Novel use of MEMS microphones to map noise pollution and meet EU directives

November 23, 2010

The UK's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed a new measurement-based approach to environmental noise monitoring and mapping using unique sensors. NPL in conjunction with Castle Group, QinetiQ and Hoare Lea Acoustics, and with support from the Technology Strategy Board have developed DREAMSys (a Distributed Remote Environmental Array & Monitoring System).

This new system uses a wireless array of low-cost MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) microphones to provide a means of collecting noise data over a widespread area, for the purpose of augmenting the production and validation of noise maps.

MEMS microphones are already used widely in mobile phone and computing applications, but have yet to be exploited for precision noise measurements. This is partly because commercially available devices were not designed for such purposes and hence their performance characteristics were largely unknown in relation to measurement applications. So a key question before attempting to use MEMS microphones for measurement was how their performance compared with conventional instrumentation grade condenser microphones.

The DREAMSys project has addressed this and has successfully deployed MEMS microphones as part of a novel noise monitoring system, demonstrating for the first time their suitability for quantitative measurement and the benefits (in terms of size and cost) that they offer. The system is designed for prolonged outdoor use, so is resistant to adverse weather conditions, and powered by rechargeable battery packs in order to run unattended continuously.

EU Directive (2002/49/EC) mandates that noise maps be produced for all roads, railways and civil airports, to inform strategic planning for noise control. However, measurement based approaches using conventional sound level meters, are not practical, mainly for economic reasons. The Directive therefore requires maps to be produced from noise predictions, with all their inherent assumptions and limitations. Consequently, some European authorities have reported difficulty in using these noise maps due to a lack of confidence in the output data and complete absence of temporal variation. These issues can be resolved by including a role for measurement in the process, but it is currently too expensive to use the instruments available to achieve the spatial coverage required.

DREAMSys aims to address this by providing a cost-effective solution to the distributed measurement of noise over a widespread area. Components of the system have been thoroughly tested and calibrated by NPL, and results of testing both in the laboratory and outdoors indicate a high degree of consistency with conventional equipment.

Following initial tests the system has been deployed in a small number of UK field trials lasting a few days to in excess of 10 months. These field trials have now been completed successful. The flagship test site was an area of land adjacent to a major airport, earmarked for residential development where 40 units were deployed for a period of 10 months. Trials have also been carried out in a busy city centre and elsewhere. The data collected was used for mapping the sound fields using bespoke software developed at NPL. These trials explored the role of measurement in the strategic noise mapping process and showed how a low-cost measurement array can enhance the traditional predictive approach.

Richard Barham, Principal Research Scientist in NPL's Acoustic Group said:

"DREAMSys greatly expands the coverage offered by the measurement system in conventional equipment. It enables a large number of measurement points to be installed and used to continually monitor an area for months or even years. However, it is not intended that DREAMSys replaces prediction entirely. We hope that both approaches will complement each other, with the measurements being made in areas carefully selected on the basis that action plans would be significantly enhanced as a result. This shows the essential role that cutting edge measurement science can have in helping to meet specific challenges."
-end-
Notes

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is one of the UK's leading science facilities and research centres. It is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate standards, science and technology available.

NPL occupies a unique position as the UK's National Measurement Institute and sits at the intersection between scientific discovery and real world application. Its expertise and original research have underpinned quality of life, innovation and competitiveness for UK citizens and business for more than a century: The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its role is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). For further information please visit www.innovateuk.org.

National Physical Laboratory

Related Microphones Articles from Brightsurf:

Engineering: Reducing noise transmitted through an open window
A new device that can reduce the intensity of sound passing through open windows is presented in a proof-of-principle study in Scientific Reports.

Researchers capture rarely heard narwhal vocalizations (video)
With the help of Inuit hunters, geophysicists recently recorded the various calls, buzzes, clicks and whistles of narwhals as they summered in a Greenland fjord.

Marine biology: Spiny lobster noises may be heard up to 3 km away
Noises produced by European spiny lobsters -- known as antennal rasps -- may be detectable up to 3 km underwater, according to a study in Scientific Reports.

How drones can hear walls
One drone, four microphones and a loudspeaker: nothing more is needed to determine the position of walls and other flat surfaces within a room.

Drones can determine the shape of a room by listening
In a paper publishing next week in the SIAM Journal on Applied Algebra and Geometry, Mireille Boutin and Gregor Kemper attempt to reconstruct the shape of a room using first-order echoes received by four microphones attached to a drone.

Data Science Institute researcher designs headphones that warn pedestrians of dangers
To counter a growing public safety concern, researchers at the Data Science Institute, Columbia, are designing an intelligent headphone system that warns pedestrians of imminent dangers.

Listening to 'noisy knees' to diagnose osteoarthritis: The first human cohort study
A new way of diagnosing and assessing knee osteoarthritis (OA) has moved a step closer with a major study paving the way for its use in research and clinical practice.

First smart speaker system that uses white noise to monitor infants' breathing
University of Washington researchers have developed a new smart speaker skill that lets a device use white noise to both soothe sleeping babies and monitor their breathing and movement.

Lab develops novel approach to study sound recognition in acoustically orienting animals
A new study by Dr. Norman Lee, in collaboration with St.

New way to make micro-sensors may revolutionize future of electronics
Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York researchers have found a way to improve the performance of tiny sensors that could have wide-reaching implications for electronic devices we use every day.

Read More: Microphones News and Microphones Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.