"Frank Swain has been going deaf since his 20s. Now he has hacked his hearing so that he can hear the sounds of our digital infrastructure."
"Running on a hacked iPhone, the software exploits the inbuilt Wi-Fi sensor to pick up details about nearby fields: router name, signal strength, encryption and distance." Sorting this out was a process of trial and error on a test router, figuring out the meaning of large numbers of variables.
In a large city, any busy street may display "over a hundred independent wireless access points within signal range."
"[D]istant points click and pop like hits on a Geiger counter, while the strongest bleat their network ID in a looped melody. This audio is streamed constantly to a pair of hearing aids…."
Programming hearing aids is difficult in itself. Sorting out background noise from the desirable components makes it a large task. The latest hearing aid models allow the wearer to adjust parameters in real time with a smartphone interface.
The software Frank Swain is using is named Phantom Terrains. Exploring the terrains, they have found what we might expect: low-security routers in residential areas and "highly encrypted routers and a higher bandwidth" in commercial areas.
The author projects: "Headphones that whisper into our ear like discreet advisers may catch on ahead of Google Glass."
The complete article can be found in New Science, in the issue dated November 15-21, 2014, page 19.
This issue is located in the Student Break Room in the white magazine bins. The issue has a blue cover.
You may also be interested in these other articles in this issue:
"Past Notes" – on recreating prehistoric music
"World War R" or "Killing Machines" -- Should we let robots fight in our wars?
Access Point / FCT Library Blog