Visualizations Depict Our Invisible Cell Phone Signal Infrastructure [Pics]

Visualizations Depict Our Invisible Cell Phone Signal Infrastructure [Pics]

These data-driven images display the pulsating world of frequencies around us.

Rachel Pincus
  • 13 december 2013

It may be visible to us only when our cell signals are poor, but our current era of rapid communication is fostered by a dense but invisible network of cell phone towers and their accompanying signals. Artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm, who writes for a website called MyVoucherCodes, sought to make this very important technology visible by displaying the wide, flat signal areas as colors that represent different frequencies. He varied the size of the honeycomb-sized grids depending on the number of cellphone users who typically pass through each area. The areas he has visualized include Chicago, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York, and it’s interesting to see how differently the signal is distributed in each one.

Lamm, with the help of  Dr. Danilo Erricolo, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Fran Harackiewicz, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, who teaches antenna theory and design, explains the images further:

The area within each sector antenna radiation pattern has different users being assigned different frequencies and their signals combine to form a single perceived color in that instant. Different channel combinations from sector to sector are indicated by different colors. The channel combinations shown are not static, but rather change rapidly in time as different users are assigned different channels. But, if you were to take a photo of these rapid changes, you’d likely see a wide array of colors as seen in the illustration.

Other collaborators on the images include Dr. Marlin H. Mickle from the Swanson School of Engineering, Dr. Pavel Nikitin from the University of Washington, Dr. Jung-Chih Chiao from The University of Texas at Arlington, and Dr. Dimitris E. Anagnostou from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. See below for the rest of the pictures:

Similar renderings by Lamm tackle topics such as Wi-Fi signal coverage, rising sea levels, political repression in North Korea, the “heat island effect” in urban areas, and even one charting obesity.

Nickolay Lamm

Sources, Images: Gizmodo, MyVoucherCodes


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