In fact, I'd already been forced to embrace a key aspect of smart telephonics - I've been no stranger to apps since buying a new laptop, but the advantage of being able to press a virtual button-with-symbol rather than an icon-with-label escaped me till I understood that I'd only scraped the surface. There's a galaxy of the things available on my Galaxy.
I soon discovered that one of these things is a sound level meter. Two minutes later, I'd found lots more - most of which are free - and the ones I tried gave sensible readings and had some useful features.
On the face of it, the sudden availability of sound level meters to everyone with a smart phone allows a revolution in acoustic data gathering - and a very timely revolution too, now that soundmapping has become a key concept in noise abatement (thanks in large part to the European Noise Directive).
In fact, given that the starting-point of that directive was the reduction in personal noise exposure, a sound level meter you carry with you - a personal noise dosimeter, in other words - is actually even more useful than a sound map.
However, though there have been some projects in which people have used their phones to chart noise levels, it's not an idea that has really taken off. I've no idea how many people use calorie-counting apps, or symptom-checking or healthy lifestyle ones, but I bet it's a lot more than use sound level meter ones, even those on the phones of people who work, live or play in noisy places. Nor -as far as I know - is there any system of collection of level data from owners. Of course, there are plenty of technical reasons to prefer an actual sound level meter to an appy one. The MEMS microphones that all mobile phones used are not designed for measurement, and their frequency range is limited. If you want to know your noise exposure, your measurements should be taken near your ears, not your pockets. And phone microphones are designed to be directional, too.
On the other hand... you don't need an accurate measurement to determine that noise exposure is too high. With potentially millions of readings, sophisticated statistical analysis, modelling and data pruning can be conducted. For detecting changes over time, or season, or place, the low quality of the instruments is more than offset by their similarities and constancies. And compared to the cost of an actual sound level meter - to say nothing of that of the accompanying acoustician or extensive training course required to use it properly, the price tag of £0.00 looks like good value to me.
Maybe all that's needed is a little dot-connecting: like a system in which people permit their phones to measure noise levels and transmit them to a central database, in exchange for an (automated) regular report about the noise levels they are exposed to, and what that means in terms of health impacts. The data thus collected could be used to generate live and detailed sound maps of ... well, practically everywhere on Earth where people gather. And, over time, the evolution of the soundscapes of those areas would be charted too. A bit of publicity and some centralised data processing is all that's required. And of course, an app.
What do you reckon? Unworkable? Unnecessary? Possible? Let's do it? Any comments much appreciated...