Making some noise for innovators

Cutting-edge technology at Sonitus Systems is helping to revolutionise the noise monitoring sector, writes Trish Dromey.

Dublin company Sonitus Systems has set out to disrupt the international noise monitoring industry with automated technology which allows users to monitor data online from anywhere in the world.

“In the past, people had to go on-site to take noise data with hand-held equipment. We have built an automated noise monitoring system which is backed by a cloud-based analytics platform. This manages the entire process from measurement to remote communications and analysis, and also sends alerts when permitted noise levels are exceeded,’” says Paul McDonald co-founder and CEO of the company.

The eight-year-old company has seen significant growth in the last two years. In recent months it signed contracts with Intel in Ireland and with some large UK construction companies, including Ardmore and Barratt Homes. “We have expanded our distribution network, had our first sale to the US and signed up one of the biggest mining companies in Asia,” Mr McDonald says.

Employing a staff of five, the company expects to treble sales this year and to achieve a turnover of over €1m by 2017.

A spin-out company from Trinity College Dublin, Sonitus was set up to commercialise a noise monitoring instrument developed by a research team. In a previous project, Mr McDonald had been tasked with collecting traffic noise data from five different sites using a hand-held monitor. This proved time consuming and expensive and the team formed to develop a better alternative.

In 2007, Sonitus was set up at Trinity Enterprise Campus by three of the research team members; Mr McDonald, Dermot Geraghty and Ivor Humphreys, as well as advisers, Bartley and Ciaran McElroy from Trinity’s engineering department.

“We had an advance order from Dublin City Council worth €30,000 and we used this to fund the company,” says Mr McDonald.

Until 2012 the business was a part-time venture for the three main founders who were finishing PhDs and research projects. Commercialising the hardware and developing the software to allow remote monitoring, they began to build a customer base in Ireland, selling mainly to local authorities.

Four years ago the company was approached by RBA Acoustics, a UK consultancy company looking for new technology to improve its offering. Working with RBA, Sonitus tweaked its product for the UK market. Seeing further opportunities across the channel, the three main founders began working full-time with Sonitus in 2013 and, by 2014, had doubled sales. Two years ago, the company won a five-year contract with the Railway Procurement Agency to monitor Luas construction noise. It has now built an automated noise monitoring network for Dublin City Council – providing information for city noise levels at www.dublincitynoise.ie.

“New customers signed in the last 12 months include Irish Rail, Dublin Bus, Glanbia, UCD and Jazz Pharmaceuticals, ” says Mr McDonald adding that plans for international growth have involved securing distribution deals in the UK, India, Cyprus and Israel.

The UK, where noise monitoring is well regulated, is the company’s largest market accounting for 40% of sales. Other opportunities being pursued include Singapore, where noise monitoring is mandatory and India where the government is spending heavily to combat noise pollution.

Targeted sectors include construction, manufacturing, entertainment, mining and environmental monitoring. Mr McDonald says the strategy for Sonitus is to target highly regulated markets such as Canada, Australia and Scandinavia.

Sonitus is one of 31 Local Enterprise Office county finalists selected to take part in this year’s National Enterprise Awards.


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