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Transmitting Information using Acoustic Communication

Providing Safety and Security Advice, especially during Emergencies, by Transmitting Information using Acoustic Communication


The provision of information during emergencies is a critical in ensuing an accessible society where everyone, including persons with disabilities, visitors and locals alike, can live safely and have peace of mind.A variety of services, including interpretation services, have been set up as ways to provide information to persons with disabilities and non-nationals during emergencies such as earthquakes, typhoons, and heavy rains, but these all rely on cell-phone lines, Wi-Fi™, and other parts of the public communications infrastructure. As such, there are only a few ways to communicate in situations where communication lines are disrupted, or delays occur due to bandwidth issues. Moreover, while public information providers like TV and radio can broadcast information over a wide area, they cannot provide localized information, that is specific to a particular area or reflects local conditions on site.


In an emergency, acoustic communication can transmit multilingual text and auditory information to smartphones and other personal devices. Broadcasting equipment, based on the Fire Service Act, already installed inside a facility, can be used. Outdoors, emergency broadcast systems in a local area can be used. Moreover, information can be transmitted to personal devices even in cases where the broadcasting equipment is out of power or indeed when there is no outdoor broadcasting equipment.Information relevant to any specific situation can be provided in real time e.g. when moving or dispersing crowds at an event.

Technical Highlights

Often, there is a lot of information that has to be communicated in an emergency, especially when traditional communications and power lines are down, and there are a lot of localized decisions to be shared, so there is a real need for a solution that can be managed on-site.
Moreover, there is a real need to transmit and receive information using a universal means in order for it to reach the widest possible audience. Transmitting information using acoustic communication is an extremely simple way to transmit information to personal devices from broadcasting equipment, beacons, and other similar facilities and has a wide variety of applications.

There are a number of issues however, like reception tolerance against echo, reverberation, and environmental noise, and in the case of smartphones, the need to install and launch applications. Users have to download the application, ensure their devices are compatible as well as familiarizing themselves with the application prior to the time of the emergency.

  1. Information transmission devices
    Emergency broadcasting equipment is used to notify everyone inside a facility that a fire has broken out, so broadcasting can continue with the help of an emergency power source, in the event of a power outage.
    The ultrasonic beacon developed by Ricoh is a device that transmits identifiers and other pieces of data from speakers using ultrasonic sounds delivered at 18–20kHz, which is difficult for the human ear to hear. Use of highly directive soundwaves, ensures that the location of the information is delivered very precisely.
  2.  Transmitted soundwave information
    As broadcasting equipment needs to transmit sound at an audible frequency, we have made an audible watermark (10kHz or lower) that accompanies the 0.5 second alarm sound that characterizes the type of message or emergency signal. This audible watermark then allows us transmit identifiers associated with the variety of different messages.
    Moreover, this audible watermark is compatible with a variety of megaphones, radios, and other devices. Information transmission is also possible outdoors where there is no power source and when used with a smartphone or other device equipped with a megaphone and an audio watermark generator application.
  3. Personal devices receiving information
    We have created an application for visitors to a specific location where signals (identifiers) consisting of audible and inaudible watermarks in the broadcast are received by their personal smartphone’s microphones. These signals transmit any actions that are required to be undertaken by the visitor receiving the specific identifier in that particular situation. They can also receive text, audio, and graphics, such as a map of the facilities with evacuation routes.
    • Text and auditory emergency information in four languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean) is displayed on screen or output can also be audio.
    • Related text and auditory information can be shown on screen or output as audio in four languages (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean) at individual locations and at specific times (information is displayed on a smartphone screen in color, and the flash [torch] can be turned on and off).
Display on visitor's screen

Ricoh’s Vision

Hearing is one our five senses, and is an indispensable interface to personal devices. Ricoh has and is continuing to develop technologies that emit special sounds as well as technologies for receiving those sounds.
We expect that using these will facilitate the provision of universal services in a wide range of situations where it has previously been difficult to provide information.

Wi-Fi™ is a trademark of Wi-Fi Alliance.

Sorted by : field “IoT (Internet of Things)” | product type “Solutions”

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