The rapid proliferation of smartphones creates both challenges and new opportunities for wireless networks. On one hand, smartphones compete for the same limited spectrum already crowded with other devices. On the other hand, because smartphones are always on but mostly idle, they are ideal for observing the network conditions on behalf of nearby active wireless devices. When used for continuous network adaptation, offloading measurements to inactive clients avoids disrupting active sessions, a capability that has not been adequately exploited by other systems using client-side feedback. When used for network monitoring and debugging, smartphones provide more valuable measurements than planned site surveys, since the data that smartphones provide is continuous and representative of wireless conditions experienced by users while surveys are neither. We refer to these approaches collectively as crowdsourcing access network spectrum allocation using smartphones, or CANSAS.
We are currently developing a prototype system called PocketSniffer that implements CANSAS for Wifi networks. It collects measurements from passive smartphones to improve network performance. PocketSniffer also captures a variety of measurements generated naturally by smartphones as they discover and connect to networks—valuable data that is currently discarded.