Trulia has set itself apart from other listing portals by serving up crime heat maps. is experimenting with a map-based listing search tool that can show the locations of sex offenders.

What will listing portals and neighborhood information sites think of next?

How about mobile signal strength maps and “rat maps”?

Click above to use a “rat map” of New York City. is experimenting with mobile coverage maps provided by OpenSignal, which keeps a database of cellphone towers, cellphone signal strength readings and Wi-Fi access points.

The maps could help buyers and renters factor an area’s cell coverage into their evaluation of a listing or identify what network provider they might want to sign up with were they to move into a particular home, said Jaleh Afrooze, operations manager at OpenSignal.

“OpenSignal offers some unique data sets around cell coverage maps, and we’re in an early testing phase to see if these localized visualizations provide consumers with information they find useful in helping them decide where their next home will be,” said Patty McNease, director of marketing at

McNease said she would provide more details on the partnership if “we decide to move forward with this project.”

OpenSignal also offers a mobile app showing cell coverage that real estate agents could use to recommend a network provider to a client mulling a home, or highlight a property’s cell signal strength. And don’t forget about the firm’s free hotspot tracker.

‘Rat maps’

Rat maps, heat maps that represent reported rat sightings, are another type of visualization that could conceivably add value to listing portals or neighborhood information websites.

The Verge recently called attention to a ‘rat map‘ of New York City designed by Meredith Myers. The map is based on the last 10,000 rat sightings that have been called into the city’s social services hotline, according to The Verge.

It’s updated daily and draws on data from an open data API (application programming interface) provided under “NYC Open Data,” a city initiative that has made data from New York City agencies and other organizations available for public use.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that is testing visualizations provided by OpenSignal. A previous version of this story said that was gearing up to roll out the visualizations. However, hasn’t decided on whether or not it will use the visualizations. 

Email Teke Wiggin.

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