Israel is a land of paradoxes, creativity and solutions. Case in point: The Israeli company Silentium, recently featured in USA Today. I was one of the first to write about Silentium back in 2006 when it rebooted in its current form. I thought I had found a company that will change my world.
It was exciting to hear about a company that was building a solution to cancel noise. Silentium has created a silicon-based chip that can understand complicated and intrusive noise patterns, like the hum in your car, the range fan over the stove, or the noise from air conditioners –– and cancels these patterns so they sound less intrusive.
Sound, you see, is a matter of waves. Create the opposite waveforms of what you hear, and the new wave can theoretically cancel the first.
Working from my Tel Aviv apartment, as a writer and journalist, I had been creating that solution “chip” in my mind for months. Tel Aviv, while I loved its energy, was getting on my nerves because I couldn’t concentrate for the noise.
Silence is not golden in Tel Aviv. Silence is seen as a kind of death, and Tel Avivians revel in the freedom to be able to make noise when and wherever they want. It’s not uncommon to talk to a friend on the phone in Tel Aviv from his living room, and hear the public buses screaming by. Or horns blasting from drivers trying to get through traffic. Then there are car stereos, and a generally loud and communicative population of Israelis who speak with their heart and cell phones –– everywhere.
Then I found Yossi Barath, CEO of Silentium. Maybe my prayers were answered?
While I was interviewing Yossi, I could hear drills and jackhammers next door. A 30-floor condo was going up at the base of my house. My relatively quiet street that I took years to find had become a construction zone connected to the general cacophony of Tel Aviv. Anywhere I went, the noise would chase me.
Noise was hard for me to deal with. I’d come from working in a village in Switzerland that was a noise vacuum –– it sucked up every kind of noise except for the happy chirping sound of the birds. A natural Silentium.
Could Silentium, with its S Chip invention, make Tel Aviv my ultimate city? The city that never sleeps, but quiet?
No, Silentium wouldn’t be able to take the noise out of my city. At least not in the coming years, Yossi told me. The noise of Tel Aviv, like the people living in it, is too random, unpredictable.
What it can do is take out the background noise that pollutes our environment, making us lose concentration and even hearing. Noise can even make us sick, Yossi tells me.
ISRAEL21c covered Silentium again earlier this year as the company progresses in the market, and I am guessing that this latest story was the inspiration for the USA Today piece.
Today the company has contracts in place for its noise-cancelling technology and is looking for applications in public transport and hospitals. The idea is to use its chip to create a noiseless bubble around people in predictably noisy environments.
The Silentium chip might not really ever work for the “bubble” of Tel Aviv, and shush my neighbor as he blasts Georgian music in the middle of the night. But it does hold promise for cancelling the predictable noise of my Tel Avivian husband when he snores. That could change my world.