howmanypeoplearearound: Detect People Around You!

This is a short post about howmanypeoplearearound, an open source tool in Python that can help you identify the number of people in the vicinity of your WiFi connection.


howmanypeoplearearound works on the simple concept of monitoring your WiFi connections and sniffing for probe requests. A WiFi probe request is a special frame sent by a cell phone (client), requesting information from either a specific access point, specified by SSID, or all access points in the area, specified with the broadcast SSID. As of now, this tool calculates only  the number of people in your vicinity using an approximate number of smartphones as a proxy. Consider this tool to be a TShark wrapper to count the number of cellphones in the vicinity as it relies on TShark for all it’s magic.

What phones are supported by howmanypeoplearearound?

This tool supports phones that are created by the following network card manufacturers:

  1. Motorola Mobility LLC, a Lenovo Company
  3. Huawei Symantec Technologies Co.,Ltd.
  4. Microsoft
  5. HTC Corporation
  6. Samsung Electronics Co.,Ltd
  7. BlackBerry RTS
  9. Apple, Inc.
  10. LG Electronics
  11. LG Electronics (Mobile Communications)

So you see, pretty much the basic famous phone models will be covered – Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, etc. But, if you know a bit of Python and you know a different cellphone network card manufacturer, you can add it to the tool.

In addition to TShark, this tool also requires click, netifaces and pick Python libraries. Other all requirements should be pre-installed if you use Python a bit regularly. It can be easily install on a Raspberry Pi, or on any other Linux based operating system with a WiFi adapter supporting the monitor mode. On my Kali installation, the tool was able to identify that it had no monitor mode enabled. It errored out by giving me the following output:

# howmanypeoplearearound
Using eth0 adapter and scanning for 60 seconds...
[==================================================] 100% 0s left
Found no signals, are you sure eth0 supports monitor mode?

I am going to install this on my Raspberry Pi 3 and see how good it works. But, be sure to know that if you are located in the US, it is illegal to monitor networks for MAC addresses, especially on networks that you do not own. You might want to check the prevailing laws in your country of residence.

Download howmanypeoplearearound:

If you have TShark installed, you are almost good to go, other wise, install it first and then set it to run as a non-root user. Lastly, run:

pip install howmanypeoplearearound

You are done! Check out more details about this project here.