Using Tech to Control Noise Pollution

Several cities are piloting programs that use machine learning to identify and understand urban noise patterns and enforce noise ordinances.

December 13, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Noise

Anna.Kraynova / Shutterstock

More cities are taking action to reduce noise pollution and limit vehicle decibel levels, reports Linda Poon, and the process could soon become automated thanks to new sensor technology. A Paris pilot program will install microphones and cameras that can measure decibel levels and help identify the vehicle and driver. "No decibel threshold or fines will be set during the three-month trial period, according to French newspaper Liberation, but it’ll test the potentials and limits of automating the war on sound pollution."

"By now, research has been mounting about the health effects of continuous noise exposure, including links to high blood pressure and heart disease, and to poor mental health." But despite existing noise ordinances, enforcement of vehicle sound limits has been difficult and costly for law enforcement. According to Poon, "Those obstacles have made noise pollution an increasingly popular target for smart city innovation, with companies and researchers looking to make environmental monitoring systems do more than just measure decibel levels."

In New York City, a group of researchers is using machine learning to understand the sources of noise and develop tools that cities and residents can use to get information, understand patterns, and address complaints in excessively noisy areas. With the project already showing promise in Red Hook, where residents were able to use the data to get trucking routes moved away from residential streets, the group hopes to work with the city to implement the project at a larger scale. 

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