New York and Philadelphia hope cameras, decibel meters and machine learning can help reduce excessive noise.
Tools that tackle noise pollution have been a growing trend among U.S. cities, as evidence mounts suggesting continuous exposure leads to adverse health effects. Sensor technologies are helping reduce noise pollution in New York and Philadelphia, which has already introduced a proposal to bring an automated noise-radar system to the city.
Philadelphia City Councilmember Mark Squilla has proposed a vehicle noise enforcement system consisting of cameras and decibel meters.
Similar to red light cameras, the technology would automatically identify and ticket vehicles that surpass a certain decibel threshold, according to a report in Axios. Per the legislation, the system targets any noise – from engines, music and mufflers – that registers five decibels above a certain background noise level.
In New York City, Manhattan Councilmember Ben Kallos proposed a similar measure to use a camera and sound devices to identify offenders and capture their photos. Installed on city property, the equipment would be heavily influenced by noise radar technology first seen in a 2019 pilot program conducted in a Paris suburb.
According to Reuters, the Parisian system uses "four microphones that measure decibel levels every tenth of a second and can triangulate where a sound originates." The radars come with screens that can locate the origin of a sound wave, a factor that compelled Kallos to call it a "best in class" technology.
Meanwhile, a research team at Sounds of NYC partnered on pilots with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection to install a network of roughly 30 low-cost sensors in residential neighborhoods. Using supervised machine learning, the system is trained to recognize specific sounds, like jackhammers, sirens or barking dogs.
The sensors will stream data on decibel levels in real time, informing city staff of breaches or repeated offenses and potentially helping with source identification. This information on the decibel levels of various types of noise can also provide insights for legislation that impacts construction permits and loud trucks that pass through residential areas.
“It's a way to enforce the law without engaging the vehicles that are moving. We hope it will help the police and help the residents," Squilla said.