The man who can hear Wi-Fi

Journalist Frank Swain and Videology created an audio map of Wi-Fi networks - find out what it means for the future of data

The man who can hear Wi-Fi

Most of us take being able to hear everything for granted, especially when we’re younger. Journalist Frank Swain, however, certainly doesn’t.

Aged 20, Frank started going deaf and began relying on technology to help him hear. Unlike normal hearing aids that help you hear the sounds of the city, Frank decided to tune into something no-one else could hear – the internet.

Designing and building his own "hearable" devices, Frank has been able to use data to create Phantom Terrains, a map and audio file that reveal the sounds of the internet. Frank explained this fascinating journey at the Videology hosted presentation during this year’s Mindshare Huddle.

With Videology’s help, Frank tailored his device so that he could hear the sounds that different companies’ Wi-Fi networks made, with these varying from a forlorn howl to a strangely sweet melody made up of bleeps and drones. This has allowed Frank to conceptualise existing data in a new way and challenges how we would traditionally communicate it.

While it used to be "he who owns the gold makes the rules", it is now data that is the signifier of power. Data’s influence will only grow as it becomes more important and integrated into the everyday life of businesses and consumers. Take Amazon’s Dash, a button in the home that automatically orders items when you run out. Data has started to touch all aspects of modern life – even the contents of the fridge.

As for businesses: the advertising industry, for example, incorporates data sets into planning and campaign delivery to help target users across different devices with relevant content, resulting in increased ROI for the advertiser and improved revenue streams for the data owners.

Frank’s story has taught us that there is no limit to the ways that we can use data to enrich our lives. Businesses must now follow his example and ask: how can data improve our industry?

Edward Wale is senior commercial manager at Videology UK