Motorola Solutions yesterday announced that its venture-capital unit has made a strategic investment in VocalZoom, an Israel-based company that has developed a microphone with an integrated optical sensor that is designed to improve audio quality in cellular or radio products by 40 decibels (dB) in noisy environments.

Reese Schroeder, managing director of Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, said the importance of VocalZoom’s technology was apparent immediately to the Motorola Solutions technical staff.

“So many of our customers—first responders, for example, and many of our commercial customers—work in these very noisy environments,” Schroeder said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We believe this is really a potential game changer for those folks who work in those noisy environments, because this technology does an incredible job of filtering out a lot of the background noise, so you can understand what someone is saying.”

Although Motorola Solutions has implemented noise-cancellations technologies in the past, VocalZoom’s use of an optical sensor to create a “virtual sound cube” is unique, Schroeder said.

“The optical sensor is picking up the vibrations from the face to identify what is the right sound to be picking up,” he said. “That, in combination with the audio microphone, is what makes this work in a very unique and powerful way.

“The idea is that the combination of this acoustic microphone and this optical sensor creates a sound cube that VocalZoom says helps to create 40 decibels of noise reduction in that cubed area, and that’s what really makes it powerful in these noisy environments.”

Schroeder declined to estimate when the VocalZoom module might be integrated in products, but he said that the Motorola Solutions’ technical staff is “excited’ about the technology.

“We’re certainly looking at this technology as being something we can incorporate in our products going forward,” Schroeder said. “We have already started the collaboration process, and I think it will [be in Motorola Solutions products] soon.

“I can’t speak for the product groups, but they’re definitely engaged, and we’re very excited about that.”

This sentiment was echoed by Motorola Solutions CTO Paul Steinberg.

“VocalZoom has the potential to be the difference of whether a firefighter can communicate at a dangerous fire scene or if a transportation or utility worker can give or receive information in a noisy work environment,” Steinberg said in a prepared statement. “For police officers, for example, turning their heads to communicate can be the difference between life and death for them or the people they are protecting, or the difference between whether a criminal is apprehended or escapes.”