The OpenSignal Walk

Every afternoon we take a company walk. There’s no set time, no pattern for its occurrence – someone just initiates it when they feel they’ve had enough of looking at a screen for an afternoon. It usually begins with a stretch of the legs or arms, a surreptitious glance across the table, a half nod. Then someone takes off their headphones, pushes their head above the parapet of congenial work-silence, and asks the single question:

Walk?

And that’s it – headphones are out, and concentrated stillness (though often hiding a scurrilous amount of gossiping going on over Slack) is replaced by a communal unfurling. We wander out, chatting about whatever, and stroll through Clerkenwell, usually without any particular destination in mind. We had a phase of going to look at one of the many nearby churches, including numerous repeat visits to St. Ethelreda’s Chapel – distinguished by a particularly exciting crypt. Though since the onset of spring we’ve tended to direct our walks to maximise exposure to sunlight – although that’s less of a problem when you’ve spent the morning working on the White Bear Yard roof terrace.

st ethelreda's

St. Ethelreda’s, Ely Place

So how did this tradition come about? In the best standards of all tradition, repetition has utterly obscured origin – but it serves as a constant reminder that there are more important things than being tied to a keyboard all day. An acknowledgement that if the sun is shining then a stroll and an ice-cream will only improve everyone’s mood and concentration, rather than break it.  There is always a lot of talk about ‘company culture’ in the start-up world, though this often tends towards the promotion of individualism above all else (Google’s 20% time, not tracking holidays, working from home). While we also love this relaxed laissez-faire approach – working from home is always fine and we all get to work around mid-morning – we view the walk as symbolic of the collaborative environment we want OpenSignal to be.

The ‘company culture’ (an admittedly horrible phrase that unapologetically wears the taint of middle-management doublethink) we want is one where everyone is involved and intellectually interested in every aspect of the innovative work we do (mainly in the fields of crowdsourcing, sensor networks and big data), from both a technical and theoretical perspective. The walk, a moving coterie of people having the physical and intellectual freedom to unwind, think and discuss, exactly sums up how we want OpenSignal to be.

FUN BOUNCY

Joe and I get overexcited on a recent walk

Recently, especially, walking has been held up as a panacea to the ills of modernity, a rare opportunity to stimulate both our bodies and minds in one move – like some kind of historically-inspired ambulatory yoga. The best thing about a walk, in many ways, is the pedestrian exposure to the element of change – every walk is different, in part because the environment in which it is embedded shifts in ways that range from the dramatic to the almost-imperceptible. That is the joy of the walk, the routes are familiar enough to emphasise even subtle change and every time we talk about something different, reminding us that it is the human geography that matters more than the physical.

Walks keep us healthy, curious and calm – and above all have an interesting factual and literary history. Many of Jane Austen’s most important moments of crisis/narrative development occur during walks (Louisa Falling from the Cobb in Persuasion, Harriet being rescued by Frank Churchill in Emma) – showcasing the walk as a conduit for change and excitement. On the other side of the coin we have Immanuel Kant, famous for his daily contemplative walk around Konigsberg – interrupted only once, by his inability to put down Rousseau’s Emile.  Occasionally we also get too distracted by what we’re working on to go for a walk – but that is rare, because, almost no matter what you’re doing, it’ll prove to be less important than pausing, stretching your legs in the sun and arguing about what defines a sensor network. After all, if it was good enough for Kant, it’s probably good enough to be a universal maxim.

If you like sound of our attitude to walking (and since you’ve persevered to the end of this blog post) you might well be a great fit at OpenSignal – come and join us!

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State of LTE: Germany

Since our Global State of LTE report, which we released earlier this year, we’ve been covering the countries included in that report with more detailed market-specific reports. This week our focus turns to LTE performance in Germany, a country that first rolled-out LTE late in 2010. In the report we cover the three main German LTE networks (E-Plus rolled out LTE 2 months ago, but that is still too recent for us to have meaningful reliable data, so it is not included).

