Apple has a new patent granted today by the USPTO (via AppleInsider) that details a method by which it can detect and keep track of mobile network dead zones via crowdsourced information. The technology is designed to give device makers and network operators a way to easily identify and counter low signal zones, by building out their network where it needs the most work.
The patent is for a “location-based profile,” which would act as a geofenced-based app or background task, with known cell tower locations helping to inform the software on the device where it is relative to each. When the device loses connectivity, the software can record its last-known connected tower to illustrate and delimit the black spot in the network, and data from the server about where other users have lost connectivity can be used to help provide more accurate information about where exactly signal loss is occurring.
All data is anonymized in the system described in the patent, and users are given access to their own contribution, as well as to the ability to remove it should they, for example, stop encountering the problem and thus deem it resolved.
Apple already makes available to users within the settings of iOS a map of their frequently used locations, which are used to inform their device anonymously about location-based behaviour which could make help optimize the use of apps, software and services. This can be turned off at a user’s discretion, just as in the patent, and basically the difference in this software description is that the user seems to be made a more active part of tracking network outages.
Most devices probably already help inform some variant of this system to improve carrier performance and identify target areas for improvement, but Apple’s patent might put more accuracy and refinement into the mix. Better signal reception floats all boats, but this tech is more focused on the network provider side of the equation, so don’t expect it to result in any dramatic consumer product launches down the road.