As part of the ‘Smart Sensing’ project, Vias institute – together with its partner Room40 – is experimenting with sound cameras to reinforce existing camera networks. These sound cameras are made up of an array of no less than 64 microphones that pick up sounds and work together to determine where exactly the sound is coming from. Thanks to the connection with regular cameras, the origin of the sound can be visually displayed. Furthermore, this high-tech system can ‘learn’ to distinguish certain sounds based on their frequency, length and intensity. This way, anomalies and potentially dangerous situations can be automatically detected based on audio and video data.

Thus far, cameras have already been installed in many public areas. Of course, it is impossible to constantly keep an eye on all of these streams of images. Thanks to the automatic and real-time detection of anomalies in video and audio streams, constant monitoring becomes unnecessary. The system will immediately alert the right guard or authority when it detects an alarming situation. Based on the recorded images, they can then assess the situation and react adequately.

This innovation has important implications in the field of (road) safety. For instance, the sound cameras could detect screeching tires, honking cars and bicycle bells, to not only map road accidents but also ‘almost-accidents’. Moreover, street fights could be noticed in an early stage using this technology, faster even than a bystander would be able to alert the police.

The new technology is currently being tested at the backside of the Vias offices in Brussels. In time, the system is intended to be used by various public and private entities, to optimize traffic flows or secure an area based on the information of previously identified incidents, for example.