The results are extremely interesting, with clear differences between the networks for both ‘Time on LTE’ and LTE download speed, with O2 coming top for download speed (as you can see from the graph below) and Telekom.de coming top for coverage. Click through to see the full report.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 15.30.53

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Which Network?

We are delighted to announce a new partnership with Which?  - The leading consumer advice magazine in the UK. Which? has a long history of helping consumers to make the best decisions about what to buy, from cars to washing machines, and we are delighted to be able to help them advise cell phone buyers on which network will perform best for them in the areas that they intend to use it most.

Which? are more than just a magazine, and serve as an important consumer rights advocacy group, protecting individuals from the organisations they deal with on a daily basis. Which? help protect consumers from power and information imbalances that are present in markets, and therefore we consider them a perfect fit for us. We started OpenSignal to correct a problem of imperfect market information; mobile phone users didn’t actually know how the network they were signing up with would actually work for them.  By publishing independent, crowdsourced, maps of mobile coverage we are able to put some power into consumers hands by helping them to understand the previously unknowable – the true state of mobile coverage in the areas where they live and work.

The OpenSignal coverage checker

The OpenSignal coverage checker

Consumers can now get information on handsets, network price and network performance all in one place, a fantastically useful resource for anyone planning on, or thinking about, buying a mobile phone.  We hope that by combining our maps with the consumer expertise of Which? we will be able to get closer to our aim of making network performance information an integral part of any mobile purchasing decision. This deal with Which? brings us a step closer to fixing the imperfect information problem that has led to consumers signing up with networks that won’t give them the best service.

You can see our coverage maps on the Which? website here, where they are used on the page which helps users make purchasing decisions that are related to telephony. We hope that this partnership will allow our maps to help an ever broader range of people, and that when people are considering buying a new phone or changing network they will no longer simply ask which network gives me the best price? But also which network will give me the best coverage? 

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Join the OpenSignal and WeatherSignal Beta

We’re making it easier for the OpenSignal/WeatherSignal Android community to access and test the latest features by introducing a Google Play Beta Program.

By joining the Google+ beta communities and then opting-in to receive updates, you’ll get the latest development versions of our apps delivered automatically to your devices.

For OpenSignal
Join the Google+ community here
Then opt in to get Google Play beta updates

For WeatherSignal
Join the Google+ community here
Then opt in to get Google Play beta updates
We’ve got some really fun new features going into WeatherSignal – rich contextual awareness (Atmos speaks!) and you can now collect data on how far you’re walking (not shown in UI, but you can export to CSV).

It’s a little complex (clicking two links, I know!) but you only have to do it once :)

For iOS users, you can sign up here – we have a big overhaul on iOS cooking, it’s looking gorgeous and working lovely but there’re still a few things we’re scratching our heads over.

Posted in App Update, Help Needed!, OpenSignalMaps Android App, Quantified Self, WeatherSignal | Leave a comment

Does the Galaxy S5 have temperature and humidity sensors?

tldr; No.

The Galaxy S4 surprised the world by adding Sensirion’s SHTC1 chip – a tiny, low power chip that can take accurate measurements of relative humidity and ambient air temperature. These readings are used in S-Health, we also collect data from the chip in WeatherSignal – a real-time weather crowdsourcing app (join the biggest mobile meteorological network: download the app).

Much has been made of two of the Galaxy S5’s new additions: fingerprint & heart-rate sensors. An Infra-red gesture sensor – which could possibly be hacked to provide surface temperature readings – and RGB ambient light sensor have also been added, these will likely have more of an impact as they passively monitor the environment while fingerprint/heart-rate requires effort from the user. But what of temperature and relative humidity?

Sources have been a bit confused, the official S5 site does not mention these sensors but GSM Arena, generally a reliable source for phone specs does list humidity and temperature sensors. So we decided to take a look at our own data.

Although the S5 is not officially released for another 2 days, we’ve seen numerous S5’s sending us data – almost 70 in fact, from 15 countries (Korea we expected to see as the S5 is already on sale there, the US, Israel, Brazil are also included). Among the data we collect is a one-off scan of device specs, this forms the basis of our Android Fragmentation reports, we also provide this data to device testing firms and OEMs.

