Light Painting Wifi (Haunting Video)


Above: WiFi signal spills gently into the street from an old Oslo apartment building built in the 1890's. Video below.

Wireless communication channels are all around us all the time, but their variable strengths in different places create a textured, invisible part of the urban landscape. A team of Norwegian researchers, arguing that WiFi is "a fundamental part of the construction of networked cities," created the beautiful video below visualizing the strength of WiFi signals around their neighborhood in Oslo. They used a four meter pole that measured signal strength and lit up to a great or lesser degree. Then they took time delayed photos of themselves walking through the snowy streets.

"The strength, consistency and reach of the network says something about the built environment where it is set up, as well as reflecting the size and status of the host," writes the team in Immaterials: Light painting WiFi "Small, domestic networks in old apartment buildings flow into the streets in different ways than the networks of large institutions. Dense residential areas have more, but shorter range networks than parks and campuses."

Wifi is just one kind of signal, of course. IPhone owners would likely love to paint 3G signals like this. As the Internet of Things brings more and different kinds of signals to our cities, and as we grow to depend all the more on those signals not just for Internet access but for the communication between our newly-networked home services and appliances and the networks, then this sort of measurement and visualization could become something more than just art. It sure is cool art, though.

Thanks to Flowing Data for blogging about it first.