Google Asks ‘Can You Hear Me Now’

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That guy from the commercials for a wireless provider, who asks “Can you hear me now,” gets a mention in a new patent application from some folks who work for Google. Why would Google try to get involved in a process which would help to assess the quality of wireless service, and how can they do this in an innovative and meaningful manner?

I had the chance to have a conversation yesterday with David Dalka of David Dalka – Chicago GSB, who had noticed that I had been writing a little about some patent applications involving mobile search. Our chat convinced me that I should be paying more attention to some of the patents being published involving mobile devices and mobile search.

Surprisingly, this patent application stood out this morning, as I was searching through new filings issued this week:

Assessing wireless network quality
Invented by Michael Chu, Mark Crady, and Shumeet Baluja
US Patent Application 20070004394
Published January 4, 2007
Filed: June 30, 2005


A method of providing information indicative of network coverage by one or more wireless service providers in a geographic area may include obtaining, at an information provider, performance indicators for a plurality of accesses to the information provider by a plurality of wireless devices. The performance indicators may be correlated with one or more network service areas. Related performance indicators may be aggregated to produce one or more aggregated performance indicators. A human-discernible representation of network performance for one or more network service areas may be produced.

Wireless service is a growth area, and people want more features and more locations, and good service when they travel. Service providers are working towards meeting those requests, and often test the quality of their service, using fixed and mobile test units. They may also attempt to simulate wireless signal quality based upon things such as:

  • Geography,
  • Atmospheric conditions,
  • Volume of wireless service traffic, or;
  • Other parameters.

What if, instead, you assessed the performance of wireless devices when people are trying to access a search engine?

Some of the potential benefits of such an approach:

1) Quality of service is collected by a single entity.

2) Collection of that information happens outside a carrier’s traditional network infrastructure and organization.

3) Collection happens across multiple carriers, without having to coordinate them, so that comparative analysis of the information can happen.

4) Reports and services can be provided to “let people comparison shop for carriers–much like a Froogle.TM. for wireless carriers.”

Those reports, possibly created in real-time at users’ requests, may include:

– Maps showing coverage for carriers at certain places and times,
– Animations of coverage over time,
– Coverage over a path (such as a commute) at a certain time range,
– Indications of coverage at multiple locations at different times (e.g., over a commute path in during drive time, at the office during work hours, and at home over night).
– Other appropriate reports and displays may also be generated from the collected data.

Location information might be captured by:

1) A global positioning system (GPS),
2) Base-station triangulation technologies,
3) Cell identification,
4) Predictions based on previously received heading, speed and geographical (latitude and longitude) location of a wireless device.
5) Information collected from an HTTP request, a message from software running on the wireless device, or even a request for the user’s location originating from the search engine.
6) From a the device requesting information that includes a specific location.


This process of collecting information received from searches about the quality of wireless connections is surprising, and an interesting concept.

It provides some insight into how effective a search engine might be at knowing where requests for information come from. Being able to know that might have implications far beyond assessing wireless connectivity.

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2 thoughts on “Google Asks ‘Can You Hear Me Now’”

  1. And I thought the conversation was off the record!

    It was great fun to get to know you more deeply and I look forward to getting to know you and learning more about your unique perspectives even better over time.

  2. It was a pleasure talking with you, David.

    You have a great deal of knowledge about mobile search marketing. I thought you might find this one interesting.

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