Across all 69 Galaxy S5’s, covering 9 distinct precise models (e.g. SM-G900L, SMG900V) not a single one provides humidity or temperature APIs. Unless Samsung has included these sensors but made them invisible to developers – which would be perverse – these sensors are not present.

It’s highly unusual to see an OEM removing a sensor. We’d love to be proven wrong, if anyone knows different, get in touch.

UPDATE: A few people have pointed this out, I think Geetee on Hacker News was the first: “It’s most likely due to the water-proofing. The S4 rugged version has the same limitation.” Makes sense – air temperature and humidity sensors have to be exposed to the air, perhaps hard to square that with water-proofing.

UPDATE 2: After talking with Dominic Boeni of Sensirion, it seems that waterproofing is not the problem, indeed many Japanese phones with SHTC1 humidity/temperature sensors are waterproofed to IP68 standard – you can leave them an hour at a depth of 2m.

Posted in Sensors, WeatherSignal | 5 Comments

US LTE performance: T-Mobile fastest, Verizon best coverage

Yesterday we released a report into the state of LTE in the US, with a particular focus on how network performance changes over time. Mobile networks in the United States have been under particular scrutiny lately, with Verizon and T-Mobile publicly sparring over who has the best network and the way those tests were measured.

See the full report here.

One of the specific criticisms levelled at Verizon by T-Mobile was that the data used in their adverts was out of date – and so our report is averaged over the last 3 months.  What we see is that, for the US as a whole, T-Mobile have comfortably the fastest speeds with an average download speed of 11.5 Mbps.  Contrasting with this, we see that Verizon have the best LTE coverage – with the average Verizon LTE user spending 83.2% of the time with access to the network. Sprint come bottom for both metrics, showing how far their network lags behind their competitors but also the extent to which they committed to the slower HSPA+ technology (which we class as a form of 3G, even though it is often marketed as 4G).

Finally the report looks at how networks are changing over time, with the overall trend being that networks are improving for LTE coverage but that their speeds are generally getting slower. This is understandable, as more users slow down the network but operators continually roll out to new areas – providing better coverage for their subscribers.

Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 13.12.22

Posted in Mobile Trends, Reports | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

LTE Latency: How does it compare to other technologies?

We recently published a report onto the state of global LTE, which compared the performance of mobile networks using two chief metrics: ‘time on’ LTE and average download speed. One of the things we looked at was how LTE download speed performs in comparison to other kinds of wireless technology, which puts LTE performance in context with 3G, and 2G technologies worldwide, as well as average Wi-Fi speeds globally.

Of course, download speed does not tell the whole story for mobile network performance – but, because it is the headline stat that networks advertise, it is the one we decided to use as best representative of network performance. For mobile users, download speed, upload speed and latency are all important, with their relative importance determined by the specific use a subscriber puts the network to.

One of the graphs we put together for the LTE report was to compare the average latencies globally across various technologies. Owing to a lack of space, and the fact that we were focussing on download speed, it didn’t make it in. This graph shows comparative latency performance for the second of 2013, allowing for an easy overview of how the technologies differ – and, especially, the superiority of LTE for mobile users.

Latency comparison with other techs

Latency is especially important for VOIP and loading web pages, where the response time is especially important and overall download speed has less of an impact. So our data shows that LTE is a better bet for those VOIP calls than the average Wi-Fi network. To see how LTE latencies compare for the biggest US Networks, see our recent report with Fierce Wireless.

Posted in Mobile Trends | 1 Comment

The State of LTE – Q1 2014

Using data from LTE users of OpenSignal worldwide we’re happy to announce our most comprehensive study of LTE experience worldwide to date. It shows huge variation across two key metrics: download speed and the amount of time users have access to LTE.

