Data all around us

These thoughts come up from a discussion I had with a friend who pointed out that there is a atomic clock based in Germany, which is sending the exact time at +/- 1 sec in 1 million years. The signals is with the DCF-77 (77,5 kHz) frequency, 1.5000km around Francfort. It means that if we are in this perimeter, we have the time all around us.

A already pointed out these question on a previous post (Looking @ to be disconnected). And the fact that we are surrounded by data, transported by radio waves, wifi, cellular waves… I was already interested in making the ‘invisible’, ‘visible’. Since I found some projects who manages to do so.


  • CPD_2007_03The oldest one is Cell Phone Disco by Ursula Lavrencic & Auke Touwslager – 2006. It is a surface that visualizes the electromagnetic field of an active mobile phone. Several thousand lights illuminate when you make or receive a phone call in the vicinity of the installation. Cell Phone Disco makes an invisible property of the environment perceptible to our senses. It reveals the communicating body of the mobile phone. Their fascination lies with the transmission quality of the mobile phone; its presence beyond the shell of the device.



  • An other one, Digital Ethereal by Luis Hernan – 2014 is a system which scans for wireless networks and creates images where different signal strengths are represented by different coloured LED lights. The results, allow us to see the WiFi around us. He said : “I believe our interaction with this landscape of electromagnetic signals, described by Antony Dunne as Hertzian Space, can be characterised in the same terms as that with ghosts and spectra. They both are paradoxical entities, whose untypical substance allows them to be an invisible presence. In the same way, they undergo a process of gradual substantiation to become temporarily available to perception. Finally, they both haunt us.” His studies blend photography, design, performance, installation art, programming and electronics to explore not only the world of invisible internet signals, but also “the cultural and social complexity imbued in the use of such technologies.”


  • Finally, Visualizing Wifi how far does a WiFi network actually reach and what would it look like? How come we can have reception in one spot and not in another? the team answer just such a question by creating visual representations of actual Wifi networks to spectacular effect. Utilizing long-exposure photography and a four-metre long measuring rod with 80 LED light points they were able to “reveal” cross-sections in wireless networks.


 Explanation of the atomic clock  in French from Oregon Scientific BeNeLux

L’heure radio-pilotée est basée sur une horloge atomique à jet de césium, exploitée par le “Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt” (l’institut fédéral allemand de physique) de Braunschweig en Allemagne, dont l’exactitude est, selon les calculs, de l’ordre de +/- 1 seconde en 1 million d’années.

L’heure est codée et transmise depuis Mainflingen près de Francfort par l’intermédiaire de signaux de fréquence DCF-77 (77,5 kHz), dont la portée est un rayon d’environ 1.500km autour de Francfort. C’est-à-dire que l’émission radio de l’antenne de Francfort couvre l’Europe de Copenhague à Barcelone, Milan, Budapest.

L’appareil – réveil, horloge, station de températures, station météo… – se met automatiquement à scanner les signaux de fréquence DCF-77 dès que les piles ont été installées. Dans le rayon de réception standard et dans un environnement normal, loin d’éventuelles sources d’interférences, les signaux sont reçus en 3 à 5 minutes. Concrètement, cela signifie que grâce au radio-pilotage, un appareil radio-piloté sera toujours à l’heure au millième de secondes près.