My Mobile Coverage
Benchmarking tools

Simplified network performance tools that pretty much anybody could use

Summary

MyMobileCoverage is a user-centric mobile diagnostic solution that helps carriers improving network performance and customer care.

MyMobileCoverage is the leader in mobile analytics tools. Its mission is to provide real-time analytics relating to network performance, customer experience and business intelligence.

In 2013, MyMobileCoverage developed its own low-cost benchmark box. Collects data on RF environment, network performance, and GPS positioning simulating many devices. This benchmark box will, later on, become the cornerstone to a complete network monitoring platform.

The goal was to make this sophisticated equipment so easy to use that anybody could run a mobile network survey.

Scope
Creating a complete platform for mobile network optimization. This ecosystem aimed to collect, analyze and visualize information collected by users, network specialists and highly specialized tools.

My role
Working at MMC It was great being able to integrate my industrial design background with my User Experience Design skills.

Results
An integrated system that kills two birds with one stone, collects network information and markets the carrier where ever it goes.

Methodology
Design Thinking, Product & User Experience Design under Scrum team


Strategy
Rapid iteration of solutions validated by stakeholder interviews and prototypes


Tools
Solidworks
Illustrator
AdobeXD

Introduction

Concept design, mobile apps, IoT and data visualization to improve an interconnected world.

Back in 2011, MyMobileCoverage, a CORTxT company, had already created a crowdsourced system to capture mobile coverage issues and service interruption from mobile carriers.  I started designing for them as a freelancer and joined two years later as a full-time UX Lead, almost at the same time they expanded to their Latin American market. 

Value proposition

MyMobileCoverage is a mobile diagnostic solution that is helping carriers resolve issues related to network performance and customer care. 

The process begins with data collection right from the subscriber’s handset.  Information related to voice calls dropped/blocked calls, loss of service (no bars), data throughput, device-specific and GPS information is collected with optimal care and precision.

MyMobileCoverage transformed the raw data sets into insightful and actionable information to help resolve specific problems.

Discovery

User pains in a connected world

The network looks good, why are customers are still complaining?

A mobile network is a complex system that can easily be overwhelmed by larger than expected users gathered in one single place, like an impromptu concert and multiple users streaming video all at once.

As mobile phones, tablets, IoT and wearables become more popular, they rely heavily on the cloud to reduce the usage of local storage. This implies a situation where a single car could have a dozen devices requiring internet connectivity and the demand is only expected to increase.

Ways MMC helped carriers

Individual Escalations
On a case-by-case basis, data service performance is being validated.

Customer Complaints
A particular scenario involved a subscriber complaining to the Federal Communications Commission in the USA. Coverage maps with data points were used to resolve the complaint with the FCC.

Market Analysis
Performance by the market is being measured based on speed tests recorded by subscribers. A deeper understanding of data speeds is now being realized due to the correlation of Network events with band frequency.

Network Tuning
Using data drops and heat maps, RF optimization is being done by vendors to improve poor coverage.

The get well plan

This strategy was created to offer a complete platform so carriers, would be able to get a single solution for all their mobile network needs.

Key outcomes

Early stages of user research and stakeholders’ interviewing reported the following paradigms: 

Paradigm 1

Surveying equipment is expensive and complicated

Desired outcome

Simplify surveying hardware to be affordable and simple

Paradigm 2

Only network engineers are in charge of network testing and surveys

Desired outcome

Reduce complexity to the point that anybody can survey a network.

 

Paradigm 3

Efforts to improve network performance go unnoticed by consumers

Desired outcome

Make surveying efforts cool and noticeable, after all, it shows the company they care.

Paradigm 4

Marketing efforts focussed on network speed can backfire.

Desired outcome

If the current scenarios is not positive, have a way to change the conversation

Definition

Creating a common vision

MMC vision is gathering the right data, and the right time, to paint the Quality of Experience (QoE) picture. To be able to express the concepts to investors and stakeholders, we created illustrations to visualize ideas.

A network analyst uses a benchmark box to quickly sample the area around a client’s office before a meeting.

The spot between the metro stations finally has good coverage and people can keep on watching Netflix on its way back home.

My car sharing service had issues locating its vehicles around this are parking lot. Not anymore!

With more information at hand, it is possible to plan long term and invest in R&D to cover customers needs.

A customer service specialist sees the status of the networking net in a customer’s home, this area is highly problematic.

The marketing department at company X can confidently say they have the fastest and more reliable network, they have real data to support it.

User personas

Hugh, 45

Hugh, 45

Real State Agent

Nickie, 18

Nickie, 18

College student

Jackie, 27

Jackie, 27

Customer Service Rep.

Darren, 53

Darren, 53

Wireless Network Analyst

Use cases

dropped calls
Case #1: Outages outrage

Dealing with Poor Coverage related calls, Jackie is assigned a customer that has been having problems with their cell phone coverage and is very frustrated. The customer can’t remember precisely when these outages have occurred but it is affecting their business. Jackie would like to be able to determine whether these outages are due to the network or the customer’s phone by viewing summary statistics (ie. minutes used, number calls dropped vs. calls made without drop). If it appears to be the phone she would like to be able to see some statistics about the customer’s phone. (Benchmark customer’s device against average device performance).

