OpenSignalMaps crowd-sources mobile signals with Android app – 80,000 downloads and counting

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I’ve been wandering around Mobile World Congress and I managed to bump into a startup which – although unable to can’t afford the expensive stands here – actually has an app that stands out from the crowd by quite some way. You see, it’s obvious to people that getting a decent signal on your mobile is crucial. You’ll no doubt recall how the launch of the iPhone suddenly created a massive interest in the quality and reach of mobile phone networks across the planet. Imagine being able to work out which mobile carrier was best for you based on where you are, in real time? OpenSignalMaps does just that.

They are addressing a common problem. Carrier coverage maps are often outdated, exaggerated by marketing and it’s rare that you can mash up maps to fairly compare the signal strength of each network’s base stations. All the while people make actual life decisions based on whether they can get a good signal strength or not, like travel plans, working out where they should locate their new apartment or office, or just picking a mobile provider.

The OpenSignalMaps team consists of four former Physics graduates: Brendan Gill, Sam Westwood, Sina Khanifar, and James Robinson. They were inspired to start OpenSignalMaps after working with customers of their first startup, RepeaterStore, which sells mobile base station repeaters for domestic use in the US. They got to thinking: what would happen if you could map the world’s wireless signals with the users themselves?

In much the same way Waze is solving the mapping problem by growd-surcing maps, OpenSignalMaps is crowd-sourcing the signal strength of mobile base stations. And it’s doing that with an Android app and aggregating that data in real time. You’ll be glad to know that an iPhone app is on it’s way.

The free OpenSignalMaps Android app acts like a “dashboard” for cellular signals by providing information on signal strength, data, speeds, and the cell towers nearby. Users can share the data the app gathers with the OpenSignalMaps site, where the information is processed and visualized on a map.

Thus you can drill down into the data by network and network type and find which network has the best coverage for a location – assuming someone has been nearby and running the app. In the US they’ve been able to track the rollout of Verizon and AT&T’s 4G networks, for instance, by sipping the different 4G signals. Pretty awesome stuff.

And so far, that’s a reasonable number of people, with no marketing. The app has been downloaded 80,000 times, contributing millions of signal strength readings and covering 626 carriers worldwide.

In the future, the startup plans to add download speeds on different networks to its data and increasingly verify claims made by carriers about the performance of their networks. Plus, they could start mapping WiFi signals as well.

Incredibly they say they don’t need venture backing at their Repeater business is funding the startup from cashflow. Whatever the case, I predict big things for this startup. They are solving a real-world problem and there are multiple ways to monetize the data – from selling it back to carriers, to mapping the rollout of signal in merging markets.

  • @pdewost

    Mike, did you check @sensorly recently?
    http://www.sensorly.com
    Their CEO Boris Lacroix will arrive tomorrow at #MWC11

    • latenite

      I’ve been using Sensorly and Open Signal Maps since I bought my Evo Shift 4G on 8 Jan.
      While Sensorly updates their shared database more often, The Open signal Maps show you a better indication of signal strength at a much finer level of detail.

      I would love to see Open Signal Maps with the daily (hourly) database updates that Sensorly does.

  • http://www.hujelabs.com Muhammad Huzaifa Ali

    AWESOME !

  • http://www.opensignalmaps.com OpenSignalMaps

    Excuse our server guys, we’re struggling a bit with all the traffic so we’ve disabled zooming on the heat map temporarily. Check out our twitter @opensignalmaps to stay up to date, and if you’re an Android user, download our app from the Android Market and help us crowdsource our map.

    We’re planning on rolling out an iPhone App and a plethora of other features soon…so check this space often.

  • http://topsy.com/eu.techcrunch.com/2011/02/14/opensignalmaps-crowd-sources-mobile-signals-with-android-app-80000-downloads-and-counting/?utm_source=pingback&utm_campaign=L2 Tweets that mention OpenSignalMaps crowd-sources mobile signals with Android app – 80,000 downloads and counting -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TechCrunch, Mike Butcher, LolCrunch, Totem, vishyp and others. vishyp said: work out which mobile carrier was best for you at your location?Crowd-sources Mobile Signal Strength – http://t.co/Tj2x9S1 via @techcrunch […]

  • Jhuynh2000

    http://www.coveragemapper.com/ seems to be better to me but this is prettier.

    • Kingsguard78

      I am using http://www.openbmap.org with its android client.

      This project with opencellid.org is the only one making available to everyone all collected data and processed data.

      • latenite

        Do they have CDMA (Verizon, Sprint) coverage?

