Indoor Noise Monitoring

 Indoor Noise Monitoring


High noise levels are increasing every day. The rapid development of most world economies has encouraged   most countries to move towards Industrialization. The heavy machinery and equipment involved contribute a lot to unnecessary nuisance and this has caused great discomfort to human activities and   general health standards. Some of the sources of noise are indoor appliances within our homes and offices. They include air conditioners, washing machines and radios. There are also outdoor sources of noise that cause discomfort examples include traffic, construction sites and factories. The focus of this paper is on noise pollution. How it can be monitored and reduce its health impact within the indoor context. In trying to establish new indoor monitoring methods that will abate noise pollution, research has recommended incorporating novel hypertext analytical and statistical methods in reducing noise pollution effects to human life. A complete solution to these problems is challenging. Considering current human lifestyle, that considers cars, industrial products like processed foods and luxurious equipments like a washing machine as necessities. This analysis study constitutes the modification of previous outdoor research to include indoor monitoring as a new and unique study. The analysis incorporates scientific approaches that improve on the existing outdoor methods. This paper concentrates on capitalizing on the modern technology to improve on the methods of collecting environmental data. The paper recognizes the rapid advancement in mobile phones to enable it perform multiple functions. The functions deviate from the core functions of the mobile phone.


  1. Background

The Canadian task group, the Environmental Noise of the Federal/Provincial Advisory Committee on Environmental and Occupational Health recognized the following: Noise is beyond disturbance but forms an actual and an existing health hazard [1].  High noise levels results in grave psychological and physical stress. Noise is the unwanted sound in an environment. However, what one perceives as noise is not noise to his neighbor. Noise exposure level is dependent on the intensity, frequency and the period that it lasts. There is no acceptable level of resistance to noise. Interestingly, many people try to ignore noise but it is evident that the ear will bear immediate or long-term effects. The body still reacts to sound even during passive moments like sleep with a lot of strain (Health and Welfare Canada, 1989) [1]. However, we have vulnerability standards among human beings. For example, the old and the sick might be disturbed by low levels of noise compared to a young adult. Many young adults will prefer listening to their favorite pop music at high sound levels.

The Canadian committee reported that high levels of noise reduce the healing process in sick people [1]. In 2000, a similar study in[3] Netherlands reported that high levels of noise exposure resulted in health risk, and there is enough scientific evidence that connects extreme noisy conditions to hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance, sleep disturbance, and decreased school performance. The ear has expected level of sound that it handles. Reports indicate that people with high sound exposure levels exhibited hearing defects [1]. For example, if there is exposure to high levels of noise to an individual, he will not be in a position to hear low conversations afterwards [1]. Continued exposure may result in permanent hearing problems due to damaging of the eardrum. In some cases, people have complained of an itching effect after exposure to high levels of noise exposure [1]. Noise arouses annoyance in among many people. Noise irritates individuals since it disturbs their peace and their attention. Sudden increase in sound may irritate an individual. People in areas with high levels of sound exposure are usually temperamental. A high level of noise exposure is the cause of some reported cases of cardiovascular complications. High sound exposure levels increases the pulse rate of an individual and this could lead to heart related complications.

A survey among pupils in near major airports in Canada revealed that noise lowers performance among people. Pupils in schools near the airports exhibited problems in comprehending passages [1]. On the hand, pupils in quiet and serene conditions away from airports interpreted passages quickly and easily. Performance of a task is dependent on the level of complexity of the task. Noise does not have serious complications on simple and physical tasks [1]. For example, noise will increase performance in activities like jogging in a gym. However, tasks that involve a lot of mental input are likely to be affected e.g. reading for an examination. Noise also reduces concentration in a worker and it has a major cause of accidents in various companies. There has been research and counter arguments on the influence of noise pollution to the immune system and birth complications. Research has connected low immunity to certain diseases due to noise exposure [1]. Reports have also related birth complications such as low birth weight to high levels of noise exposure.  However, the evidence on these two aspects is still limited [5].  The proposers of this argument have claimed that noise has an effect on hormonal balance in the body. Hormonal imbalance might cause stress to expectant mothers and the resultant effect might spread to the unborn child leading to defects. The Canadian Research linked sleep disturbances to high levels of noise [1]. These researchers evaluate sleep abnormalities through various approaches. These include duration of sleep, sleeping and waking time and frequency of interrupted sleeping patterns. Duration involves the total time that an individual sleeps without walking up. Sleeping and walking time entails the time one goes to sleep e.g. does he sleep early or late. Individuals who suffer from insomnia are possible victims of occupational noise pollution [2]. Some people adapt to noise and are able to sleep even in high levels of noise. This depends on the duration that the individual has experienced the noise.