Use Case #2: I want a better deal!

Jackie is assigned a customer that is looking to upgrade/renew their phone plan. The customer requests a better deal or a discount because “they have not been getting good coverage”. Jackie would like to be able to determine if these are legitimate claims. If they are legitimate claims then she would like to determine if it is the customer’s phone or the network that is the problem by viewing summary statistics (ie. minutes used, number calls dropped vs. calls made without drop). If it appears to be the phone she would like to be able to see some statistics about the customer’s phone and she might be able to suggest a deal in the phone department. If these are bogus claims made by the customer then she would be able to determine this and counter argue with facts.

Use Case #3: The guardian of the cell towers

Viewing Current Network Coverage (Overview) Darren would like to view the current status of the network. He would like to be able to quickly see where the network is performing well and where it isn’t. He needs to also be able to view the location of his company’s cell towers. He would also like to see summarized metrics such as the total number of dropped calls vs. not dropped, and tower load metrics.

Use Case #4: The devil is the details

Viewing Current Network Coverage, Darren needs to view more specific details about the network such as network activity, tower load, data transmission speeds, specific signal-­‐lost and signal-­‐regained events and geographic factors that may influence these metrics. If a signal-­‐lost event occurs Darren would like to see more details about the users device including device type, firmware, OS, battery percentage, signal strength, time & all those pesky details, but there is not much information to start with.

Design

A simple plan for complex solutions

We need methods to collect reliable information, this information is analyzed and communicated to stakeholders so they can make decisions.

Voice Quality

This device was created to be able to analyze the reasons for poor voice quality during a call.  There are many factors that can influence the perception of how clear the voice is, at least two devices are involved, phone reception, ambient noise or other electronics can interfere with a call.   

This android powered device uses a high-end smartwatch as an external voice quality tester.  It is meant to be delivered to a customers home, so they would be able to do manual tests on their own.  The device had the option to use Bluetooth or phone jack to collect voice quality.

The tester was designed to be attached to any android device available at the time.

How it works

Hugh calls the carrier’s complaining about voice quality.

Jackie takes the call and assigns a tester to Hugh. It will be delivered in a couple of days.

Hugh gets the package and reads simple instructions.

Hugh installs the customized version of the MMC android app, and connects/synchs the tester to the device.
After running some tests for a couple of days, Hugh notices the areas of the house where the voice quality score is best. It was not a technical issue, just some thick metal doors in his home office.
The tester is repackaged and returned by mail or delivered to a branch near by.

The sound quality scale goes from 0 (lowest) to 4.5 (highest).

Marketing backpack

The benchmark box is a network performance recording device. It powered two displays to communicate survey results in that area and streamother marketing messages.

One of the use cases we had for testing networks were concerts.  A crowd of users streaming HQ video is the perfect hotspot to measure network performance.  Also, our testers will not pass a good opportunity to enjoy a concert for free as long as they protect the equipment.

Benchmark box’s internal board and elements

A second iteration of the backpack needed to include a three battery set to extend the operational range so it operates multiple devices for up to 8hrs. 

This version also included the option to run two voice quality testers (Bluetooth synched).

Benchmark box in-store kiosk

Shopping malls and retail stores are good places considering the effectiveness of the network.

Consider a carrier store trying to gain new customers but whenever they try to set up a new account, the coverage display shows only two bars. Not good for business.

The backpack was also designed to be able to used it as an in-store display, streaming marketing announcements and collecting network information.

The benchmark box was designed so it could be attached to a stand or wall mount and become part of the stores’ decoration, featuring custom marketing information real-time.

The backpack’s displays were controlled by a synched mobile device, so the user carrying the backpack had control over what the backpack shows.

The goal was displaying the network speed in Mbps and an example of what they could do with this speed, E.g. Downloading a full Netflix movie in 20 minutes.

If the speed was not satisfactory, other marketing messages were shown, still data is collected.

The app controlling the box was also used to monitor the status of the devices inside the box, battery charge and/or synching other devices to it, like the voice quality testers.

Benchmark box in company vehicles

A benefit of simplifying network performance tools is that pretty much anybody in the company could perform network surveys and collect information while doing other unrelated tasks for the company. 

A company phone could be used to constantly monitor voice quality over the network, providing extra value.

The voice quality app worked very similarly as the voice quality tester (smartwatch version).  

 

Mobile marketing dashboard

In order to coordinate every element in the system, the platform needed a customizable dashboard where the user would be able to visualize the areas the testers were in, their direction and their status.

Benchmark box on company vehicle
User with backpack
Benchmark box on store kiosk

Results

Even when this project was created many years ago (2013-2014) is still one of my favourites.  The idea of taking a complicated procedure and reducing it to its simplest form so anybody could access it and use it is a fantastic example of design thinking.

It was a great experience working with a team of talented engineers and tech leaders always pushing to explore new territories and test ideas.

The technology developed for this platform, later on, was reused as part of OnGuard, a company focused on safety for lone remote workers.