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Friday, August 23, 2013

If you could visualize Wi-Fi, what might it look like?

Wi-Fi is an energy field that is transmitted as waves.  This image
shows an idealized Wi-Fi data transmitted over a band that is
divided into different sub-channels, which are shown in red, yellow
green and other colors spanning the visual spectrum.
 As reported by the NY Daily News: Wherever we move around in a city, our bodies are passing through hundreds of electromagnetic waves. Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm at MyDeals.com brought Wi-Fi, a certain type of wave, to life in these colorful images.

“I feel a lot of us take technology for granted and use it without appreciating the science that makes it work,” Lamm said in an email to The New York Daily News.
Lamm teamed up with Marilyn Vogel, a science professor at the National Hispanic University in San Jose, to help him visualize the invisible.

Data-transmitting waves, whether they come from radios, cell phones, or computers are essentially disturbances in our natural electromagnetic fields. The crest of Wi-Fi waves are understood by a computer as a 1. The troughs are equivalent to a 0. Ultimately, these chains of 1s and 0s form an intricate pattern that is then translated into the letters, numbers, and codes that make up websites.
Although color represents its own unique visible segment of the
electromagnetic spectrum, Lamm used red, orange, yellow, and other
colors to show the invisible Wi-Fi channels that make up the overall
Wi-Fi signal.  Wi-Fi fields are usually spherical or ellipsoidal.

“It’s kind of like a barcode,” Vogel told The New York Daily News. “It’s not really a pattern that the eye can detect, but a computer can.”

Wi-Fi waves are three to six inches from crest to crest--not as long as typical 'radio waves', but definitely not as short or as destructive as microwaves.

Routers, instead of sending out a single wave, take a range of wavelengths, chop them up and transmit them simultaneously. The average home Wi-Fi signal can project up to about 30 feet. They can pierce through walls easily, but water is an impediment. Plants and foliage can sometimes impede Wi-Fi signals.

The Wi-Fi that is available in public spaces is much more powerful and can transmit signals up to 150 feet. These boxes are everywhere in the modern city — strapped to trees, buildings, and lampposts.

That means that even though we can never see them, we are surrounded by these waves of data all the time.
Wi-Fi routers affixed to buildings, lamp posts and other objects
create a circular data field around them.  These antenna have an
omnidirectional signal that ideally extends equally in all
directions - until it is absorbed, reflected or 'canceled out'.
Cancellations or collisions between reflected waves - also called 'nulls'
 are like small holes in the overall network of electromagnetic
fields that comprise the Wi-Fi signal.

And since there is increasing demand among consumers for more connectivity, the amount of data in the air will just keep increasing.

Vogel says the takeaway from these images is about how humans play with the physical world to meet an increasing demand for digital connection. Consumers want access to more data and higher speeds.  But there is a limited amount of space on the electromagnetic spectrum and tech companies are fighting for spots.

“Given that the range of electromagnetic spectrum over which Wi-Fi can be transmitted is limited, the question is how we will meet increasing consumer demands for high speed data.”