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App Spotlight: NoiseGate

App Spotlight: NoiseGate

Posted in Mobile App Spotlight on November 01, 2019

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Recently we had an opportunity to speak with Moritz Philip Recke from MPRECKE about NoiseGate

Please share with us the backstory of what motivated you to create this app.

The NoiseGate iOS app was developed by a group of master class students of the Apple Developer Academy in Napoli (Italy) and was the first app published by the 2017/2018 academy alumni.

To date, noise pollution is one of the most dangerous forms of pollution because it is silent. As a recent review published in the European Heart Journal pointed out, the role of noise as an environmental pollutant and its impact on health are increasingly recognized. Beyond its effects on the auditory system, noise causes discomfort, disturbs sleep and compromises cognitive performance. Furthermore, evidence from epidemiological studies show that environmental noise is associated with an increased incidence of arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke.

The victims of this form of pollution are practically anyone in any urban environment in the world.

The NoiseGate iOS app empowers you to be more aware of your noise exposure and to contribute to a better understanding of noise pollution as a common problem.

What features do you hope to roll out to your app in the future?

Over the last few months the app was completely reengineered to provide even better user experience and improved design. We introduced Mapbox for our immersive thermal heat maps of global noise distribution. The new design largely improves the perceived impact of the data NoiseGate has collected so far. Also the performance of the map itself has been improved drastically with now completely fluent and smooth animations on all zoom levels. Furthermore, we moved all our data to Apple's CloudKit technology to push our privacy first approach even further. No personal data is ever recorded or saved in the NoiseGate app or in CloudKit. All noise analysis happens ad hoc and on the device without any audio data ever being stored. For the immediate future we are exploring the latest technologies released by Apple (such as SwiftUI and Catalyst) to evaluate how we can extend the functionality of the NoiseGate app to other Apple platforms like the iPadOS, WatchOS or even MacOS.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of the creation of this app?

With noise pollution we identified a highly relevant but yet agentless topic. In the iOS ecosystem nobody approached this critical environmental pollutant or our current era. We feel inspired by providing a unique perspective on this pressing issue and are proud to empower people to be more aware of their noise exposure while at the same time allowing them to contribute to the growing collection of world wide data about noise pollution. This is a good cause to be invested in.

What is the coolest or most innovative feature of your app?

With the intuitive design and a user friendly interface, it is very easy to analyze the noise level in real time or dig deeper into the knowledge of the problem thanks to the thermal noise maps that allow you to view the distribution of noise all over the world. Our strong focus on a simple but meaningful user experience, combined with a colorblind-proof design pushes NoiseGate far beyond the many applications in the utility and health categories. The app also supports features such as Voice Over and Switch Control to ensure accessibility and provides localisations in English, Italian, German, French, Greek, Portuguese and Simplified Chinese (with more in production) to make NoiseGate an easy to use and globally available product.

What surprised you most in your journey to create this app?

The exploration of accessibility was a key focus during the creation of NoiseGate. With a strong focus on creating an intuitive and user friendly design, the attention shifted a lot towards making NoiseGate colorblind-proof. This was an unexpected turn of choices in the design approach and resulted in simple, yet powerful design of the app for everyone. On a deeper level we were really surprised by the final product itself. By using the oblique strategy technique we actually transformed our project from something far less inspiring to the amazing NoiseGate app that emerged out of nothing. It was a profound moment and it is amazing to see how the app is now used by people all around to world to escape noise pollution.

Which other mobile apps or technology have inspired you?

One of the most inspiring apps I have seen in recent months was the FilmicPro app. It was presented during Apple's iPhone 11 introduction event in September 2019. The app feels like a game changer for professional video production. Beyond that, I feel intrigued with the new features of CoreML3 and Create ML and look forward to exploring its potential for NoiseGate's noise analysis. The most amazing novelty for developers in the Apple ecosystem however, is SwiftUI in my opinion. This paradigm shifting approach towards developing UI across all Apple platforms will be as significant as the introduction of Swift as a programming language 5 years ago. I can't wait to see where this is going.

Do you have any recommendations or advice for others wanting to create a mobile app?

From our experience it is safe to say that you create your most amazing work when you are personally engaged with what your are doing. Follow your passion and dive deep into what you love to create amazing things that you could not have even imaged. On a side note, the challenge based learning methodology used at the Apple Developer Academy was also a key influence for creating the NoiseGate app and shaped our experience even beyond the academy program.

How did you decide which platforms to release your app on and do you plan on releasing your app to other platforms?

NoiseGate is focusing on the iOS ecosystem as the most vibrant and strongest mobile platform out there. We are deeply passionate about the Apple technology ecosystem and don't plan to publish NoiseGate on other platforms any time soon. With recent announcements of new frameworks such as SwiftUI, Combine or Catalyst from Apple at WWDC 2019, we might extend NoiseGate functionality beyond the iPhone in the future. Certainly the noise analysis would work perfectly on the Apple Watch (something that was not feasible with WatchOS just one year ago) and the iPad could allow users to dive deeper into our immersive heat maps. Even on the Mac we could provide some more advanced functionality to explore global noise distribution. For all intends and purposes, NoiseGate remains deeply committed to its main user base and the Apple technology ecosystem.

How is your app different than the rest of the market? Which unique need does it fill?

NoiseGate ?is the only iOS application that focuses exclusively on the dangerous impact of noise pollution on health and mental wellbeing. You can measure and calculate the actual noise level in your current position and obtain further analysis to make better decisions on how to avoid high noise levels over time. Simultaneously, everyone using the app contributes as a "citizen scientist" to the creation of a global map of noise level distribution. NoiseGate is a "first mover" app in an unexplored segment of the iOS ecosystem that provides a toolset for solving an individual issue and translating it into an awareness community.

You can view NoiseGate here

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