The million-dollar question that torments road users in India is why some drivers revel in honking.

The numbers speak for themselves. India is home to about 30 crore vehicles, according to the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. If each of these vehicles were to honk 10 times a day, that would tote up to 300 crore shrill auditory assaults every single day.

Government norms prescribe a noise cap of 55 decibels during daytime and 45 decibels during nights. Any sound beyond 85 decibels is considered harmful, potentially leading to permanent hearing damage, stress, irritation, hypertension, and disturbed sleep.

In the absence of efficient measuring tools, violators go unpunished even when they honk near no-horn zones such as hospitals and schools.

Why honk... at all? This question gnawed at Satyen Engineer, a techie from Ahmedabad, and pushed him to design a product that can measure honking intensity in real time, as well as geotag the source of noise. The product, Yhonk, is meant to keep tabs on honking and assist authorities in clamping down on it. The device is remotely connected to an app, which comes with a dashboard.

Currently involved in pilot testing the device, Engineer, who is the founder-CEO of Laboratory for Environment Technology, shares an interesting insight from Telangana, where the device was deployed on five state transport buses. The palm-sized box is connected to the vehicle and sends live updates to the utility’s headquarters via the app. The app’s dashboard helps track honking instances in real-time.

Data from two buses plying the same route showed that while one honked 24,000 times over a span of 30 days, the other honked a whopping two lakh times.

“Since we have the data, we can modify the driving behaviour. We can sensitise, incentivise and or even punish [to promote responsible driving behaviour],” he explains.

Besides noise pollution, honking leads to fuel wastage too, he adds.

“Each honk requires 0.02 ml of fuel. This may be minuscule. But when you honk two lakh times in a month, it costs you much more.”

Other pilots involved Uber cabs in Ahmedabad, in association with the city police, and ongoing tests in Baroda and Delhi.

Crowdsourcing aid

Engineer invested ₹40 lakh, including ₹10 lakh in grants, to develop the product with the help of nine associates.

“None of them have taken any fee for chipping in with their expertise. While one is an expert in hardware, another is good at software development and yet another in data analytics,” he says.

The product managed to grab the attention of CXOs, fellow start-ups, and policymakers at the recent annual conference of the Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association (HYSEA). It even won a jury special mention award for novelty and utility.

It will be commercially released on completion of the pilot tests.

“We are not looking at direct sale to individual consumers. We are looking at working with transport utilities and other such communities. The device could cost ₹5,000-6,000 initially. If volumes grow, the price can drop to ₹40,” Engineer says.