A Look Back at SC17 Told Through SCinet’s WiFi Heat Map in Denver

Student Cluster Competition, Exhibitors Opening Gala among those events marked by surge in WiFi connections


Blazing bursts of orange and red emerge in a sea of cool blue to tell the story of SC.

More than 12,000 people gathered in Denver for SC17, many with laptops, smartphones and other WiFi-connected devices in hand. As a result, their activity en masse throughout the Colorado Convention Center can be seen in this WiFi heat map time-lapse video.

The video is based on wireless network data collected by the volunteers who build SCinet, the high-performance network built from the ground up for the SC Conference.

Each year, SCinet’s DevOps team captures and processes metrics across all areas of the network. Among the resulting visualizations is a heat map showing the number of unique device connections to each wireless access point in the convention center. That map is displayed in real time outside the SCinet Network Operations Center and online during the conference.

SCinet volunteers Julian Hammer, Ph.D. student at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, and Neil McKee, co-founder of InMon, developed an open source software to turn access point association data into a heat map. Hammer then created the three-minute time-lapse video covering six days of SC17 heat maps.

“The orange and red colors appear where we measured the most devices,” Hammer said.

Hammer added annotations in the video to highlight events that corresponded with surges in device density. Those events included SCinet’s Network Operations Center setup, the Student Cluster Competition, Technical Program Workshops and Tutorials, and the Exhibitors Opening Gala.

While the video is a visual storytelling tool in retrospect, the heat map served a very practical purpose during the conference. The SCinet Wireless team placed 235 wireless access points in the convention center for SC17. They used the heat map to place additional access points in locations with a high concentration of devices, ultimately to provide a better WiFi experience for attendees and exhibitors.

SC18 attendees and exhibitors can expect to see the WiFi heat map – reflecting data from an anticipated 350 access points – in real time outside the SCinet NOC at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

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