensor networks have the potential to revolutionise scientific study; as they allow for the collection of sensor data at a hitherto-impossible scale and granularity.

Read the full paper here – Mobile Sensor Networks: Creating a Social Laboratory

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