      • Nick

        I am Nick from the openBmap team.

        Looking at the map for USA at http://realtimeblog.free.fr/with_osm4.php5?mcc=310&step=1
        I do not see yet Verizon or Sprint coverage. Nevertheless everything is ready for it.

        I confirm that we are the only open database with signal strength management. It means that all collected data is available for everyone: scientist, startups or even telco operators…
        Today we are busy working on wifi signals with the same open database approach and also a new web design.

    • latenite

      Seems to be a lot of ” hey look at me, look at me” postings on this thread. coveragemapper is another (much inferior) app that looks like it just shows coverage on the interstate. Great if I’m driving somewhere but no where near the coverage of Open Signal maps

      • latenite

        The above comment was regarding their website. App won’t install or run on EVO Shift 4G.

  • Anonymous

    Looks interesting. But how does a consumer use this information, other than when purchasing a device once every 1 to 2 yr. In the purchase scenerio also, you dont know how the strength of signal would be in future.

    This application has a bigger application in Asia, Europe markets where the cell phones don’t have contracts and people can just change the SIM card. There are even dual-SIM card phones. Depending on the signal strength you could switch your provider, for data/voice access.

    • http://www.opensignalmaps.com OpenSignalMaps

      To your first point, we think there’s lots of market. For example, when picking out a new apartment for rent, or choosing a hotel to stay at, you can check exactly how strong signal will be.

      • Ravi Trivedi

        Got it. If you view your market as – people who are moving and/or switching the service, there is a large opportunity. Using it to choose a hotel, is a new category, and would be interesting.

        Do you plan to keep it free for consumers?

      • http://www.opensignalmaps.com OpenSignalMaps

        I’ll definitely be free for consumers.

      • Michael

        I like the idea, but do you honestly think someone is going to check out your website before booking a hotel?

      • Anonymous

        I absolutely would check the site before selecting a hotel (when going to a remote area).

        I also chose my phone based on coverage in a remote area where I would be spending a lot of time. The way I had to do it was to borrow several people’s phones and try it.

        Now I have this app!

      • Michael

        The problem is that you will most likely never know the coverage of a remote area. They likelyhood of someone coming before you with this app is probably pretty small. It might be beneficial if you visit that location a second time, but if you’re going to the middle of no where, you will be the first one supplying data back to OpenSignalMaps.

      • Robert Lui

        “They likelyhood of someone coming before you with this app is probably pretty small.”
        Are you kidding me?
        A map this GENIUS will grow to 1 million users or more. Over the course of a year or two, you’ll have all the data you need, especially as the userbase grows up from 1 million.

        Solving a real world problem. So much usability. Great stuff guys!

      • Robert Lui

        “They likelyhood of someone coming before you with this app is probably pretty small.”
        Are you kidding me?
        A map this GENIUS will grow to 1 million users or more. Over the course of a year or two, you’ll have all the data you need, especially as the userbase grows up from 1 million.

        Solving a real world problem. So much usability. Great stuff guys!

      • Michael

        I’m speaking specifically for remote areas. Of course the wide range of users will live in metropolitan areas and the data on those sections of the maps will be great. However the random locations in the middle of nowhere, not so much.

        Again, I just don’t see lots of people checking out this website before booking hotel reservations. Its great information, but I just don’t see many end users using it.

  • dagamer34

    Carriers would shut it down because it would give an accurate map of their networks!!

  • dagamer34

    Carriers would shut it down because it would give an accurate map of their networks!!

  • Anonymous

    Very cool. Keep the carriers honest. First had experience that AT&T exaggerates coverage in my area for sure and they fail to update after repeated calls and emails.

  • http://shoutreview.com/technology/opensignalmaps-crowd-sources-mobile-cell-tower-strength-%e2%80%93-80000-downloads-and-counting/ OpenSignalMaps Crowd-sources Mobile Cell Tower Strength – 80,000 Downloads And Counting | ShoutReview

    […] Read the rest of this entry » […]

  • Anonymous

    damn cool :)

  • tomsoft

    I also would like to highlight OpenCellID.org ( http://opencellid.org ). The purpose of OpenCellID is not exactly the some of this one, which is to create the biggest opensource database of CellID, but I think this would be a great way to collaborate…

    Reagrds

  • http://twitter.com/JaxDomino Craig Seabrooks

    sounds like a great app and something that I could definitely use in my job! I have sales guys all over the country and always get, “there’s no coverage”, so they can get a new phone. I also have execs that want to go places and are never sure if their phones will work. Now I can find out BEFORE they go! Great job! An enterprise portal of some sort would be even better! Plus you could charge for it! I have a Marketing degree and I’m an IT guy with a BBA. So if you’re looking for someone to help. Hit me up @jaxdomino!