Noise also affects children speech acquisition and exposes them to high risks of cardiovascular diseases compared to adults [1]. Noise exposure characterizes two perspectives outdoor and indoor exposure. Traditionally, scientific studies concentrated on outdoor exposures. The methods that had been widely used involved static sensors placed in certain areas. Many studies have ignored indoor exposure and concentrated on outdoor exposure like noise from vehicles in traffic. It is therefore advisable that for a comprehensive approach towards noise pollution and its effects we also address indoor exposure. Indoor exposure is mainly through internal household appliances e.g. washing machines. This could comprise of noise from television or radio in the house. In an industry, individuals experience occupational exposure when operating a machine. Indoor exposure is mainly through an individual’s lifestyle and occupation. For example, rock or pop listeners are most likely to experience noise-induced problems. A machine attendant who works in non-noise protected environment is most likely to suffer from the effects of high levels of noise exposure. Indoor noise monitoring requires a different approach due to the differences between the nature of indoor and outdoor noise exposure. Indoor noise exposure involves individual management of personal sound exposure levels. However, it is also possible for outdoor sources of noise pollution to contribute to disturbances in indoor activities like sleeping. This therefore called for change in the monitoring process including improving on the technology used. The new approach should embrace both the outdoor sources and the indoor sources of noise pollution.

Early methods of noise assessment involved the erection of static sensors in areas perceived to have noise pollution. Environmental data collectors placed static sensors on buildings and various industrial installations [6]. The world is rapidly changing in various aspects including technology in machines. These therefore posed a serious challenge to the archaic static sensors. Many construction sites are being set up daily, it will be expensive and untenable for environment agencies and governments to be erecting static sensors everywhere. The evolving industrial world therefore called for the best approach to capture any slight levels of unexpected sound adjustments standards in the environment. This triggered various researches on how to tackle the immobility aspect of static sensors. A more convenient monitoring method was therefore inevitable.  In 2010, a study by Nicolas Maisonneuve a scientist from the Sony laboratory [6], acknowledges that the establishment of a noise policy is a tricky venture. It cannot be handled in isolation by government institutions and environment agencies alone [7] it requires  the concerted  efforts of the entire public [8], human beings are flexible however they do not have the capacity to record different levels of noise exposure. We have different personal levels of what we consider high or low sound levels. Therefore, the use of human beings in noise assessment without any device would make the whole process subjective. Nicolas Maisonneuve in his study discovers that mobile phones have features that can be useful in assessing sound exposure levels in the environment [6]. He also noticed the mobile phone is a gadget that is common and accessible to many people.

The mobile phones are convenient and easy to carry and move from place.  Mobile phones are therefore a cost effective solution for the citizens to determine their personal sound exposure levels in their various areas of operation. Nicolas Maisonneuve identifies a new and an ideal noise monitoring method, [6], which has superb features of operation. This involves free downloading of an application by mobile phones that are GPRS enabled and have the android system of operation.  The mobile noise monitoring method is involved in mapping areas and labeling “Hot spot” areas. Hot spot areas are those that indicate high sound exposure levels that. The detection noise maps, [9] can only inform about approximated noise levels produced by identified sources of noise. These alterations occur after every 5 years (END requirement) [9]. This enables it to cover various local variations, let alone unexpected or short-term pollution peaks, for example those that arise from  construction sites, road works, traffic deviations and festivals[6]. The high cost of creating strategic noise maps that involves the use of costly simulation software (and powerful computers to run it) as well as human expertise, “Sensor networks”, and “Grassroots campaigns”, these are the techniques’ limitations [6].

