Noise Pollution Measurement and Reporting Solution
How to collect data about noise levels using end-users’ mobile devices?
The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) wishes to develop a digital solution that provides the public with the ability to measure noise pollution via personal devices and subsequently make reports.
The EMA has a mandate under its legislation (The Environment Management Act Chp 35:05, or the Act) to address noise pollution, as an environmental issue. The Act defines that the EMA shall investigate the environment generally, as well premises and vehicles, for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of noise pollution and the significant sources of pollutants, as well characterising or describing that pollution. Under its mandate, the EMA is responsible for registration and further characterisation of significant sources of any ongoing or intermittent releases of air or noise pollutants into the environment.
Noise pollution is ubiquitous as it affects all communities in Trinidad & Tobago. Based on EMA’s public consultations, noise pollution has been identified as a major environmental issue in Trinidad & Tobago. In 2022, 246 official noise complaints were received by the EMA.
Currently, the EMA has a limited online platform via the website for communicating with members of the public, as well the Authority isn’t using any georeferenced methods of recording public complaints.
The current method of lodging complaints from the general public, is via phone, WhatsApp, letters and email. The provision of comments from the public is currently limited to email, hardcopy correspondence and phone calls.
EMA is interested in providing opportunities for the public to contribute to the collection of noise pollution data and information using their personal mobile devices, as a citizen science tool. This data/information will assist EMA with the identification of hotspots that can be prioritized for attention and allocation of limited resources.
The tool the EMA is looking for would benefit the EMA, as it will provide needed exact data (georeferenced locations, source of noise and sound pressure levels) needed for the EMA’s work in the noise pollution management area.
Members of the public would benefit by being able to report the noise pollution to the EMA in a much more convenient, efficient and accurate manner. This would significantly increase the efficiency and transparency of the noise pollution reporting process and possibly help to promote public responsibility and involvement in the solution of this urgent social problem.
EMA is looking for a solution to collect and analyse noise data to get a deeper understanding of noise pollution in Trinidad and Tobago.
The digital tool should enable the EMA to collect noise data, including georeferenced locations, sources, levels, date/time, provided by the members of the public themselves, using their end-user devices (mobile phones, tablets, etc.), and to visualise it on a digital map which would be accessible to the EMA and to the public. It would also be able to identify and establish trends.
As noise is a subjective matter (younger people and older people tolerate different levels of noise), the additional noise data should be collected using automated sound recording or similar tools of the end-users’ devices, which would enable collection of comparable data on noise levels. The microphones on mobile phones have different levels of accuracy, thus depending on the proposed solution, this functionality could serve as a source of important additional indicative data.
The data collected and analysed using the developed solution, will be used by EMA to preliminarily identify noise hotspots for greater attention and analysis to inform the development of area specific noise management plans. It will enhance the EMA’s ability to make data driven decisions with respect to noise pollution management.
This solution would provide an opportunity for members of the public to contribute, in person, in addressing the issue of noise pollution in Trinidad & Tobago. As well, persons would be able to see real time information on noise pollution, which will empower the citizenry to make the appropriate representation to get relief from the negative impact of noise pollution in their communities.
EMA is currently implementing cloud technologies to build resilience and business continuity. EMA’s email systems and voice systems are cloud based and accessible via mobile devices. EMA is developing in-house document management systems (DMS) and an intranet portals that will serve all internal departments. The Manager IT is leading the development of the intranet portal and DMS through 0365 SharePoint and Powerapps. This is supported by a Systems Administrator, Records Administrator and two (2) technicians.
As this data collection through citizen science is a new method of public engagement, a Communication Education and Public Awareness plan would have to be prepared and implemented by EMA, after this solution is developed, to maximize participation and involvement of the public.