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The sleeping child statue is a local landmark in Antwerp

Young, out and loud: Antwerp says ‘Shhhh’

Young, out and loud: Antwerp says ‘Shhhh’

The Belgian city wants to quiet students partying in the streets with these smart noise metres that kindly ask people to keep it down

The residents in the Belgian city of Antwerp seem to have a consistent problem since Covid measures were lifted: students have returned to the city and they are ready to party. Local authorities have decided to help the residents, living in nightlife hangout spots for students and tourists, to get a better night’s sleep by installing a smart monitoring system.

According to a report by the Gazet van Antwerpen, this system will feature sound capture devices, that will measure decibel levels. If noise pollution goes overboard, screens present in the areas where the system is installed will display a message urging people to kindly keep it down.

The software operating the devices was developed with the help of local residents in the Ossenmarkt and Stadswaag districts, famous for their nightlife. During the time the system is in place, residents are encouraged to record sounds and match them with their sources. According to the city, this was done to help the software differentiate between dogs, engines, trucks and people.

A non-invasive way of keeping the peace

The system has already been deployed and it will be in its trial period until October. According to Antwerp Alderman for Innovation, Erica Caluwaerts, this is a good thing, as summer is generally a quieter time in the city. At the same time, she explained that in September and October, noise levels usually tend to go up, because hundreds of students move back in.

In the beginning, authorities thought out different ways to contact noise violators in a non-repressive way. For instance, they thought about installing special light sources, that would let people know they are keeping someone up, or some solutions that involve noise signals or smells.

In the end, they settled on displaying messages. There are two of these, one when noise levels are too high and the other, when they get back to normal, saying a thank you to people in public spaces. According to Alderman Caluwaerts, these were developed by the municipality’s collaboration with De Behavior Club, a team of social psychologists, communication and behavioural scientists.

Furthermore, authorities insist that the system will not be recording sounds or conversations, instead, an algorithm would just match noise levels with their respected sources. After all, the city’s intention is to work preventively and stop violations before complaints reach local law enforcement.

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