An application to evaluate our sound environment: NoiseCapture

Focus on December 2017 CityUrban planningInnovation

By Judicaël Picaut,  a  researcher in environmental acoustics and the head of the Environmental Research Unit (UMRAE) in the AME Department  

An application to evaluate our sound environment: NoiseCapture - Ifsttar - [Translate to English:] Logo de l'application NoiseCapture. Copyright Ifsttar & CNRS

The ever-rising number of pollution sources means that aiming to achieve a high quality sound environment has long been the priority at the European level. Major cities are now compelled to draw up action plans1 based on noise maps.
In this context, IFSTTAR and the CNRS have teamed up to develop an innovative solution in which people and their smartphones play a central role in evaluating their sound environment.


Novel possibilities thanks to new technologies

Conventional noise mapping, using modelling, identifies the location of noise pollution, but does not allow us to evaluate environmental quality. To overcome this lack of realism2, some French cities have set up acoustic measurement networks. However, due to their cost, these monitoring systems can only have a limited number of measurement points, which means it is impossible to have a detailed representation of the environment at the conurbation scale.

The emergence of smart cities and so-called “low cost” sensors means that new technologies are being developed, which allow a huge increase in the density of observation points.

The best example of these is doubtless the smartphone. By its very nature this is connected, and it is also owned by a very large number of people3, It has the potential to become the largest mobile network that can be used for observing the sound environment. All we need is for users to be properly equipped and willing!

While “pocket sound meter” type acoustic measurement applications already exist, most  are still unable to make an accurate evaluation of the sound environment. Other, more sophisticated, attempts have also been made in various parts of the world, as a part of research projects4 but few have proved viable.


A central role for users in creating noise maps

IFSTTAR’s UMRAE research unit and the CNRS Lab-STICC5 have joined forces in the framework of the European ENERGIC-OD6 project, receiving support from GEOPAL7 in order to develop the NoiseCapture8 application.

This Android application means users can evaluate their noise exposure, describe their sound environment using keywords, and then export this information into a community database.

The success of this type of approach depends on the pooling of expertise - in the areas of acoustics, data processing, and geographical information - and on interactivity with the user.



Learn to use NoiseCapture with :


The video presentation of the application website


And the quick tutorial



As with any participative activity, the long-term involvement of participants is crucial. Managing the community of data “producers” is a major issue.

For this reason IFSTTAR and the CNRS are proposing to organise a NoiseCapture Party9 during which the participants meet each other to calibrate their smartphones, discuss the measurement protocol, and carry out organised measurements at a given site. 

The collected data can then be used to construct more accurate noise maps, which can be accessed either on the smartphone or on line ( The resulting dataset is then openly transferred (Open Data licence), for use by all parties, including local authorities and government departments who will be able to use it is to gain a better understanding of how to conserve a high quality sound environment. 




An application to evaluate our sound environment: NoiseCapture - Ifsttar - Partenaires du projet

European Directive No. 2002-49 of 25 June 2002 2002/49/CE of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2002 relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise :

2 To give an example, road traffic, which is the main source of noise pollution in urban areas, is currently assessed on the basis of vehicles that travel at a constant speed on the network, even though it has now been shown that it is the dynamics of traffic, in terms of acceleration and deceleration, which are responsible for the perceived quality of the sound environment.  

3 In 2015, 58% of the French population owned a smartphone. Source:  :

4 In particular, the Ambiciti initiative organised by INRIA (France), which combines noise and air pollution.


6 The website of the European ENERGIC-OD project :

7 Website of the Pays de la Loire geographical gateway :

8 Download the NoiseCapture app :

9 The EPFL in Switzerland has, for example, used the NoiseCapture application to assess the sound environment in the Canton of Geneva :



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  • "NoiseCapture party"  Lyon la Duchère
    Festival Pop Sciences - 2019