City and Covid19, the sound of silence

By April 9, 2020 No Comments

City and Covid19, the sound of silence

Sound is information 

The progress of humankind has inevitably brought an increasing proportion of an increasing population to live in urban environments, with its attendant risk to public safety and to the environment. According to the United Nations, 68% of the total world population will live in urban areas by 2050. City authorities are looking to maximize data gathering to improve and expand their operations while preserving both the quality of citizens’ lives and the environment. They have an opportunity now to leverage smart technologies to markedly better municipal services

Cities are getting louder and the possibilities that come with real-time sound monitoring has not yet been exploited. Sound is information. Such monitoring can generate actionable insights. 

Vehicle traffic is the main source of urban noise. The Securaxis RTExD smart acoustic sensor provides information about the volume and nature of traffic. It can indicate the overall noise level, and by analyzing sounds – the components of the noise – the kind of vehicles together with their direction and speed. This analysis can underpin policies and action that improve traffic efficiency, reduce noise and promote energy saving. 

COVID19 and the city of silence 

A few months I wrote that “to listen to the noise of a city is to hear a living city. To hear its moments of strength and weakness.”

Today we hear its moment of weakness.  A couple of days ago, Securaxis Risk Management Advisor Robin Coupland wrote to me: “This morning I woke at 6.00am. I stood on our balcony in the middle of a city stuck in confinement. A, quiet and clear morning with a fine view of the mountains. An extraordinary dawn chorus of at least a dozen different birds. A woodpecker rattled a branch of a nearby tree. I swear the air is cleaner and sweeter. I am fascinated by reports of how the massive global slowing of human activity has already brought about environmental change. What awaits us at the end of this crisis?  I wonder if we might be able to generate a healthier and more resilient nexus of government, business, the general population and the environment”. 

the resume of urban activity and its associated noise monitored in real time 

It is much too early to answer Robin’s question. Pessimists might say nothing will change.

However, we are looking at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study a city in such specific and quiet circumstances. Only now can we gather the sound-related baseline data for policy-making as we move forward form here and maybe “back to normal”. An obvious indicator of people’s reduced activities brought by their partial or total confinement is the near-absence of urban noise and the sound of vehicle traffic; both of which can be monitored in real-time through AI and acoustic monitoring.  Securaxis’ smart acoustic sensors allows therefore city authorities uninterrupted and real-time monitoring of the return of urban activities. Where will the process start? Which geographical spaces will be first “re-occupied”? How fast? Such data would be of critical importance after this period of confinement for cities that wish to introduce necessary changes but with minimal impact on citizen’s well-being. And we cannot allow the pessimists to win!

Gaetan Vannay, COO Securaxis