A new crowdsourcing campaign with plans to radically improve connectivity in Cambridge and the surrounding areas is calling on local residents to help gather vital data that will be used to help plug gaps in fixed and mobile coverage in the area.
Launched by Cambridge Ahead, the #CambsNotspotter initiative aims to take the information on where mobile phone signals, Wi-Fi and broadband access are poor and encourage telecoms providers to take action to improve them. The plan is to provide the city and its surrounding areas with the connectivity infrastructure it needs to become a “hyper-connected” city of the future.
“We are going to improve mobile broadband connectivity across the region,” said Faye Holland, Chair of the Connecting Cambridge group within Cambridge Ahead, at the #CambsNotspotter launch in Cambridge.
By becoming a #CambsNotspotter, local people will help identify areas of no or low connectivity, or ‘notspots’, using a specially designed app which collects and analyses mobile data signals. The data will then be used to create heat maps to show how mobile data signals vary across the region.
“Cambridge Ahead is looking ahead 20-30 years and asking what kind of city do we want to be in?” said David Cleevely, local entrepreneur and member of Cambridge Ahead. “Connectivity”, he added, would be “absolutely essential” to future developments.
The launch took place in the offices of Cambridge-based law firm Birketts, one of the local firms who have pledged their support for the new initiative. “For us, the ability to map out hotspots and notspots is a really key initiative,” said Jonathan Agar, Birketts’ CEO.
Residents of Cambridge who want to get involved in the initiative need to download the OpenSignal App and make use of local open Wi-Fi services in and around the city.
Once downloaded, the app will begin analysing data signals received by a mobile device several times each hour. By using their phone in different areas of the home, at work and on the go, residents will help to provide a richer pool of data. Cambridge Ahead will use this data to look for variations across different postcodes and across different times of the day.
Residents can also carry out an independent broadband speed test from their PC or desktop, at home or at work.
“Internet connectivity and usage are constantly evolving, which means we need to think flexibly today in order to plan for future demand,” said Faye Holland, chair of the Connecting Cambridge group within Cambridge Ahead. “This project involving the community to crowdsource the relevant data means we will be able to make informed decisions to improve connectivity in our workplace, social spaces and on transport, resulting in Cambridge and surrounding areas becoming a hyper-connected city of the future, where smart things happen.”
“We are going to collect as much data as we possibly can for six months,” Holland said. “We will be making recommendations and we want to prove that these recommendations have been implemented. This is a long term strategy.”
The #CambsNotspotter campaign is currently focusing only on those postcodes within a 25-mile radius of the city centre. However, there is the potential for the initiative to go bigger and to cover more of Cambridgeshire and the surrounding areas in the future.
The initiative supports the work of Connecting Cambridgeshire superfast broadband rollout, providing free public Wi-Fi with the University of Cambridge.