Qualcomm boosts its investment in OpenSignal’s phone sensor crowdsourcing tech

OpenSignal 2

London crowdsourced data startup OpenSignal has raised a $4 million Series A round led by Qualcomm Ventures, which also participated in its $1.3 million seed round in 2012.

“As we’ve got to know Qualcomm over the past few years it’s become clear that they are the right partner for the next stage of the OpenSignal journey, as not only are they leaders in the wireless industry but they also share our belief in the potential of sensor networks and crowdsourcing,” CEO and co-founder Brendan Gill wrote in the company’s blog. O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and Passion Capital also participated in the round.

OpenSignal launched as a wireless network quality measurement outfit, distributing a smartphone app that measures and maps 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi speeds as its volunteer data collectors go about their daily lives. While it’s been offering up that data to carriers, businesses and the general public in the form of reports, OpenSignal aims to become more than a network speed testing company.

Each generation of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone has added more and more sensors. OpenSignal plans to tap as many of them as it can. (Source: OpenSignal)

Each generation of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone has added more and more sensors. OpenSignal plans to tap as many of them as it can. (Source: OpenSignal)

It wants to use the same crowdsourcing model to collect data from other sensors in the smartphone. Through a program called WeatherSignal, it’s already using battery temperature sensors to extrapolate changes in outside temperature. As new smartphones get sensors like barometers and humidity monitors, it’s adding that crowdsourced data to its weather-tracking database, and it’s working with a Kickstarter-funded StormTag on key-chain sized weather stations to further refine its data.

There are many more ways OpenSignal can use anonymous sensor data from phones, according to Samuel Johnston, the company’s brand strategist and WeatherSignal project lead. Camera sensors can track ambient light, while heartrate monitors could be used to measure overall health and activity trends. How OpenSignal could put all of this amassed sensor data remains to be seen, but Johnston said OpenSignal definitely has plans to start tracking more than just mobile networks and weather.

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