NoiseMap is designed for a team-working environment, although its design will simplify the life of the individual noise specialist too.
Teams may be covering different geographical areas of a project; they may even be working from different offices. Some people will be creating the models, some will be analysing the results. Others will be managing progress, checking the quality and reporting to clients. These aspects are just as important as the actual calculations.
NoiseMap’s Remote Server system can deal with huge schemes, perhaps containing hundreds of kilometres of roads or railways, or hundreds of scenarios. The server may be located on a private network or on the internet. The system is specifically designed for working over the internet, where connections may sometimes be slow or unreliable. NoiseMap has a remote server hosted in the ‘cloud’ which can be accessed over the internet for a modest charge. This server is located in a UK datacentre with gigabit internet connections and world-class security measures, including backup and archiving facilities.
The cloud server is useful for those who do not wish to set up their own server, or where various companies are working together on the same project. In such a case, it makes sense for all the participants to share the one database as this enables seemless collaboration. It avoids the complexities of different IT departments having to allow access to a server within their firewalls and allows the acoustics professionals more control over their resources.
One essential part of the server-side software are the Administrator tools which allow you to create and manage the databases which NoiseMap uses. They also let you set up User access to the databases and to backup and restore databases.
A major benefit of the Remote Server system is the ability for many computers to share in the calculation load of large projects which may require many thousands of tiles to be calculated. With large schemes, this can take many hours of CPU time: Distributed Computing allows other computers to share in the calculations thereby reducing the waiting time to a fraction of what would otherwise be required.
Another essential part of the system is the Calculation Queue, which allows users to store calculation requests in a queue, so that the calculations can be done at a convenient time, such as during a lunch break, overnight or over the weekend. The system is cleverly designed so that you can get many computers helping with the calculations, yet if one computer is slow or crashes, the other computers will continue and complete the task. You can even have a ‘slave’ computer that does nothing but listen to the calculation queue and we have a special low-cost licence for these ‘calculation’ computers.
Because of this, even the smallest consultancy can benefit from a ‘Remote Server’ licence, if it does regular noise mapping work.
How do you make sure that the whole team can work as one?
A crucial aspect is Version Control. You need to be sure that everyone is working on the same version of the model and with the same calculation parameters. NoiseMap does this by only having one version of the model that everyone shares, but it is easy to make backups (both automatically and manually) just in case someone makes a mistake that needs to be reversed. Every change is logged within the database, so that if you discover a blunder made some time earlier, you know exactly when it occurred and what might have been affected.
What if you want to make a change, but leave the original version of the model unaffected? NoiseMap has thought of that too. You simply save the changed version of the model as a new scenario. You then have the original and new scenarios within the database and you can quickly switch back and forth between them. The scenario tool is extremely powerful and can be used for things like differences between day and night conditions as well as different designs for the scheme itself. You can have any number of scenarios in the database.
The previewer system lets you see the differences between the scenarios. Also, you need to be able to divide large schemes into manageable areas. There are many ways of doing this, but a convenient way is to divide the scheme up into ‘Named Areas’, which allows you to quickly select a particular area of the model.
There are so many elements to a noise model that it is not always easy to know where to start when doing your quality assurance checks. The ‘View-As-Colour’ tool is specially designed to help you with this. You can select almost any property of the objects in the model and display it in colour, as in a ‘thermometer’ chart. This can quickly show missing parameters and incorrect values, allowing you to identify and fix errors quickly.
There are many other built-in checks – such as indicators to show you traffic flows that have not been applied, or how many tracks a train service runs along. There are also error-removal tools, such as receiver points that have been placed within buildings.
These tools have all been developed through the practical experience of our developers and our users.
A large scheme will produce thousands or millions of results and it is essential to be able to manage these. NoiseMap stores all of its results in the database, along with all the essential details of the calculations. This enables you to see what has been done, and what has not been done. It also lets you check which ones need to be re-done because of changes to the model. But you may need to process the calculations in some way – for example to get the change of noise level between scenarios; to add two noise sources together; to add a background level; to put in a noise floor. NoiseMap’s Results processor lets you do this easily. You can even put in a measured noise level as a background.
For efficiency with a large team or project, you need to automate repretitive processes. This is where scripting comes into its own: you can develop a ‘script’ i.e. a procedure or set of instructions for NoiseMap, that users can run to undertake a pre-defined process. Some very advanced users have even produced systems that automatically create scripts. These can help to ensure that repetitive work is done to a consistent procedure.