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IoT Helps Fight Noise Pollution

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Resurgent phoenix
Resurgent phoenix  
6/30/2014 5:32:07 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: Can you hear me now...
In essence Big a Brother is not only watching but he is listening too. As with almost anything this could be good and bad. I wonder if the voice / noise captures will be legal to use in court. It takes watch what you say to a new level!

The5thHorseman
The5thHorseman  
6/11/2014 12:33:12 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Can you hear me now...
Hi Toby,

""The primary one is sensors installed in buildings and in "city furniture" like lampposts, which use a sensor board with an omnidirectional microphone (with an almost flat response in the whole frequency range of human hearing). The second approach is several nodes in public buses, taxis, and the city's service vehicles to provide additional data."...

The key device here is the "Omnidirectional microphone". With this in place and accessible via wired or wireless network, the only thing discriminating what this microphone is recording is the software. This is true for the "Smart phone app" as well. Realistically, five 9's of the people out there would have no idea what this "app" is actually recording. A simple update to the app would change what it is recording. How many people do you know, HONESTLY, that even look at the EULA for the apps they are installing, or even read the screen describing what the app will access on your phone? Even if you assume that your users were diligent and read these things BEFORE installing the app, they still have no way of knowing what it is actually recording. 

The plan is well intentioned and well meaning, but the glaring flaw is that this network of Internet connected microphones, and the "data" they collect, would be managed by the "Government"...?... We have seen what our Government does with technology, and it's bad for you. The recent revelations of the NSA's MASSIVE data collection systems, which are highly illegal, and the use of military drones against American citizens on American soil demonstrate beyond any question that "The Government" at ANY level is corrupt and absolutely untrustworthy. This network of listening devices would be hijacked by the NSA, and indeed any "script kiddie" with even rudimentary TCPIP and networking skills, with laughable ease. This is not paranoia, it is REALITY. If you build this, it WILL BE MISUSED, with or without the consent of those who designed it for a legitimate use.

There are better alternatives, such as vehicles equipped with listening devices designed to collect this data, that can be placed in areas where noise pollution is prevalent and collect the data in a controlled manner and in a controlled environment. The vehicle is mobile and can simply move as needed to collect data in required areas. The difference is that access to these vehicles can be controlled. They would not be operating 24/7, and not be Internet connected. The likelyhood of corrupt use of the devices would be tremendously reduced, and the cost would be a fraction of planting Internet connected microphones in EVERYTHING. The vehicle can be parked and shut down, but once this proposed network of "Omnidirectional microphones" is in place, it's there... PERMANENTLY. The benefit of this "Noise polluton" project versus the enormous cost, combined with the huge potential for privacy violatons of EVERYONE is so far out of balance here that we simply cannot take the proposal seriously. Supporting such a proposal is folly...

Toby
Toby  
6/11/2014 9:01:58 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Can you hear me now...
@The5thHorseman: I may have misunderstood this but the quote below might illustrate why: "The ubiquitous presence of mobile sensors presents a revolutionary opportunity for collecting and sharing instant information about noise levels anywhere, anytime" This seems to indicate that it is a level of noise, not the noise itself, that is recorded.

In this case it might simply be the dB, time of day and GPS location. Granted this is possibly more than you want to give away but it is not so insidious as the idea of constant sound recording which might indeed be a bad idea, not to mention probably impossible.

The5thHorseman
The5thHorseman  
6/10/2014 1:56:46 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Can you hear me now...
You know, I hate to be the guy that always points out the obvious, but here I go again. First, Pablo, I would like to say that I agree with you that noise pollution is yet another undesirable effect of humans industializing and mechanizing their environment. Even in lieu of mehanical and industrial factors, our uncontrolled overpopulation of metropolitan areas, and indeed the world, exacerbates this issue. And in order to address any problem, in our society anyway, you must quanitify it with difinitive data. Now for the obvious...

"...the biggest contributor to real time, effective noise maps of the city could come from smartphones. The ubiquitous presence of mobile sensors presents a revolutionary opportunity for collecting and sharing instant information about noise levels anywhere, anytime. The functionality of smartphones, as we can see when people share information on social networks, offers a mechanism for sourcing data from citizens' phones, in addition to raw data collected by city sensors...  a free smartphone App for Android and iOS devices [uses] the phone's microphone and GPS to measure noise levels as the user walks around."

