Inferno is a "sonic barrier," a long metallic speakerbar that generates a sound made of four frequencies between 2 and 5 kilohertz. The sound itself is 125dB, which is the typical sound made by an alarm, but according to Danger Room's Sharon Weinberger, it's "the most unbearable, gut-wrenching noise I've ever heard in my life." It was a very quick exposure but Sharon says that it was a lot worse than the Pentagon pain ray. We talked with Dr. Maurice Goldman, managing director for the company in the US, about the uses and cost of these devices.
"Being a guinea pig for a sonic ray was truly a whole lot worse than being a guinea pig for the pain ray. I would happily volunteer again to be hit by the Pentagon's pain ray. It was fun, like being Bugs Bunny dancing around when Elmer Fudd tries to shoot him. I never, ever again want to be hit by the Inferno" says Sharon, but while the sensation was unbearable, she actually didn't experiment the extreme reactions that this sound will cause if you are exposed to it for a longer time: vertigo, nausea, and pain in the chest.
The device is designed to work with security systems, making people leave a protected area immediately. Their site shows many different models, which can be installed inside or outside shops and cargo vans. According to Dr. Goldman, they don't do home applications because of the potential headaches that this may bring from law enforcement agencies and customers. Apparently, "only homes that have special requirements, like a strong room" can be eligible to install one of these alarms. Too bad, because he points out that the cost of a typical system is only US$1,800.
If you are wondering if this is really a good deterrent against thieves, have no doubts about it. Apparently, Inferno is so effective that Swedish manufacturer Indusec just landed a contract with the Russian government to install the sound bars in nuclear weapon depots using the Inferno Mini (above) which is the same you can install in your own shop. Meanwhile, big companies like UK-based chemist super-chain Boots, are also installing the devices all through all their shops.
The good thing about Inferno is that, although it will stop anyone from entering an area, they won't injure them (or you.) According to a study on the Inferno by the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, only if you experiment repeated exposures to this kind of noise or if the sound pressure is more than 130dB, your ears could be damaged. Inferno, the paper concludes, doesn't have any risk of hearing loss since it's just 125dB.