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May 4

Written by: J. Gerry Purdy

"Mobile intelligence is all about delivering insight that helps operators improve network services and manufacturers build better mobile devices by providing a feedback loop of metrics across the entire mobile experience, including mobile device usage, applications and location."
Andrew Coward, VP of Marketing, Carrier IQ

There’s been a lot of publicity over the past couple of weeks about the collection of personal information on mobile devices and in particular, location information.   It is a given that operators need to know where you are so they can route calls to and from your device and generate a bill.   What has been less clear is what other information is it possible to collect and for what purpose?

While users may be naturally wary of having software report on what their phone is up to, there is an equally natural expectation that network quality, device performance and customer care meet the highest standards. Carrier IQ has balanced its need for information with the end-users’ privacy expectation with a model that delivers information on the users’ experiences to service providers and device manufacturers based on the agreements these companies make with their customers. This can run the gamut from anonymous statistics aggregated from millions of devices that analyze dropped calls to specific configuration of a user’s device used to assist a care agent during a customer support call.

Up until now, most mobile analytics were captured by vans with monitoring equipment that roamed areas to measure local carrier signal strength or to analyze the operators’ billing information.

Now, folks at Carrier IQ are working with numerous wireless operators and mobile device makers and have embedded a small piece of monitoring software that periodically reports device performance data using a secure encrypted channel to Carrier IQ’s customers.  This software is like an ET-phone-home process. And, this quality assurance data collection process is designed not to adversely affect the battery life.

Depending on the use case, Carrier IQ can collect information that reports on:

  • Dropped calls, where and when along with signal information at the time
  • Battery life and reliability issues with the device
  • Network performance and throughput
  • Application usage
  • Web analytics
  • Quality of connection over time

Carrier IQ works with mobile operators, mobile device manufacturers and research companies to provide the best, true intelligence on what’s really going on inside the mobile device.


Carrier IQ has figured out that the key to gathering performance information is to make sure that the software on the device doesn’t impact the battery or performance of the device, and that when the data is transmitted it is securely encrypted and stored. All of this comes with no data transmission costs to the end user.

The company has created a rather sophisticated architecture and system to achieve clear and concise metrics on device performance and users’ behavior to improve the customers’ experiences:


There are millions of data feeds coming into the various IQ Collectors sitting in the operator’s network. The information is then transmitted to the Carrier IQ Mobile Intelligence Platform that analyzes information and presents it back to the customer via a Web interface.

Some very intriguing research is being conducted from the large anonymous mobile phone activity databases. In an interesting article by Robert Lee Hotz (WSJ, April 23, The Really Smart Phone), Mr. Hotz points out that collection of anonymous data from phones is providing researchers with insightful social demographics all created out of opt-in information from cell phone subscribers.  Just look at the large social impact that has occurred in the Middle East from cell phone data.

Information from Carrier IQ’s own customers is equally insightful, both at an aggregated level and in the support of an individual user.    For example, Carrier IQ was able to demonstrate with one particular device that if Facebook were pre-loaded as an application, it represented 40% of app usage time on the device in the first month.   If it had to be downloaded by the end user, this dropped to 5% of app usage time.   Understanding end-user issues such as fast battery drain is an equally compelling problem-set addressed by Carrier IQ, especially when you can isolate specific applications that are impacting performance.

So, the next time you get a dropped call, you can be assured that if the operator is a Carrier IQ customer, the operator knows about it, where it happened and all the conditions that might have contributed to the event.

Feedback like this is helping operators adjust their infrastructure to provide better service and to implement enhancements and other changes to accommodate growth in cellular data traffic. It’s also helping device manufactures build better mobile devices.

Written By:

J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D.
Principal Analyst
Mobile & Wireless
MobileTrax LLC
[email protected]

Disclosure Statement: From time to time, I may have a direct or indirect equity position in a company that is mentioned in this column. If that situation happens, then I’ll disclose it at that time.


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