August 6, 2006 23:52 | Technology

I spot WiFi from the corner of my eye

I've toted around for years various WiFi detectors and sniffers, to find Wireless Internet access as I roam around. They ugly, clunky, totally utilitarian dedicated devices that resulted in my actually getting a connection only a small percentage of the time. Plus, the were only useful, when they worked, when I really need to pull out the portable computer for whatever reason on the spot and that was really really rare.

However, I've now had this WiFi enable mobile device for a bit over two or three weeks and I find myself constantly wondering if I have WiFi access at this moment. So I can upload this photo, or video, or audio, or send this email, you know?

So I spent part of my evening searching the web for WiFi detecting jewelry. Granted I didn't search very hard, but I found nothing. It seems much of the pieces to make something neat and discreet still comes in too bulky a size and with to great a power draw to make it worthwhile: WiFi antennas and logic-boards are still quite big and polling for signal is a battery killer. Add to that wiring, capacitors and LEDs and it's no longer something you want on your wrist or around you neck.

So my dream is of a light-ish, rubbery wristband (à la "Livestrong", only wider, more substantial, which it would probably have to be anyways to accommodate all the tech embedded in it, or perhaps more akin to the Stark-Fossil watches), red (for protected, WEP etc, detected WiFi) and green (for unprotected, i.e."open" detected WiFi) EL wire, whose intensity would increase with signal strength. Multiple frequencies detected of either open or closed Access Points could be rolled into just a single stimulus for the EL, but having both closed and open WiFi in one's surroundings would result in a yellow glow from the wristband.

That would be cute.

What would be most practical however is if this were a feature of the mobile device itself, which already has the WiFi antenna, the battery and the supporting software platform. I would love for the back of my next Nokia to glow pale blue when I walk into an open WiFi hotspot's radio signal.


Add GPS into your WIFI sniffer device, and then you could just have it with you when you walk through the city and do not bother more than that, and each evening you unload the data. Put them on a map, after a few weeks, you would have a map of WIFI spot with their position, possibly their range, And in the areas you walk often, when they are off/on.

Related question, I was wondering seeing the last article from Aaron about GSM antenna detection. Are there individual devices which can record access points but without being a phone, exactly like a GPS one.

hehehe. doable I suppose, though GPS receivers are large too, expensive, and draw power.
A GSM devie that isn't a phone? Perhaps detectors are available but not a commercial/retail product. Probably way cheaper to just get a Series60 Nokia and write some Python scripts... just as Aaron has done. ;)

It seems very technically feasible to me.
I have thought this would make a cool gadget.
Go to and the have really small antenna and some chips that should do the job. I don't think it should be that difficult for these guys to knock something together. I was thinking a pin badge (or broach) would be the easiesr and a braclet or wristband would be cool. You can get small button cell batteries. Make this by the thousand in China and the costs will be small.
I was looking as well and was suprised. This is a good business opportunity. Lets develop it