The Hummingbird Clock is a new kind of public time piece that exists physically as a permanent sculpture and online. Opposite Liverpool’s law courts, Abu Hamdan’s Hummingbird Clock, a tree of binoculars resembling CCTV cameras, keeps watch over the Town Hall’s clock. It is designed as a tool for investigations into civil and human rights violations and state corruption: recording the second by second variations in the buzz made by the electrical grid as a means of counter surveillance. For over 10 years, the UK government has been using this humming sound as a surveillance tool. Nearly all recordings made within earshot of this almost-silent humming can be forensically analysed to determine time and date, and whether the recording has been edited or altered. This technique has, so far, only ever been used by the state, but it can now be accessed by anyone who might need it. If you need to know the exact time an audio or video recorded event took place in the UK after 7 July 2016 please visit www.hummingbirdclock.info

 

HOW IT WORKS

An audio expert working for the UK police force explains the method:

"If you give us a digital recording made anywhere in an urban environment in the UK, we can in principle tell you exactly when it was made. The way we do that is by recording mains electricity hum 24/7. In this country we have an alternating mains current and ours alternates at a nominal value of 50Hz per second. However, that’s only a nominal value; in fact, at any moment in time it might be 49.6, or it might be 50.3. So there are micro-fluctuations in the rate of alternation that alter unpredictably minute by minute. So by recording the mains hum all around the clock all through the year, if someone gives us a digital recording—which always invariably has mains hum on it, either because the device was plugged in or because it inducts it off nearby cables, lights and appliances in a room—we look at the fingerprint of the mains’ hum and correlate that with the database of our recordings, match the fingerprint, and tell you exactly when the recorded event occurred [or if the recording itself has been tampered with and reedited]."

 

As the secondhand turns around The Hummingbird Clock like a seismograph it draws the line of the UK's fluctuating mains current and this pattern of fluctuation is being recorded and archived every second 24/7.

As the secondhand turns around The Hummingbird Clock like a seismograph it draws the line of the UK's fluctuating mains current and this pattern of fluctuation is being recorded and archived every second 24/7.