WINNER 2019 | Category: 3.3 Universal Design
BETTER SOUND 2019 | Category: 3.1 Soundscapes and Ambient Sound
In many public environments customers and staff have to share private information with the risk of being overheard by others. For one of Sweden’s largest banks, Swedbank, Lexter has developed a solution with local sound masking and soundscaping zones that reduces the intelligibility of speech, increases privacy and adds a pleasant atmosphere.
In many public environments customers and staff are expected to discuss and share private information in an open setting, involving a great risk that the information will be overheard by others. This may result in people not feeling comfortable or safe to share private matters, in these types of environments and there is also a risk that the information reaches the wrong ears.
Swedbank is one of Sweden´s largest banks and it is of great importance to them that their customers feel safe when sharing private financial information at their bank offices.
Lexter was invited to create a sound design solution that could reduce the risk of over hearing, yet did not imply major rebuilding or too much interference with the visual expressions. After a thourough research of technical options and audio content solutions Lexter developed a sound design concept with local sound masking and soundscaping zones in the most vulnerable waiting areas at the bank.
The sound masking solution for Swedbank is created by adding specially produced sounds that reduces the intelligibility of human speech and makes vowels and consonants less discernible, thus making the context of a conversation harder to follow.
The soundscape is a carefully crafted sound production consisting of a relaxing and enjoyable mix of instrumental, ambient music and soothing nature recordings. The audio content is updated on a regular basis to keep it fresh for returning customers and is always produced in accordance with the Swedbank brand.
The sound masking and soundscaping is isolated into local zones by using directional speakers, so called Sound Showers. The Sound Shower emits sounds in a narrow tunnel, rather than in all directions. The customer who is underneath a sound shower listens to a pleasant and, at the same time, sound masking soundscape. By using the directional speaker technique staff and customers who are outside the zone will not be disturbed, since the sound is not spreading.
By adding a pleasant and rich soundscape the customer who is in the zone is more likely to shift focus from listening to someone else´s private conversation.
The directional speakers can be built into the ceiling framework which results in minor effects on the visual expression.
Our testing shows that the sound masking solution for Swedbank significantly decreases the STI value (Speech Transmission Index, scaled 0 – 1), from 0.9 (no masking) to 0.5 in our testing environment.
As comparison, using pink noise instead of our soundscape (emitted at a subjectively tolerable level) only decreases the STI from 0.9 to 0.7.
The effective sound masking zones makes sharing private information safer and at the same time the bank environment is enriched with a brand building soundscape that makes customers comfortable and relaxed and makes waiting for your turn a nice experience.
Until this day the sound design concept is implemented in more than 50 Swedbank offices around Sweden.