Sustainder en Sorama fight for less noise

Responding to what the city is telling us

It sounds like music to the ears: fewer problems on the streets thanks to smart street lamps that detect noise. For Rick Scholte, of Sorama, and Sustainder’s Maurits de Boer, adding sound to light is a logical move: “We see this low-threshold combination as a catalyst for smart street lighting.”

What is an acoustic camera and what can you do with it?

Acoustic cameras are used to make aural images and are often involved in product research. The acoustic cameras made by Sorama, for example, are mainly used in R&D environments to visualise where a product may be leaking sound, and to plot the amount of noise caused by machine-generated vibrations. The most common Sorama acoustic camera, the CAM64 or CAM1K, is actually nothing more than a small video camera and the kind of 8x8 MEMS microphone that is also used in smartphones. The camera records the sounds and Sorama maps the sound field over the images that have been taken.

Sustainder Sorama Geluidscamera 8
Rick Scholte (l) and Maurits de Boer show how the acoustic cameras work in a public area.

How does this work in a lamp post?

Sustainder luminaires include Sorama technology – minus the flexible grid and without the video camera – as an integral part of the design. Being integral rather than an add-on means Sustainder can weather-seal the components. The microphones, for example, are placed behind a membrane, where they remain sufficiently acoustically sensitive while being protected from the weather. And because every luminaire has acoustic technology, Sustainder can scale a small product with lab-scale functionality into something that can cover an entire street. With multiple systems working together to create an image of the local acoustic environment, Sustainder and Sorama can offer a low-threshold solution that everyone can understand.

Sustainder Sorama Geluidscamera 3
Maurits shows the 'Anne' luminaire. The acoustic cameras are an integral part of the design.

But what about the camera?

The Sorama/ Sustainder design doesn’t feature a camera. Instead, it uses the GPS locations of the lamp posts to map sound fields. The Sustainder luminaire features GPS as standard, and with a viewing angle of 120 degrees, and a lamp height of between four and 10 metres, it’s possible to cover a large area, quickly.

The technology is actually so good that it can even indicate which direction a sound is coming from. Having multiple measurement points in any street enables you to cross-reference a noise and so determine exactly where it is coming from. It’s this aspect that makes the combination with lighting so interesting – because if you know where the sound is coming from, you can turn up the lighting in that area to have a better view of what’s going on.

Sustainder Sorama Geluidscamera 10

Why use a lamp post?

Lamp posts are ideal for this type of luminaire-based sensory system because of their height, coverage and connectivity. In addition, they are already located in the kinds of busy places you would want to map acoustically – there is no need to install new lamp posts. The luminaires can also be hung on the facades of buildings, if necessary.

Infographic Smart Outdoor Fight En

Why is connectivity necessary?

This depends on the type of application and the accuracy required. Linking multiple systems makes the acoustic cameras more accurate and they can cover a larger area. They can work independently and when an event occurs, such as ‘too loud at GPS location X’, they can report this via a LoRa network. This can then be pushed to a management platform or a smartphone to trigger the intervention of a prevention team or the police. The optimal solution is to have a broadband connection between the sensors, because this allows you to control them remotely, in real-time.

"The lamp post will be the eyes and ears of the city."

What is a typical example?

Suppose a car alarm goes off – the nearest street lamp can turn itself brighter or start flashing. The location of this lamp can then be shared with the police, so they can check out what is going on. Equally, you can use the same technology to detect aggression, loud noises or breaking glass in nightlife areas, or noisy trucks.

And what about privacy?

It is impossible to trace an individual person using the Sustainder system. We only use sound to identify potential problems. We do not record conversations and we do not store ant data. We only localise sound and ensure that others can do something with this information.

What's your goal?

After air pollution, noise pollution is number two in the list of most damaging environmental factors. We want to cut the noise. Combining sound and light enables us to empower government and citizens so they can have a better insight into what they don’t want, because noise is bad for health. Insight is key if you want to improve the environment. If we can help people to see for themselves, in real-time, like a rain radar, how much noise there is in their neighbourhood, then we will already have achieved a lot.

You can experience this technology first hand during the upcoming Light + Building trade fair in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Sustainder and Sorama will be in Hall 5.0, Stand A.36.


Share this article