A group of scientists from New York University and Ohio State University have installed microphones on two buildings in New York City’s famous Manhattan to monitor noise levels in the city as part of a new project named Sounds of New York City, or SONYC. The microphones will be programmed by the scientists to differentiate between various noises such as the car engines, street music, sirens, jackhammers and drilling machines. According to the researchers, noise pollution is one of the top quality of life issues facing urban Americans.
According to post doctoral researcher Justin Salamon, nine out of 10 people in the city are subjected to harmful levels of noise. Hundred of sensors will be installed around the city to identify and report on noise, relying on machine listening methods to describe the surrounding environment. Citizens can also participate, empowered by mobile apps that will function the same way sensors do. The project is set to run for five years. Over the course of the first year, 10 seconds audio snippets will be collected at random time intervals.
“The objectives of SONYC are to create technological solutions for: (1) the systematic, constant monitoring of noise pollution at city scale; (2) the accurate description of acoustic environments in terms of its composing sources; (3) broadening citizen participation in noise reporting and mitigation; and (4) enabling city agencies to take effective, information-driven action for noise mitigation,” New York University says.
Citizens should not fear the invasion of their privacy as the collected snippets will not be able to dissect conversation. The project is mainly financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, totaling USD $4.6 million. “Information from the network flows through a cyber-infrastructure that analyzes, retrieves and visualizes data to facilitate the identification of important patterns of noise pollution: a noise “mission control” center of sorts, intended for decision-makers at city agencies to strategically deploy the human resources at their disposal to act on the physical world,” reads the project description.