In 2009, Dr.Kanjo discovered the NoiseSpy software to gather noise data study by using the Phone Platform for Noise Monitoring in Cambridge city [9]. This was another breakthrough in mobile noise monitoring. This proves that the mobile monitoring experiments are now part of measures used in determining levels of noise in the environment. Since many   users enjoyed using new applications, which gives them an opportunity for easier collection of data, this reduces the cost of collecting large volumes of data [9]. The application enables sharing of information among users and presents an opportunity to create environmental awareness due to comparison of data from various places.

In many countries, monitoring and associated control measures are always a feeble and subjective process [10]. The process is a part time activity that requires less financial and human attention. Switzerland experience offers instances of an approach to monitoring, Silvia Santini case study provides a Nosetube, [11] a project focused on promoting a participative outdoor noise pollution monitoring platform to empower residents, as well as governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations to advance their level awareness and insight into the issues relating to urban noise pollution [11]. Santini views a mobile phone more than a basic communication gadget but a tool for other purposes considering the complicated applications available for mobile phones to enable sensor readings. Santini offers an insightful look at the performance and the shortcomings of the mobile phones system of noise level assessment [11]. Silvia santini also recognizes the mobility, convenience and affordability of mobile phones. She agrees that the discovery will abate problems experienced courtesy of the static sensors. She later gives a close analytical approach of some of the shortcomings. She cites battery capability as one of the disadvantages.

The application for noise evaluation on mobile phones is an addition to the existing other heavy draining power applications. Therefore, this will lead to causes of power failure during noise assessment process. Such instances reduce the accuracy of the data collected. The noted shortcoming of this new method is privacy concerns among the public. Many people suspect that their private conversations are prone to leak to the public domain. This would reduce the adoption rate among the public. The credibility of the data collected is subject to suspicion. The level of noise measured could be prone to exaggerations due to side conversations by the individual. However, the partisan architecture [17] refutes these allegations and proposes various contexts to contain Santini’s concerns against this mobile environmental data collection platform. They include the network-attested context [17]. It is mainly concerned with the time and location. The system detects the time and the physical location of the data. This helps in validation of the data to attain credibility. The system verifies the data packet   against the network where the sensor was at that time. The other type of context is the physical context. It involves clarification on the nature of the sensor; this will ensure that the recognized sensor is the origin of the data [17]. Physical context entails also comparison and consideration of values of the other nearby measuring devices within the area of assessment. The final context is the context resolution control. It limits the influence of the individual on the data. The system offers low-level mechanisms that are user conscious to encourage sharing [17].

Traffic noise is a menace in Saudi cities of Jeddah and Riyadh. These are among the leading cities in Saudi Arabia that are highly populated. This high population, points towards an expected high number of vehicles. This similarly shows that the intensity of noise levels will be beyond the expected standards and limits of dissatisfaction [12, 13]. Vehicles move very long distances along highways and other roads. This is a major challenge to static sensor installations since they cannot capture the noise levels in the entire journey of the vehicle.  This calls for urgent and modern measures to alleviate noise pollution issues and especially traffic noise in major local urban cities like Jeddah and Riyadh. It is important to investigate the impact of traffic noise problems, to explain the danger of environmental degradation that follows, and to identify effective mitigation and preventive strategies. Al-Khobar an eastern city in Saudi Arabia, is another major city that has been undergoing [14] major infrastructural developments that have led to major traffic in the city. A keen investigation of the city of Al-Khobar in 2009 as one of the major modern Saudi cities reveals the presence of these noise pollution [14] problems caused by the busy traffic. Determination of traffic noise levels clearly show levels in excess of 70 dBA in almost all locations. These levels are generally higher than required standard of maximum allowed level of 60 dBA. As the demand for more transportation is obvious owing to high population, growth rate in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will evidently worsen the pollution problem [14].


  1. Noise Quality In Saudi Arabia

The Saudi kingdom has a general environmental standard law that controls noise emission, [19], that the president of the meteorology and environment issued in 2012. The law puts limits on community noise, industrial noise, constructions activities, vehicles and outdoor equipment [17]. The industries have a designated area of operation with set standards of noise emission levels. However, this environmental standard on noise excludes limits for occupational noise. The occupational noise falls under the national health and safety laws [19]. The law on traffic noise pollution from public vehicles falls under the roads and highway regulatory. The law however is not clear on religious functions and sporting activities within Saudi Arabia. A report dismissed the debate over noise emissions by mosques in Saudi Arabia [19]. The report concluded that the noise from mosques did not happen for a long period, it only happened when they were signaling people for evening or morning prayers. The meteorology department is the competent agency for enforcing these regulations. There are various penalties for non-observation of the indicated emission limits including jail terms, hefty fines and closure of violating companies [17].

