Environmental Sound Detectors 

We all know that sound. That sound of a noisy yapping dog, or the sound of a disruptive garbage truck loudly picking up the trash while making a ruckus along the way. It can be extremely distracting and frustrating to deal with. And more often than not, we have little control over the noise pollution in the area. Unless of course, you build a monitoring solution to raise awareness of the situation, like this one that [Edmund] made.

It was designed in conjunction with the Earth Journalism Network (EJN) in order to, as their website states, “facilitate story-telling of the sources and health impacts of noise from around the world“. An Arduino Pro Mini was the backbone of the project. Being open-source in nature meant that it could be customized easily with a wide array of sensors. [Edmund] chose to use an Electric Imp adding WiFi capability to the device. His step-by-step tutorial showed the design process, leading into the prototyping of the parts, and contains schematics for the circuit. As of the time that this article was published, the coding section of project hasn’t been released yet, but the first three parts give enough information to get the ball rolling.

This type of monitoring solution has the potential to record the noise levels of neighborhoods all across the world. With a large enough pool of data, API’s can be developed for uses like house hunting web searches that show which areas in town are the quietest, or which ones are the loudest. This will surely provide a wealth of knowledge about noise pollution, and it will be interesting to see how people utilize this (and projects similar) in the future.

22 thoughts on “Environmental Sound Detectors 

    1. Same goes for Gmail and Dropbox but people still use them because they work very well for what they were intended for.
      If there is a better alternative that you have experience with, why not share it with everyone? Simply saying “this thing sucks, don’t use it” doesn’t help the rest of us learn anything new.

  1. Gutted mufflers on mopeds, small diameter blowers at high rpm, and bass boomers on wheels these are a few of my least favorite things. When the dog barks the police deal with it now not animal control and slow action.
    What is needed is a strip of these things with noise profiles connected to the police in the street to intercept the bass boomers in the act.

    1. Amen, attaching something like this to some ‘soothing sounds’, or increasing the level of already playing audio, or some sort of noise cancellation, would definitely improve my well being and concentration.

      What makes me mad is ridiculously loud household members/roommates/neighbors, because they should be able to control their noise level. It would be nice to provide them with graphs and statistics about how they are careless asshats.

  2. I really like the concept.

    $137.65 USD for parts plus an enclosure of some sort?

    It seems to me that a budget android phone could do everything required for a lot less cost (<$45) and have the optional capability of a GSM or even SMS connection from just about anywhere.

    No hardware work required. About the same software development to create an app.

  3. I’m going to take a pessimistic stance on this one. Awareness of noise pollution is not an issue. The people affected by it are plenty aware. So are the officials who could do something about it, they simply won’t act.

    Here’s an example of how this works in the real world, courtesy of personal experience:

    1) You identify a noise issue in your neighborhood.
    2) You look up the existing law, and find there is an existing and applicable noise ordinance; which requires documentation of the noise using a SPL meter. Looks great on paper…
    3) You get a SPL meter and document the noise, following the written letter of the law exactly. Upon trying to file a complain, you’re told that there is an unwritten portion. Such readings are only acceptable in court if taken by a LEO (law enforcement official), using a certain approved make and model of SPL meter, which must be lab-calibrated on a yearly basis.
    4) You contact the LEOs to find that they have no SPL meters at all, because they claim the specified model and yearly calibration are too expensive for their strained budget.
    5) You contact your HOA (homeowner’s association), pooling effort and resources with others affected by the noise. You find out the exact cost of purchase and regular calibration of the required SPL meter (it is indeed expensive), and offer to donate it to the local LEOs. The offer is turned down, with no reason given, despite them accepting donations from your HOA for other types of needed equipment in the past.
    7) You complain to your government representatives that there is effectively no noise ordinance, as it is unenforceable. Do it until you’re blue in the face, you’ll get nowhere. A few will at least have mercy and tell you unofficially and off the record, that courts and LEOs don’t want to deal with noise complaints. They’re already overworked, noise problems are too widespread, and it would be too much work to deal with them all. So the noise ordinances are present only to maintain the appearance of having them, and are intentionally made unenforceable by agreement of all involved officials. But that only works if they’re consistent about not enforcing it. If they’d accepted the SPL meter we were prepared to donate, they would no longer have an excuse not to enforce the ordinance in our area; at which point other HOAs and parties would find out and demand the same.

    THIS is what people need to be aware of, if things are going to change. Simply making people more aware of the presence and prevalence of noise issues, while well-intentioned, accomplishes nothing by itself.

    Of course, none of this reflects on the quality of the hack. Though I do have one criticism there. [Matt] said:

    “That sound of a noisy yapping dog, or the sound of a disruptive garbage truck loudly picking up the trash while making a ruckus along the way.”

    If you’re trying to quantify the disruption made by a noisy dog for example, SPL readings will not help you much. You need to be able to automatically identify that particular sound, and log when and how many times it occurs. So I question the “hardware first, software later” approach [Edmund] appears to have taken. Serious thought should have gone into the software first. Perhaps an Arduino doesn’t have the horsepower to do noise classification, and a DSP is required instead.

    1. This is one reason I prefer to live in appartment complexes, and to choose ones with good managers. The management is the law and noisy people either shut up or get evicted. Garbage trucks and and noisy cars are stull a problem, but less noise is better than more noise.

      (The manager where I live once called a neighboring complex’s manager to tell them to make their tenants be quiet… on her own accord without having recieved a complaint.)

  4. Reminds me of Charles Babbage’s hatred for street music and organ grinders. “It is difficult to estimate the misery inflicted upon thousands of persons, and the absolute pecuniary penalty imposed upon multitudes of intellectual workers by the loss of their time, destroyed by organ-grinders and other similar nuisances.”

  5. I am very thankful I don’t live in a town or city because of the noise and population density issues associated with them. Practically the countryside here where it’s quiet at night, save for one or two industrial businesses that run some sort of refinery 24/7 but it’s not that noticable as the trees+hills help dampen the sound, I rarely hear dogs barking, and I have 80mbit internet access :)

  6. This is great for proving your neighborhood is quiet. If your neighbohood is noisy, sharing that will only lower sales prices for any homes in the area. So it then becomes a great way to lower your own home value.

    1. This assumes a house is an investment vehicle, with no value other than the sale price. And that’s a real race to the bottom.

      Buy a house you’ll want to live in for the rest of your life, and you can start naming problems. Which is the first step towards fixing them.

  7. interesting project, but I’m not sure how it’s going to help noise abatement. One of my coworkers rent a farm home and was looking forward to the peace and Quite. After the first night he came to work complaining he didn’t sleep much. Being a smart ass I asked if the peace and quite got on his nerves.. He said he forgot about all the oilfield engines in the area. Some time later he came to work complaining he couldn’t sleep the night before. I commented that I thought he was used to the engines by now. He said he was, but one was down messing with the cadence he was used to. Moral of story is most people can & do become accustomed to any noise. this is a neat project, but I don’t know how it’s going to help with noise abatement. Very few have the means to look at the collected data to move where it’s quieter than where they currently live. Hackaday please get rid of this follow button it’s annoying, or us one I can close

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