An acoustic camera is used to visualize sound. Imagine you hear a sound, but you don’t know exactly where it is coming from. If you would point an acoustic camera to it, you see circles on the screen that show you where the sound comes from, or the so called sound source. There are many different reasons why you would want to find the sound source. For example, when you are a product developer and you want to find an unwanted noise in your product. With the acoustic camera you can find out why your product is making this noise and change the design of your product. Furthermore, there are many other applications, such as finding annoying sounds within buildings, finding sound leaks in walls, and monitoring noise pollution within cities. We will tell you more about that further on in this blog.
How does it work?
You can compare your ears with a microphone. Sound travels via soundwaves to your ears. When it first arrives at your right ear and a little bit later at your left ear, you can localize where the sound comes from. You need at least two ears or microphones to localize sound. An acoustic camera is more precise than your ears, because it has more microphones, usually from 64 to 1024 microphones, which are all connected with each other. Software processes the sounds received by all these microphones and visualizes it on the screen of the acoustic camera.
Change over time
Until some years ago, acoustic cameras were only available for large companies as the measurement tools were very expensive. By using digital microphones instead of analog ones, in combination with advanced AI-software, the costs of producing is much lower these days. Therefore, the acoustic cameras can be offered for a much lower price, still deliver the same quality and thus become available for all company sizes.
What can you use acoustic cameras for?
As there are so many applications for an acoustic camera, we will focus on the most common applications and tell you what kind of acoustic camera fits best.
Sound localization is finding the sound source. In most cases this is an unwanted sound, because it is annoying, too loud or non-compliant with regulations. This could be a source within a building, outside or to validate noise reducing products. Within this category you can use different kind of acoustic cameras. Is there a low or a high frequency? With a lower frequency, the length of the sound wave is longer. Therefore, you would want to use a larger microphone array, such as the CAM1K, to localize the low-frequent source. Within the higher frequency range, a smaller microphone array will do a good job. You could for example use the CAM64.
Another difference is what and where you want to perform measurements with the acoustic camera. For example the acoustic cameras CAM1K and CAM64, mentioned above, always need to be connected to a laptop. That way you can do complicated measurements within the cloud software. However, if you are looking for a more flexible and easy-to-use device, the Sorama CAM iV64 is a good match.
The CAM iV64 is the most used acoustic camera for building and construction applications. It can be used to detect sound leaks in walls or the façade. That way a builder can reduce the amount of sound leaking from one room to another room or from inside to outside.
Basically sound monitoring is the same as sound localization. It is mainly used in cities and other busy areas. The difference is that sound monitoring is a continuous process instead of a snapshot of that specific moment. Think of a city where some moments are busier than other moments. For example, if you would do measurements in a city on Monday 2pm, it will give you a much different outcome than Saturday 1am. To get good insights you want to monitor the sound continuously. Therefore, an acoustic camera used for Sound Monitoring, is often called an acoustic monitor.
Environmental Noise Monitoring is an example of a continuous process. With the acoustic monitor municipalities get insights where, when and how noise is created in their cities. These insights can be used to battle and solve noise pollution to create a healthier living environment. The L642 is a good example of an acoustic monitor that is often to monitor environmental noise.
Other applications for acoustic monitors
There are other applications for acoustic monitors within cities. The first one is Safety & Security. The acoustic monitor can recognize specific sounds, such as car alarms, breaking glass and aggression. When such a sound is detected, a notification can be shared with the Safety & Security center, so they can take action.
The second application is Traffic Noise Monitoring and Mobility. Especially in urban environments and highways, there is a considerable amount of noise pollution caused by traffic. With an acoustic monitor, municipalities can map the noise and with these insights they can take action to make their city quieter. Furthermore, the acoustic monitor can operate as a noise camera for loud vehicles. Combined with a video camera, it can detect vehicles, which exceed the standards.
Fan Engagement in Smart Stadiums
Besides the applications within cities, there is also a more fun application: fan engagement in Smart Stadiums. The acoustic monitor enable stadiums to interact with the fans within the stadium. For example, they can show how loud a section is and have the fans compete with each other. Or they can connect the lighting to the acoustic monitors and put the loudest fans into the spotlights, literally.
This one might sound a bit odd at first. When you place an acoustic camera, fit for Sound Behavior, in front of, let’s say a product, you can actually see how the sound behaves. The acoustic camera shows how the sound waves moves over the product. It is used by Research & Development and OEM (original equipment manufacturer) departments who want to optimize the so called ‘sound design’ of their product. Examples of the acoustic cameras, used to measure sound behavior are the CAM64 and CAM1K, depending on the size of the product.
In the video you can see an example of a product, which takes care of the sound design.
There are several different types of acoustic cameras. Most of them can be used for different applications, but finding the right fit also depends on the frequency you have to deal with, the budget you have, etc.
What we do know is that there will be more applications for the acoustic camera in the future. We notice that the more people get to know of the acoustic camera, the more requests for applications come in.