NGA wants a global map for ambient sound


APR 30, 2018

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency wants to map the world’s ambient sounds.

The NGA Research Directorate’s Environment and Culture pod wants to “leverage new and emerging technologies to characterize spatial-temporal patterns in sounds and develop corresponding foundational geospatial datasets,” the agency said in a request for information.

The same way technology can classify the location and characteristics of gunshots or different species of birds in a small area, NGA wants to be able to use technology to record, classify and map ambient sounds and acoustic features. The automated effort would result in accurate baseline soundscapes for locations worldwide.

Why do you think a gov agency might want to collect this data?



The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a United States government agency responsible for providing geospatial intelligence, which involves collecting, analyzing, and distributing information about the Earth’s surface and its features. While the NGA primarily focuses on geospatial data related to national security and defense, it also has applications in various other fields, including environmental monitoring and natural resource management.

One potential application of geospatial intelligence is the mapping of ambient sounds or acoustic environments. By integrating data from various sources, including satellite imagery, aerial surveys, and ground-based sensors, it is possible to create detailed maps of soundscapes that depict the distribution and intensity of ambient sounds across different geographic areas.

Mapping ambient sounds can have several practical uses and benefits:

1. **Environmental Monitoring**: Sound maps can provide valuable information about the acoustic characteristics of natural environments, including wildlife habitats, ecosystems, and protected areas. Monitoring changes in ambient sound levels over time can help assess the health and resilience of ecosystems and identify areas of concern.

2. **Urban Planning**: In urban areas, sound maps can be used to evaluate noise pollution levels and assess the impact of transportation, industrial activities, and urban development on local communities. This information can inform urban planning and zoning decisions aimed at minimizing noise disturbances and enhancing quality of life.

3. **Public Health**: Exposure to excessive noise levels can have adverse effects on human health, including hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and stress-related conditions. By mapping ambient sounds, public health officials can identify high-noise areas and implement measures to mitigate noise pollution and protect community health.

4. **Tourism and Recreation**: Sound maps can also be used to highlight the acoustic attractions of natural landscapes and outdoor recreational areas, such as national parks, scenic overlooks, and wilderness areas. Promoting awareness of the natural soundscape can enhance the visitor experience and encourage sustainable tourism practices.

While the NGA may not have a specific mandate to map ambient sounds, its geospatial intelligence capabilities could contribute to efforts to monitor and analyze acoustic environments for a variety of purposes. Additionally, other organizations, research institutions, and technology companies are actively involved in the development of sound mapping tools and applications using geospatial data and advanced sensing technologies.

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