Blog Post

If you could actually see Wi-Fi, this is what it would look like

What if you could actually see Wi-Fi? It is something we all have wondered about. We can see the Wi-Fi routers in our homes and our offices, and we also know that somewhere around us are dozens of networks (just click on the Wi-Fi networks icon on your iPad or laptop) — but it is still hard to see how Wi-Fi,  a technology so core to our modern connected experience, really works.

A few days ago, I came across an article by Nickolay Lamm (writing for MyDeals), who, working with M. Browning Vogel, Ph.D, took the data about Wi-Fi coverage areas on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and superimposed it on actual images. The result is five gorgeous visualizations that show us how Wi-Fi networks propagate and work in the real world. Take a look: (All photos appear courtesy of Lamm/Mydeals)

wifi-visualized-1
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.
wifi-visualized-2
The Wi-Fi pulses are shown here as multicolored spheres radiating out from the source, near the right of the image.
Wi-Fi waves travel through space as rapid, data-encoded pulses. A freeze frame of these pulses would show that they are about six inches apart (as shown by the lightly colored bands traveling through space in this image).
Nickolay Lamm, MyDeals.com
This image shows data instantaneously transmitted over different frequencies from a Wi-Fi antenna as blue, indigo and yellow fields.
Wi-Fi broadcasts at a frequency between radio and microwaves, so the waves are about six inches apart, as shown by the colored, circular bands here
Wi-Fi broadcasts at a frequency between radio and microwaves, so the waves are about six inches apart, as shown by the colored, circular bands here

13 Responses to “If you could actually see Wi-Fi, this is what it would look like”

  1. It would be kind of cool to see the impact of 802.11AC, where in theory, the antenna changes direction to follow the connected devices. In effect, we at least imagine that the signal bends to follow you, sort of like the eyes in the painting in the art museum. Just a thought….

  2. The first image is rubbish. 1) WiFi transmits @ 2.4 Ghz. The physical wavelength at that frequency is 12.5 cm (4.9 inches for those who don’t use the metric system yet). That image shows them about 6 foot tall!
    2) Radio waves are generally polarised either horizontally or vertically (look at any roof-top TV antenna).. Most WiFi is vertical as this best suits omni-directional radiation patterns. The first image shows both vertical AND horizontal…