Helsinki venture Noiseless might be the beginning of a new vertical in startup-friendly technologies: acoustech
Walking the floor in Helsinki last week at Slush 2016, it was easy to find startups. Aisles of booths represented all sorts of companies with all sorts of tools, a number of incubators, accelerators and government programs were trying to attract the reporters perusing the floor. What wasn’t quite as simple was finding something eye-popping that you haven’t seen before.
Then I saw something my eyes certainly had not had practice in discerning: sound. A couple of entrepreneurs were getting passers-by to act out in front of a screen, squawking and hollering to elicit a reaction from the black-and-white monitor that showed off hot zones on screen from the people making those noises in the middle of a crowded exhibition floor.
Enter Noiseless Acoustics, a Finnish startup that visualizes the source of sound using video. Founded in 2015, they manufacture acoustic cameras to detect the source of errant sounds in factories, crowds, and events.
“When you have the combined info, you can use it for a lot of things — gas leaks, high voltage grids. whether it’s a faulty insulator or something regular and part of the system,” CEO and Co-Founder Kai Saksela told Geektime on the floor at Slush 2016 in Helsinki. “You can filter out the sound coming from a specific direction. In addition to that, you have machinery with faulty bearing, locate it, and analyze it.”
Saksela splits his time between his company and a PhD program at Aalto University, building on his Master’s work in acoustics and structural engineering.
Beyond their academic credentials, this Helsinki-based team is an almunus of Finland’s own Startup Sauna incubator.
There are plenty more applications with things like car motor maintenance or applying high frequency settings to look for leaks and cracks in infrastructure. They are hunting for things like tight air ducts, gas leaks, defective bearings in certain machines, or rattling in other structures. They also measure building acoustics with an eye toward acoustic planning for redesign or new structures.
Noiseless has pilot programs with gas companies in Finland and the national grid operator, as well as some other programs outside the country that they aren’t allowed to speak about in more detail.
Despite being able to analyze sounds in real-time and display them on-screen as they reverberate, the system does have some limitations. It can’t pick up all the voices in a given area, as Sakseka explains you would need a lot more processing power to allow for that.
“You can, afterwards, make us both visible at the same time. We’re only recording the loudest points, otherwise you’d need ridiculous bandwidth to record everything, but we have a mode where it just picks up from one direction.”
At that point we had a conversation about non-conventional applications, mainly for things underground along the lines of the sensors used by the Hagihon water company in Jerusalem — provided by Israeli startup Aquarius — to look for breaks in metal pipes. Asked if it could be used to look for problems in things like water infrastructure, he told Geektime that the technology is best above ground for now.
“You have a thick layer of dirt the sound has to go through first. I know there are other companies like us but instead of an array, they use vibration sensors on the ground.”
For the time being, they are only three employees and are working off a seed round of €135,000. They will be making their first sale to a collaboration partner in January, with the possibility of more devices going to that customer in the future.
Noiseless Acoustics was co-founded by CEO Kai Saksela and electrical engineer CTO Jonas Nyberg. They are joined by acoustics postdoc researcher Robert Albrecht, PhD.