[Note: This article is from 2015. I wanted to call you attention to this amazing app, which is available for a small cost on both iOS & Android. Worth a look! DLH]
If Our Eyes Could See Wireless Signals, Here’s How Our World Might Look
By Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan
Aug 24 2015
Our lives today depend largely on systems and infrastructure that is invisible—a hidden landscape of webs and waves that come from cell towers, routers, satellites, and more.
We rarely have to grapple with this hidden world, thanks to handy graphical user interfaces that parse all those waves and signals into information that our brains can comprehend. For the most part, most of us rarely think about them–with the except of a few, like Dutch artist Richard Vijgen. “We are completely surrounded by an invisible system of data cables and radio signals from access points, cell towers and overhead satellites,” he writes on his studio’s website, introducing an app called The Architecture of Radio.
The app uses a diverse range of data sources to visualize all of the communications networks in a given location. Take satellite signals, for example. According to Creative Applications, the app uses NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s satellite location system, Ephemeris, to calculate the location of in-orbit craft. What about cell signals? It grabs the tower locations nearby you from OpenCellID, the open collaborative map of cell towers. Vijgen’s app seems to synthesize that data into a lovely AR-style interface that lets the user pan around a room and experience his rendering of different forms of wireless communication:
We’ve seen various conceptual iterations of this same idea, but only specific to one type of communications—for example, these renderings of Wi-Fi signals, or this real-time map of all the objects in orbit. Over email, Vijgen said that the shapes are drawn from models of radiation, which the app calculates “based on the distance between you and the transmitter,” and which the interfaces displays on screen. “It is in that sense a theoretical simulation rather than a full measurement of the entire radio spectrum,” he added.