Several years ago, Ben Hinze purchased a house in Norman Park, Brisbane, near the rail line. Having an acoustic background, he listened to a passing passenger train service. He watched the flight paths. He noted the road was busy, however 90% of the traffic turned off before his house. As far as he could tell, all was in the clear in terms of noise.
Happy with this, Ben bought the house and on his first night there, was woken up around 2am by a passing freight train. These trains continued through the night. He thought, ‘if I got this wrong, how many others have too.’
Hopefully, this experience isn’t a relatable one. But if you were in the market for a new home, investment property or holiday spot, would you know what information is available regarding how the location is affected by noise, or even air quality?
To address this gap, Ben has built Ambient. Ambient delivers interactive maps which provide up-to-date time, noise and air quality levels at every façade, of every property in modelled regions. Currently Ambient has collected data throughout Australasia, with the intent to deliver this information to people country-wide around Australia and New Zealand. These maps have such implications that they could really shake up the way smart cities operate.
CONCISE ENVIRONMENTAL DATA TRACKING
Ambient has the potential to track a range of environmental data, including air traffic noise, road traffic noise, rail noise, air quality and future road noise. All of these are likely to affect where you and your family might choose to live or stay.
You might assume that resources, reports or data on noise and air quality levels within neighbourhoods would be available online or by request from your local council. Unfortunately, this data generally doesn’t exist, and for the few areas with road noise data, the detail is poor, or it’s not publicly available.
CREATING A PILOT
Thus, Ben created a pilot project that modelled the noise and air quality in his hometown of Toowoomba in regional QLD. The next step was launching the website for his big vision, then called NAQPMaps (Noise and Air Quality Maps) in April 2017.
While the project was working well, he started running out of funds to finance the modelling process to map the country. An opportunity to join BlueChilli’s accelerator came into the picture, putting Ben at a crossroads.
“Having been accepted into CityConnect in early October, the decision was whether to keep my current position and walk away from the opportunity with BlueChilli, or to resign and make this idea work. With minimal funds and a very young family, we decided to take advantage of the BlueChilli opportunity.”
Now three months into our smart cities accelerator CityConnect, Ben’s work with Ambient has brought about a plentitude of new developments. Working with BlueChilli’s product team, Ben honed into hours of research, testing and validation to further develop his maps, nationwide.
“The interest was overwhelming in the data and it was great to see the product team have validation in the product where previously there appeared to be some reservation (understandably) in an idea that doesn’t exist in Australia.”
Following a name change from NAQMap to Ambient, Ben and the team launched ambientmaps.co, which presents and delivers data to their top audiences: government and enterprise. The website also features an impressive example of data that has been tracked, all in an interactive manner – which you can check out for yourself! Ambient’s technology is on its way to present real-time environmental data with all-time access.
TIME TO LAUNCH
Ben was also able to officially pitch Ambient out to major councils in Queensland. Further to that, he’s had discussions with the Victorian State Departments to revise and extend the greater Melbourne noise map he created in 2013, now for all of Victoria.
Ending the year on a high, Ben’s hustle has most importantly brought strong connections to partner with Domain to integrate Ambient’s data into their website. Corelogic have also requested raw data for property valuations, with a demo data covering greater Melbourne already provided for review.
Currently, noise models are undergoing calculations for highways and arterial roads through the southern Australian States of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, in addition to the north and south islands of New Zealand. This data is expected to be available in February.
Ambient has continually gained traction since pilot and we are ecstatic to be alongside this journey with Ben in making this groundbreaking startup develop.