A president who is responsible for issuing and implementing noise emission standards heads the meteorology and environment agency [17].  This agency gives guidelines particularly in operating machinery, equipment and using horns and loudspeakers, which should not exceed the required   environmental limit of standards. The agency is the main coordinator in the development and implementation of noise emission standards. It advises industries and communities on effective technologies and equipment of low noise levels [15]. However, under the meteorology and environment department we have several departments that are involved in the process of maintaining noise emission standards. They include licensing departments, law enforcement agencies, public institutions and the concerned non-governmental institutions [17].

Noise pollution in Saudi Arabia is mainly concentrated in construction sites, cables and glass industries and they form part of the largest enterprises in Saudi Arabia. The food and beverage industries record the lowest levels of noise emission in the environment [12].

An earlier study on the levels of pollution in six Jeddah hospitals and the contribution of the surrounding environment to the hospital’s operations noted that there was noise pollution in the hospitals and increased levels of noise in the clinic, patient ward, waiting bays, the offices and along the corridors [16]. Background community noise had minimal effect on hospital operations due to the construction nature of the hospitals’ buildings. However, “operational noise” from machinery and from the public movement (patients, attendants and employees) contributed immensely to the   indoor noise. [16]


This paper looks at the new approaches adopted in the monitoring of noise emission levels. This involves the use of mobile telephones in tracking the levels of noise pollution in an area. The mobile phones have an embedded sensor in the microphone   that gathers levels of noise in an area. The significant improvement in manufacturing of mobile phones has empowered this new discovery. The current types of smart phones that have GPRS, they can support the JAVA Api application [9] with the fast and reliable internet connectivity has spurred this new development. The microphone and images on board help in collecting data on the noise levels in an area [11]. This type of indoor monitoring method encourages public participation, professional data handlers and an internet connection within the area. The participants relay the information to a central server or the Nosetube community memory server. There have been various breakthroughs in the use of mobile phones in determining level of noise in a city. An Australian of Indian origin discovered an application known as Earphone. It is free to download this application. Dr. Kanjo asserted that the application is useful when setting up estates and schools [9]. The other type is Nosetube where members participate and transmit data of noise levels to a community server. The other mode of mobile noise detection is the Noisepy [9]. An individual’s phone that has any of the above applications will identify his predefined source of noise. The phones microphone will record the sound and the owner will tag the voice or identify the voice he then transmits this to the community server where it deals with the contextual aspects e.g. location, weather condition and user actions.

The GPRS enables in identification connecting the real geographical situation of the sound and sensor value [9]. This communication between the data collector and the central community sensor is through a wireless radio [9]. The mobile phone system noise determination has several advantages compared to the static sensors mode. The mobile system is effective since it has wide scope coverage of the area under assessment. It is not easy to place static sensors in every city in Saudi Arabia. The static sensors are limited to certain areas this makes the data collected insufficient. Static data sensors are expensive to set up. They require a lot of human and financial input to set up these centers. The price of mobile phones is cheaper and the residents will use some of their personal phones. This reduces the amount spent in implementing the mobile phone method sensors of monitoring noise. Residents can download freely some of the above discussed mobile phones applications. This also cuts on the expenses incurred.  Participatory sensing [16]   in this aspect, allows personal phones to act as mobile sensors carried by humans and not placed at static areas.  Allowing citizens to determine their personal exposure to noise in their daily environment by use of mobile phones is important in the collective noise mapping of cities. Participatory sensing is efficient since the public and professional data analysts share and distribute the information collected. This collective nature enables a wide spread approach to noise pollution and this will cultivate more awareness concerning noise levels. Participants will share and compare information on noise levels. They will be able to know the required level sound level and the existing hotspots within their environment.

