06/03/2022

The World According to Sound: Listening to WiFi

1:52 minutes

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Credit: Shutterstock

When you walk down a city street, you may not know it, but you’re being bombarded with WiFi data streaming from people’s home routers, phones, and businesses. 

Frank Swain and Daniel Jones recorded the WiFi signals while walking down a few streets in London. They used smartphones to capture the data and turn it into sounds. It’s like a geiger counter, but for WiFi instead of radiation. 

Faster clicks mean higher wifi signal strength, robotic beeps are the router ID numbers. 

They call this project “Phantom Terrains.” They want us to consider how much of our urban world is saturated by invisible streams of data. 

The World According to Sound is a live audio show, online listening series, and miniature podcast, created by Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett.


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Segment Guests

Sam Harnett

Sam Harnett is the co-producer of The World According To Sound podcast. He’s based in San Francisco, California.

Chris Hoff

Chris Hoff is the co-producer of The World According To Sound podcast. He’s based in San Francisco, California.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: And before we go, here’s a little sonic treat for you from our friends Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett at the World According to Sound.

[CRACKLING]

SPEAKER: These crackles and beeps are Wi-Fi networks. They’re coming from people’s homes and businesses. Frank Swain and Daniel Jones recorded the Wi-Fi signals while walking down a few streets in London. They use smartphone-enabled hearing AIDS to capture the data, which they then turned into sound. Think of it like a Geiger counter, but measuring Wi-Fi instead of radiation. Faster clicks mean higher Wi-Fi signal strength. And these robotic beeps are the router ID numbers.

[BEEPING]

The guys who made this project call it Phantom Terrains. They want us to consider how much of our urban world is saturated by invisible streams of data.

[CRACKLING]

IRA FLATOW: That soundscape is from the World According to Sound, a live audio show, online listening series, and miniature podcasts created by Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett. You can hear more at theworldaccordingtosound.org.

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About John Dankosky

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