GETTING CLOSER TO YOUR MOBILE USERS – NO MATTER WHERE THEY ARE IN THE WORLD.
A couple of years ago one of our clients approached us with a difficult question:
“How can we understand and improve mobile game performance and player experience in targeted locations around the World?”
This was not easy to answer.
Simulating current game performance
The first step was figuring out how to simulate game performance on mobile devices across different geographical regions and mobile networks.
We considered simulating latency and throughput via selected data centre virtual machines with traffic shaping, to introduce errors and real-world experiences, but we quickly shelved this idea as it does not account for the many factors that may impact mobile network performance.
You may ask, “Why is this a challenge?”, so think about these problem statements:
What is a person’s experience in Accra Ghana or Novosibirsk Siberia?
Why are some geographies or locations performing poorly?
Which mobile networks indicate worst player experience and why?
How do I measure any improvements once implemented?
We concluded that there was no solution available for our customer. We promptly set about building one.
The idea, created by the team, was to build a device which would mimic a mobile phone, a customer and that could be deployed on site at each targeted location. Using physical mobile phones was not a viable option due to battery, heat and other reliability issues.
The mobile devices needed to fit the following criteria:
- Capable of running 24/7 on a continuous basis.
- Be compatible with local SIM cards for the mobile networks.
- Processor capacity should be close to that of a mobile phone.
- Must be small, transportable and robust.
- The device would need to be completely automated, with almost no user intervention.
Our team tested a number of microcomputer options and finally settled on a customised version of the Raspberry Pi4. Additional 4G modules, external aerials, a cooling system and a custom designed aluminium housing were added to the package. Delivering the capacity of 4 mobile networks (SIMs) per housing, now named GeoStream™.
Each GeoStream™ enables 4 mobile networks to be performance tested and monitored per location.
Data-driven decisions are the core of TechConnect’s capability, delivering solutions to our customers and unlocking value from data. It, therefore, goes without saying that we must collect and analyse the data. GeoStream™ includes the ability to:
- Capture the data and send it back to a centralised datalake in Australia.
- Deploy multiple devices per location for broader testing and data collection.
- Securely house and cool devices to deliver robustness in remote locations.
- Reporting and analytics platform to analyse the data and enable data-driven decisions.
- A scheduling platform for scheduling activity and runbooks.
Collecting the data
Custom Python scripts automatically connect the devices back to the datalake and control system in Sydney. Data is analysed via a web-based front-end application.
The GeoStream™ front-end is built on Angular and utilises a number of Amazon Web Services capabilities. The front-end gives administrators the ability to assign role-based access controls for roles such as admin, tester, scheduler and analytics.
The first revision of GeoStream™ was released late 2019, with the very first unit being deployed to Ghana. GeoStream™ has assisted to deliver improvements across both the MTN and Vodafone networks in Accra. The Ghana unit continues serving analytics and test result data to the datalake in Sydney. GeoStream™ revision 2 was released in July 2020 and is destined for regions throughout Canada, New Zealand, India, Taiwan, London and Estonia later in 2020, with many more expected to follow.
GeoStream™ has delivered a solution to mobile network performance analysis, from within country and satisfying many of the challenges facing mobile network analysis. The product provides a commercially viable tool that gives our client an accurate view of their mobile users experience on all their applications, no matter where they are and at any time of day.
“We love to innovate and when innovation intersects customer value we have made a real impact.” Mike Cunningham – TechConnect CEO.
TechConnect plans to roll out many GeoStream™ devices in conjunction with our private content delivery network, named Slipstream, to improve mobile player experience for our customer’s customer.