The indoor monitoring mobile unit presents residents with the first hand opportunity in data collection. Public participation reduces the duration of environment impact assessment. Individuals are in a position to know the levels that are harmful to them. For example, an individual will know the radio volume that is comfortable to him. In outdoor monitoring methods, an environment agency manages analysis of the data. The aftermath of the analysis is not a major concern in many outdoor methods. These agencies seem to act when emergencies occur in relation to noise pollution. When the public is involved, the decision making process is effective and faster [7]. This is because they have firsthand experience in handling environment data. The new mobile phone monitoring method therefore eases the impact assessment process.

  • Noise Criteria

The Saudi Arabian government has no proper programs concerning indoor noise exposure. The meteorology and environment agency should enforce proper and modern methods in order to protect human’s health and conserve the existing environment. Saudi standard organization (SASO) [19] records and policies indicate progressive efforts and criteria towards outdoor environmental noise exposure. However, there is little reference to indoor noise exposure criteria and standards. It was evident therefore that there are no local Saudi standards describing the nature and criteria for indoor noise exposure. Therefore, it was vital to compare criteria adopted by other countries in order to come up with proper and appropriate guidelines. [14]

Occupational noise exposure in Saudi Arabia is under the National safety and health laws department [19]. However, the laws governing occupational noise is exposure is not clear. Member states of the European Union have clear definitions on their regulations and policies relating to noise exposure. They critically approach the issue through a defined approach. For example, they evaluate the contribution of noise to irritation, sleep disruption and they have a clear strategic designation of areas through noise mapping. The meteorology and Environment agency in Saudi Arabia has general approach towards noise pollution. Their laws are more prescriptive rather than being descriptive. The laws and regulations concentrate on what people should not do but does not offer environment friendly measures of doing something. In European member countries, they have clear advice on the sound exposure level in relation to duration, sound intensity and time of the day [18].

In Saudi Arabia, noise emission levels apply to every situation regardless of the time and the duration of exposure. For example, in European communities define night in terms of eight hours. They have clearly demarcated noise zones e.g. major airports, military zones [18]. This prevents citizens from residing in such zones. Therefore, the European approach embraces preventive measures rather than over depending on corrective measures. The European community embraces a consultative approach to noise management. They have various structures that trickle down to allow citizen participation in noise assessment process [18].  The mobile phone data collection is a product and a policy in most European member countries. This has enabled them to have enough data that supports their preventive efforts [9].

  1. Conclusion and Future Work

The indoor noise monitoring through mobile phones is an ideal project. The focus is on establishing a participative indoor noise pollution monitoring platform that will involve Saudi Arabia nationals as well as governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations to be aware and insightful towards the challenges of urban noise pollution. This initiative facilitates the empowerment of citizens in noise pollution assessment by creating awareness concerning their environmental situations with their mobile phones [6].

The Saudi administration the meteorology and environment agency should focus on migrating resources to the mobile monitoring system. They should divert human and financial resources to the project. The adoption should first go through various stages. The Saudi administration should research on the impact and feasibility of the mobile phone monitoring project. This involves evaluating the mobile network in the country and the type of mobile phones owned by most Saudis. The administration should involve the public in a well-crafted awareness program. They should have educational programs among the citizens e.g. among university students. This is because most students are in a position to understand the operation procedure of the system. Secondly, the students are tech-savvy and this will make the adoption rate high. This technological shift in noise monitoring will help in reducing levels of pollution in the major cities of Saudi. Awareness programs should reach to a large mass of people. These could be in the media e.g. newspapers and television. The administration should not ignore the power of the social media in recruiting data collectors. The administration should educate residents on how to upload the applications and their use in environmental data collection.

The policies and guidelines that regulate noise pollution should be clear and address every possible situation. As earlier note, there are no restrictions on noise from religious centers [15]. This is a clear example of a loophole in fighting noise pollution. The meteorology and environment agency should set the intensity of sound that should emanate from the religious buildings. For example, mosques should have public address systems of a certain capacity. This will help in preventing high-powered address systems that produce high intensity sound. Assessment of the noise from mosques and sporting activities is easier with the new technology.  The meteorology department should indicate the expected levels of emission for a particular enterprise. There should be clear mapping that will identify hotspots and vulnerable areas within Saudi Arabia. This will help the meteorology and environment agency in partnership with the urban planning department in identifying inhabitable areas in Saudi. For example, the planning department will advise hospital to use soundproof materials to abate noise pollution within the hospital’s offices and waiting bays. The meteorology agency should identify areas that unavoidable high levels of noise e.g. major highways, major airports and railway transport within the city. This will help individuals to have an overview of the expected sound exposure levels. Individual preparedness reduces the level of annoyance.