Let's have a look at what "noise" is; it is sound. You are proposing that peoples smart phones should constantly monitor all sound as they "walk around". Every sound that comes out of your mouth is noise. So you are proposing that not only should cities (Governments) collect this "data" by means of;

"The primary one is sensors installed in buildings and in "city furniture" like lampposts, which use a sensor board with an omnidirectional microphone (with an almost flat response in the whole frequency range of human hearing). The second approach is several nodes in public buses, taxis, and the city's service vehicles to provide additional data."...

but you want every "sound" created in peoples "private" homes collected as well? Your "Data" will just happen to include every conversation that happens anywhere, anytime in any location. And who exactly will be storing and "monitoring" this "data"? Are you suggesting that the "Government" should be trusted with the power of knowing everything you say, and exactly where you said it (Thanks GPS...), and who you said it to, and everyone who might have heard you, within the range determined reasonable considering ambient background noise...? This would be the perfect compliment to the omnipresent video surveillance we already live with planet wide. Even if your intention is purely to address noise pollution issues, there is no way you can record "noise" without recording everything that the people stupid enough to install this app say. Wiki Leaks and Eric Snowden have provided us with the undeniable reality of what "Government" does with your "Data". And who would pay for this... The taxpayers? Why not... the "Government" already spends tens of billions of taxpayers dollars every year collecting every other type of "data" (aka... spying on us), I'm sure the Congress and the President would have unprecedented bi-partisan cooperation on this one and pass it into law in a nanosecond. The Department of "Homeland Security" would wet their pants with the excitement of adding such complete "records" of everything you say, easily searchable thanks to Google analytics and Splunk... I'm sorry, but installing microphones in everything, including the lamppost, is not only a violation of the 4th Ammendment of the Constitution (In America anyway...) but is just plain stupid. NO ONE should have this capability, ESPECIALLY the "government". Even if your intentions are pure, and all you want to do is make the world a better place, this is NOT the way to do it. This approach to the problem is so easily corruptable that it cannot be allowed to exist. And even if it did, and it collected the data, as "kq4ym" points out, what will be the outcome? What are the odds that the noisemakers will be made to be quiet? The risk of corruption, in this case, FAR outweighs any benefit that MAY be derived from collecting the data. Governments cannot be trusted with such power. I'm sorry, but this is a BAD IDEA...

But at least the "App" is free...  

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
6/9/2014 8:02:45 PM
User Rank Blogger
Power geeks, unite!
Really interesting postcard from Santander, Pablo... when you say no additional connectivity is needed for these wireless units to work, does that mean they're powered by solar (i.e., no hard-wired electricity)? Seems like a natural for tiny, self-contained boxes like these.

Pablo Valerio
Pablo Valerio  
6/9/2014 10:46:52 AM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Smartphone data
James, there are many apps available for monitoring ambient noise. Some require to calibrate the smartphone's microphone to make the measurement reliable.

One of them "Noise Nuisance" allows the user to make several recordings over time and then send the information to authorities.

There also several crowdsourcing projects where people use DYO kits based on an Arduino device monitoring noise, air pollution, heat, humidity, etc. and create heat maps.  The Smart Citizen Kit developed in Barcelona is one of them.

CitySolver
CitySolver  
6/9/2014 8:37:00 AM
User Rank Blogger
Smartphone data
This is very interesting stuff. Maybe people could get freebies (like free apps) for contributing to the research. Its still cheaper for the government to utilise the people rather than have the expense of setting up its own sensors all around cities. This 'App'roach seems to be the next logical step!

Pablo Valerio
Pablo Valerio  
6/6/2014 10:06:02 AM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Measuring Or Regulating Noise?
I believe the first thing to do is to determine the cause of noise, where it happens and when. Sensors are a great tool to do that.

Solving the problem is difficult, but many cities are now setting new limits because the noise has become a big issue.

Same as the trend to reduce car traffic and pollution is the aim of many municipalities to put residents' interest and confort before allowing new venues.

Just recently I overheard a conversation between the owners of two outdoor bars in Barcelona. One was really upset for having to pay a fine of €2,000 ($2,800) because neighbors complained of the noise generated by his patrons.

kq4ym
kq4ym  
6/6/2014 9:51:32 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Measuring Or Regulating Noise?
It's one thing to measure the noise, which is getting easier to do and as suggested every phone can easily do it and send the data along to the appropriate authority. But, how to make sense of the noise and determine what's permissible and what's not is the real problem. Various industry groups will certainly plead for relaxed noise ordinances while citizens will ask for quieter streets. How to move in the direction of public sately and welfare but not anger groups who may feel restricted is going to be a challenge for rule writers.

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