  • http://twitter.com/JaxDomino Craig Seabrooks

    sounds like a great app and something that I could definitely use in my job! I have sales guys all over the country and always get, “there’s no coverage”, so they can get a new phone. I also have execs that want to go places and are never sure if their phones will work. Now I can find out BEFORE they go! Great job! An enterprise portal of some sort would be even better! Plus you could charge for it! I have a Marketing degree and I’m an IT guy with a BBA. So if you’re looking for someone to help. Hit me up @jaxdomino!

  • http://wwwhatsnew.com/2011/02/14/opensignalmaps-mapas-interactivos-mostrando-la-cobertura-movil-en-todo-el-mundo/ opensignalmaps – Mapas interactivos mostrando la cobertura móvil en todo el mundo

    […] para Android, que ya ha recibido más de 80.000 downloads en pocos días, según comentan en techcrunch, se convierte en una excelente herramienta para llevar en nuestros viajes, garantizando que tenemos […]

  • http://br.wwwhatsnew.com/2011/02/opensignalmaps-mapas-interativos-mostrando-a-cobertura-celular-no-mundo-todo/ opensignalmaps – Mapas interativos mostrando a cobertura celular no mundo todo

    […] aplicativo para Android, que já teve mais de 80.000 downloads em poucos dias, segundo comentam no techcrunch, é uma excelente ferramenta para levar nas nossas viagens, garantindo que temos possibilidade de […]

  • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

    Funny, I mentioned to one of our engineers we’re going to build such a feature into a service my employer is developing – and an hour later, this story pops up on TC. Reminds me of so many occasions when something is discussed with all that enthusiasm that goes with inventing something only to have the bubble burst in what is a massive co-incidence or something more nefarious…

  • Anonymous

    check out http://www.rootmetrics.com — much better.

    • latenite

      Rootmetrics map is much smaller than Opensignalmaps, Therefore very hard to use.

      Also question the accuracy of their maps. How can they display data for Sprint when all they have is an iPhone (AT&T only) app?

      • Per-Ola

        True, but OpenSignal does not (yet) have an iPhone app and hence is lacking A LOT of data on AT&T’s network.
        But, one has to start somewhere, so it is mostly an observation.
        The BEST “measurement” is still the carriers 30 day return policy. If you buy a device or a plan, and it does not work where you want it to work (home, job, cabin, boat, etc), simply return it and pick another carrier.

  • http://twitter.com/luanyu luanyu

    哈哈哈

  • http://www.iphoneblog.de/2011/02/15/deutsche-telekom-unterbreitet-vertragskunden-ab-01-marz-ein-daten-roaming-angebot/ Deutsche Telekom unterbreitet Vertragskunden ab 01. März ein Daten-Roaming-Angebot – iPhoneBlog.de

    […] TechCrunch veröffentlichte über das Projekt, das bereits 80.000 App-Downloads erzielen konnte, am gestrigen Montag einen größer angelegten Feature-Artikel. […]

  • Per-Ola

    Looks great, but just looking at Opensignal’s web page over our area (outside Seattle), a large number of AT&T sites are missing. Hence, not sure how much the data is really worth – and if it is based on crowdsourcing from ONLY android devices, it’ll be slanted until there is an iPhone app as well.

  • http://twitter.com/DeadZones DeadZones.com

    Great app and its seems like a perfect compliment to http://deadcellzones.com user generated inputs when you have zero WiFi or cell signal.

  • http://www.geobusiness.cz/2011/02/opensignalmaps-slibuje-velke-veci/ OpenSignalMaps slibuje velké věci | GeoBusiness: GIS, GPS, mapy, katastr, DPZ - pro praxi (časopis a web)

    […] doplnění informací například i o rychlost stahování a také mapování Wi-Fi signálu. Autor článku Mike Butcher předpovídá tomuto startupu „velké věci“, nezbývá tedy, než si na ně […]

  • Gaston

    Good article and great App! Was waiting for a serious application regarding cellular coverage like this one.
    Very useful!!

  • http://opensignalmaps.com/blog/2011/02/16/opensignalmaps-on-techcrunch/ OpenSignalMaps on TechCrunch | OpenSignalMaps Blog

    […] To read the full article, head over to TechCrunch.com: http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/02/14/opensignalmaps-crowd-sources-mobile-signals-with-android-app-800… […]

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