The noise-monitoring program has been entirely a government responsibility. The meteorology and environment should embrace citizen participation in management of noise levels. Through the mobile phone, citizens will be able to monitor the personal sound exposure levels in public transport systems or occupational noise exposure. This is a two-fold approach because citizens will collect data on noise and report violators of noise regulations. The administration intervention in noise pollution is limited to big industries and organizations. However, public participation will reduce the impact of the small violators who contribute highly to noise levels in Saudi Arabia.

However, to enable perfect functioning of the mobile phones method there is an urge to address some of the concerns raised by santini [11] to ensure high percentage performance in Saudi Arabia. The mobile phones should have an alternative standby solar charger that will boost the power in cases of low battery. More advancement should be steered by the administration to avoid dependency of the system on power from the phone. The method should undergo some modifications to ensure that there is no suspicion over privacy intrusion.

It is important to reiterate that future work in management of noise levels should acknowledge the entry of mobile phone technology. Saudi Arabia is among the best countries with improved mobile and internet network. This potential can help in reducing the levels of noise in our major cities. What is significant is the approach by both the administration and individuals to collect data from hospitals, schools, homes, and occupational places. The Android system available in Saudi Arabia will enhance close communication that will enable direct sharing of information. Mobile phone monitoring technology will provide plenty of data from wide scope of area under assessment. Insufficient data is a disadvantage to data analysis since it gives wrong implications. In future, it will be easier to come up with empirical data analysis with the help of   professional tools like R, and wiki, to arrive at a standard divination and other statistical analysis studies. In future mobile phone manufacturers should concentrate towards making the noise detecting sensors an in-built application on mobile phones. This will make the environmental data collection achieve greater expectations.

In conclusion, the impacts of noise pollution to human health are very detrimental. These challenges facing the world and specifically Saudi Arabia pose serious challenges to the health standards of the community. The effects of noise pollution are not limited to the ear only. It is evident that noise pollution touches on the physical health e.g. ear defects, psychological e.g. low concentrations levels and emotional health of an individual e.g. annoyance. As a society that has been bedeviled with such grave effects, it is important to change the approach in tackling the whole issue of noise pollution. There have been measures to mitigate effects of noise pollution for decades. However, the situation has never changed and in some quarters, it has spiraled to unmanageable conditions. This is because of new forms of sources of noise pollution courtesy of ever developing technology. As a society, we should also devise new mitigation ways that will abate noise pollution. As observed, European countries concentrate on preventive measures in fighting pollution. Preventive measures involve identifying and assessing accurate data from various places. This paper has identified some gaps in the old method of static sensors. The principal challenge is the inability to of the sensors to cover a wide area. Isolated collection of data in most researches distorts the results.

Sound pollution requires constant assessment of any slight change in the sound exposure level. Since, any change in sound level can lead to sleep disturbance and annoyance [1]. Changes have not been only happening to the sources of noise pollution but also on other useful devices. The challenge has been on industry players to identify and simplify the method of environmental data collection. The mobile phone is now a household device. The current types of mobile phones have modifications of very high technological standards. They have features that can to store and collect large volumes of data. This capacity enables the mobile phones to be a very candid option in solving the noise pollution menace in urban centers. Urban centers like Riyadh in Saudi Arabia have rapid growth and development rates.  It is expensive to install static detectors in every part of such cities. It is therefore, economical to use devices that have high mobility capacity like mobile phones. The number of people with mobile phones acts the data collectors. The participatory sensing involves the public in collecting environmental data. As noted, this method is effective as an indoor method of monitoring. Residents of major cities require only a sensor attached to the microphone of their phones. It is therefore undisputable that the adoption of mobile phone technique of indoor monitoring is a major breakthrough in solving noise pollution. It is advisable for urban area with high-speed internet connectivity to adopt this kind of environmental data collection method. The method is cost effective an efficient method for crowded urban centers.


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