Those Google Streetview cars have definitely given us all a valuable new tool. TV shows and news broadcasts always tend to use the Streetview images to get a quick visual and they supplement the existing top-down maps very well indeed.
Sure, there was a fair amount of controversy when we found out that Google cars had accidentally / on purpose sniffed out WiFi network details, and some countries have protested at the supposed invasion of privacy, but….
..Google, in my opinion, have missed a massive opportunity.
The cars are still driving around as we speak, constantly updating the Streetview images and adding new roads to the system as they’re built. Google bikes equipped with special cameras are now travelling around historic sites and there’s people with Streetview backpacks capturing images of the UK canal network.
Pretty amazing huh? But, in my opinion they’ve forgotten something.
Over the years we’ve seen a number of efforts to map the mobile phone coverage of our major networks. A recent initiative involved volunteers running an app in the background to check voice and data coverage. There’s also been a “sitefiner” system which sadly isn’t updated any longer. The latter at least showed you where your local mobile mast is, but you still have to mostly rely on the coverage maps of operators as a reference point. If you’re switching networks it’s always a major consideration, especially if you’re not sat in the middle of a major city.
So, with those Google cars making continual trips around our planet, why not pop a mobile signal detector in the boot too? Real, street-level data of mobile coverage would be a popular destination on the web, and that extra “layer” on a Google Map would be beneficial to travellers and businesses alike.
Sure, the data would have to reveal the “capture date” and yes, currently many 4G masts are being hastily erected to provide the super-fast data we desire, but I also believe it’s something we would all use – especially now that a fast data connection is just as important as phone coverage.
Take this morning as an example. I have a phone on test and, during my eco-friendly car-share up the M6 from Junction 11 to Junction 16, I listened to some streaming internet radio. The tunes that were being played were so good that I wanted to record them but my paid-for version of TuneIn (with the record facility) had an O2 SIM in. During the journey I enjoyed a completely smooth and uninterupted stream on my usual phone (via Three) but had to endure lots of drop-outs and GPRS connectivity on the O2 SIM. In my local town it was fine, but receiving GPRS when the “official” network maps show something else is annoying at best.
So, this is my open letter to Google. Map our voice, 3G and 4G data please.