What we’re working on

We love it when we get suggestions about how to improve the app and website. Soe of the suggestions are almost exactly the things we’re working on. Since there’s a bit of interest from people I thought I’d list some of the improvements we have in the pipeline:

Network by network coverage maps

Our heatmaps are custom made. There is no google API for creating heatmaps and we weren’t entirely satisfied with any of the other solutions we came across. There are still lots of improvements we want to make to our process. It works by generating and cacheing image tiles for just about the whole world on every zoom level… currently it takes too long to run.

We also want to have heatmaps for each network and even for each technology – so you can see how 3G on Sprint stacks up against 3G on Verizon. We’ve got some ideas about how to do this, but it’s not easy! We want to make a really robust heatmapping process that could be useful for other people as well.

Faster updates of our online maps

Because of the ways we are currently dealing with data you may notice that there are lot of towers that appear on the app but not the website map. Improvements to our mapping processes will mean that this no longer happens.

Accounts system & signal dashboard

We want you to be able to log onto the website and see personalised stats. These are some ideas we have:

  • A graph of your signal level over time
  • What percentage of the time you’ve had 3G reception, 2G reception (or HSDPA vs EDGE etc)
  • Collection stats. How many cells towers/wifis you found today, yesterday and so on.
  • A map of where you get good and bad signal
  • A metric to say how your signal experience would have been on other networks.

Most of these we have built in prototype form, but we need our systems to be rock-solid before we open up.

Competitive Data Collection

It sounds a bit a geeky but we think this is going to be a lot of fun. We will implement a highscores list along with the accounts system, so you can see if you’re the #1 collector of wifi or cell points today, or all time! If you want to be anonymous, don’t worry that will be possible. NB all the data your collecting right now will count towards your score even though we don’t yet have the full account system in.

With the other guys working on the site and app we’ve been testing this a little bit. It’s made me ride around the city on my bike a lot more, just so I can pick up 1000s of wifi networks.

The console we describe above we have (sort of) working as a prototype. The below image shows how it’s looking right now. It will look a lot better when finished!

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5 Responses to What we’re working on

  1. Fred S. Cook says:

    I appreciate your efforts in this area. I have worked as a network design engineer in one form or another for about 20 years now. One of the issues that we used to see was that certain manufacturers phones would consistently receive a poorer signal than their competition. As employees of wireless carriers we were/are prohibited from releasing that information — you are not. In addition, phones will sometimes start experiencing signal reception problems. You are in a position to identify problems with a specific phone and notify the user.

    There are many other issues, but I suspect that you have your hands full for the moment.

    You can reach me by my email or at ‘Fred Cook, MBA’ on LinkedIn.

    • james says:

      A device by device breakdown is certainly going to be very interesting, it is one of our top goals. It’s something absolutely key to the use of a phone and yet its amazing how hard it is to find ANY data on it (let alone impartial data). We feel quite a high level of responsibility to get such an analysis right though, so it will be a while coming.

      You’re quite right we’ve got our hands full at the moment… we’re doing quite a bit of scaling to stay on top of things (CNN article today!) but all this coverage will help a lot in improving the dataset.

  2. Fred S. Cook says:

    One more note: Since your ‘heat’ displays are not real time please be aware that cell tower signal output is generally adjusted (tuned/changed) frequently for a number of reasons and weather affects it as well. So, if it doesn’t appear to stay the same, it may not be the same.

  3. AndyB says:

    Release your data to the BBC – they’re running a survey of network coverage and would surely love to get more comprehensive data. See http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/bbc-crowdsources-uk-3g-coverage-map-34376

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