Why Ambient Noise Sensing is Critical for Critical Alerts


Busy school hallwayPicture this – A K12 school has taken all the necessary steps to prepare a great ERP (emergency response plan) that includes the latest technologies. They can quickly and efficiently notify local authorities and parents with pre-programmed, automated responses based on the emergency. They can communicate the emergency locally through a public address / paging system to all the classrooms and buildings within the district. Everything about their plan is efficient, automated, and includes override capabilities so that emergency communications will ALWAYS have top priority over other forms of communication that may be happening simultaneously.

A typical day in the hallway has teachers talking with students, students telling their friends about what they did last night, and general conversation at normal volumes.

But one day, during the annual “Bring Your Grandparents to School Day,” the 5th grade hallway has an unusually high number of people in it and there are plenty of discussions happening. The volume level of these conversations rises. Children are more excited and teachers are more distracted with all the extra people and activities happening today.

Then, the critical alert that nobody ever wants to hear happens. Other hallways and classrooms in the school hear the alerts because they are having a normal day with normal volume levels. But because the 5th grade hallway and classrooms are much louder today, they do not hear the alerts.

Maybe it’s not even an emergency or critical alert. Maybe it’s just an announcement through the school intercom system that the 5th grade classes are to report to the gym for a special, surprise presentation acknowledging the veteran family members who are in attendance on this special day. But nobody hears the announcement.

In this situation, not hearing the communication can cause a delay and maybe throw off the agenda. But not hearing critical alerts as described in the first scenario could be life changing.

The school could make ALL announcements in ALL hallways and classrooms at extremely high volume ALL of the time, but that will create unnecessary distractions when paging a specific classroom and could make the kids (and teachers) jump out of their seats during quiet reading times and in the library.

This is why ambient noise sensors used in communications systems are critical during critical alerts. Ambient noise sensors continually monitor the background noise in an area. As the level of noise increases, the volume of the communications to that area also increases so these communications can be heard. The volume is not restricted to a preset level. The system intelligently adjusts itself, in real time, to compensate for the ambient noise level. Over 30 years ago, AtlasIED invented, and holds the patent to, the first real time automatic ambient noise analysis system.

Facility managers and administrators have an obligation to effectively and efficiently communicate with everyone that may be anywhere on the campus. Not just the people that are usually there in the locations they are usually in. Visitors who haven’t gone through fire, earthquake, and tornado drills will not know what to do. Ensuring they can hear the audible instructions, that are intelligible even when ambient noise levels are high, is of utmost importance.

For some commercial applications, the TitanOne (T112) amplifier from AtlasIED includes AlwaysHEAR™ patented technology for automatic real time ambient noise analysis and output adjustment. This amplifier, when combined with our GCK software, can create a complete paging system capable of daily and emergency communications.

For other use cases, the Atmosphere® digital audio platform may be a better option. This system, primarily for zone controlled background music and paging, also features an ambient noise sensor accessory (X-ANS) that monitors noise levels in specific zones. The patented technology continually analyzes acoustic information from the environment and automatically adjusts audio levels so people can hear clear messages and pleasant music. 

Similar to self-learning thermostats that raise and lower temperate automatically in your home, Atmosphere's automatic ANC (Ambient Noise Compensation) feature learns from user adjustments at specific noise levels and enables the system to adapt a unique curve for each space. This learning algorithm results in zone-specific environmental configurations that are worry-free.