Citizen Scientists Work Together To Reduce City Noise
Locals target harmful noise pollution using their smartphones as sensors
Noise pollution doesn’t get as much attention as the other more pressing pollutants, but it’s still a problem. Too much noise can cause health issues such as stress and hypertension, sleeping disorders, and even disrupt local ecosystems. Instead of waiting for governments to do something, it’s possible to help solve the problem with an app called NoiseTube. Developed in France and Belgium, the app lets users record and map noise in their neighborhood, which can help target problem areas, and supply the necessary information to make changes.
The problem NoiseTube addresses is that governments don’t have the resources to distribute sensors across a city for long periods of time. Smartphones provide the necessary technology, while app users become the sensors needed to build a detailed map of the city and its noise pollution problems. Depending on uptake, the network could be used to supplement government efforts, or maybe even replace them altogether.
The app is available for both Android and iOS, which can be accessed on- or offline. While connected to the Internet, just open the app and it will automatically upload sound data collected while walking around. The only difference for offline mode is that you have to manually upload the data collected at a later date. You can also add manual comments in either mode, maybe to highlight a specific source of noise pollution should you want to use it as evidence later.
Instead of wasting time trying to convince governments of their importance, the creation of apps that turn smartphones into sensors might be a more immediate solution to problems like noise pollution. This would empower citizens to take action on the things that effect them regularly, as opposed to waiting years for a solution from the city.
It’s not just smartphones that can used as sensors either, one scientist used umbrellas as weather sensors earlier this year to try and collect more weather data in order to prevent urban flooding and other weather-related disasters.
Images by NoiseTube and Werner Wittersheim