Read the full report The State of LTE – Q1 2014

There is huge variation in LTE performance worldwide

There is vast variation in quality of LTE experienced worldwide.
For the graphic in its full interactive glory read the full LTE report

A new way of understanding coverage
Based exclusively on data contributed from users, we’re launching a new metric: the proportion of time users spend with access to LTE (4G). Perhaps surprisingly, we believe this is the first time that the level of access users get to LTE has been directly measured. Other methods of understanding coverage typically rely on mathematical models of cell tower propagation or on ‘drivetest’ reports (cars driving round the streets, generally during office hours). These metrics don’t reflect what happens across the full spectrum of times and places that people use their phones.

A few highlights: the USA performances second worst for speed; many networks are achieving very high speeds but are only available to users a low proportion of the time; South Korea, Hong Kong and Sweden are global leaders for LTE.

Thanks to the six million people who have downloaded OpenSignal, the contribution you make is what allows us do everything from these global reports down to the coverage maps for your local neighbourhood.

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MWC Parties Blog Post (aka ‘Where’s OpenSignal?’)

Mobile World Congress inches ever closer – in many ways the highpoint of the year for companies in the Telecoms space. If you want to come join us, we’re giving away three tickets to Mobile World Congress (worth €700 each). However, whether you’re going to MWC already or have won one of our tickets, you’re going to need a guide to find us.

MWC is huge, it’s busy, it’s full of exciting distractions (last year’s best was the HTC Juice bar) – and it can be easy to get lost and overwhelmed. One of the potentially tragic side effects of this is that you might not be able to find us, ending up playing a sad game of Where’s OpenSignal?.  Despite James’ similarity to the Wizard in Where’s Wally, you don’t want to be wasting precious time hunting for him.

So here’s the lowdown: During the day we’ll be at the OpenSignal booth in hall 7 (number 7B15). For the Monday only we’ll also be making a bonus appearance at the Qualcomm booth in Hall 3 (number 3E10) . During the evening we’ll be at a series of the best parties MWC has to offer. Many of these parties still have free tickets available – so if you fancy joining us for a beer that’s where we’ll be!

The OpenSignal Party List

Sunday

We’ll be presenting at the UKTI ‘Best of British Mobile Start-ups’ event. In addition there’s the great Mobile Sunday, allowing everyone to kick off MWC week with a bang. We’ll be there – getting warmed up for the main event!

Monday

The team is divided between the Silicon Valley Bank/Intel Capital party (invite only) and Hot Topics, the plan is then to all meet up at the Millenial Media party (which still has tickets available).

Tuesday 

The Mobile Marketing Mixer Party (sold out but @Mmmagtweets may still be giving some away). A great event at the Cerveceria Moritz, which goes on until late.

Wednesday

From 7pm We’ll be at Swedish Beers which is a great free event, but get there early to ensure entry! After that we’ll be heading to the Qualcomm party, as guests of one of our investor, Qualcomm Ventures.

Thursday

The final day of the conference. Everyone’s exhausted, partied out and ready to just collapse into bed and hibernate until summer. So, obviously, that means we’re going to the M-Love after-party in the Placa Reial. To get your ticket simply click attending on the facebook event.

So that rounds up our week – we hope you’ll be able to find us either at the conference or for a drink after at one of the parties above. Definitely get in touch either way – we’d love to meet you!

And in case you were wondering which Where’s Wally character I am (you probably weren’t)… the answer’s Odlaw – mysterious and moustachioed.

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MWC Ticket Giveaway Take II: The Re-ticketing

After the success of our last competition (congratulations to Kass Schmitt and Elina Hedman who won tickets) we thought we’d go a step further and give out even more MWC tickets. With Mobile World Congress just 10 days away we’re giving out three more developer tickets (worth €700 each) to the best three people who can give us a good reason for why they should be the one to go! (bonus points for indie app developers, weather geeks, crowdsourcing fans, passionate academics or just anyone who intrigues us).

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.

We’ll announce the winners over Twitter and Facebook over the next few days, at latest Monday 17th February, and send the winners the code they need to claim their ticket.

Just to be clear: this competition is for two tickets to Mobile World Congress only, participants are required to make their own way to Barcelona and sort out their own accommodation.

Posted in Competition | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment