Audible Alarm Sounds – Product Launch!

Audible alarm sound wave image

Audible Alarms Human Factors Engineering

We are excited to announce that our 3 sets of audible alarms , developed to be compliant with Human Factors Best Practice and Standards are now available to purchase in our online shop!

These “sound packs” are available in WAV format and can be easily integrated into any software-based product that needs audible alarms.

We discussed these audible alarms in our earlier blog post “Setting the right tone”. We’ve worked with sound designer Gareth Worthy to apply a creative alarm design approach. This developed 3 innovative alarm tone ‘families’, Pure Tone, Musical and Futuristic.

These 3 families provide alarm sounds of 4 different levels of urgency, from ‘Critical’ down to ‘Low’ priority.  Furthermore, they have been developed so as to be compliant with the relevant Human Factors standards:  

  • BS EN ISO 7731:2005 Ergonomics: Danger signals for public and work areas (auditory danger signals); and
  • ISO 11429:1996 Ergonomics: System of auditory and visual danger and information signals

Our alarm tones are suitable for use in a wide variety of operational and safety critical environments. This includes Healthcare, Railway Control Rooms, Air Traffic Control Centres, Power Plant Control rooms, aircraft cockpits and train cabs.  

Human Factors Audible Alarm Sounds – Design Approach

We interviewed Gareth about the process he applied to develop the audible alarm sets, and incorporating Human Factors Engineering guidance:

Could you describe your process for developing the alarm tones?

The alarm tones I created are grouped into three categories: Pure Tone, Musical and finally Futuristic. These categories really define the approach. 

The pure tone alarms are just a case of selecting the appropriate waveform, generating one at the correct frequency and producing the alarm. The frequencies we chose were all based on significant research that had already been produced or documented. 

The musical alarms went through a series of different phases. I experimented with different instrument types and layering different combinations together to create a more “complete” sound/tone. Once these were decided it was very much a case of just experimenting with tempo and melody. Both of these areas greatly affected the overall urgency or perceived status of the final alarms. 

The futuristic category was really an opportunity to have complete carte blanche and to challenge everything we consider an audible alarm to be. Without going into a lot of detail I employed some really complicated wavetable synthesis and tried to push the brief as far as possible.

What were some of your considerations from your perspective as a sound designer when developing the audible alarm sounds?

There are various considerations, but I’ll just highlight two. Firstly, I’m always thoughtful of the final delivery method i.e., “will the alarm I’m creating be audible on the user’s speaker system, how will this sound in a control room/user environment, how will this be effective?” The alarms are designed to sound good on less-than-brilliant speakers!

Secondly, I’m always considerate of “how will this alarm be perceived”? We all have preconceived ideas on what audible alarms are and how they should sound. This is clearly an important aspect as the alarms have to trigger a human reaction, I think we can all agree if we used the sounds of a chicken squawking for a fire alarm it wouldn’t create the same amount of urgency as a high pitched and rapid bell. Creating something different and innovative, but that still abides by this learned framework does have challenges. But I think we overcame them. 

Were there any particularly challenging aspects for you?

Creating the futuristic alarm family was the most challenging but also the most fun. I touched on it slightly within the last question, but creating an alarm sound that is different but also recognisable as an alarm (and an instruction to take an action) is very challenging. This product is very innovative and there was the opportunity to really push the boundaries and be as creative as possible. I had great encouragement from everyone at Liv Systems to really “go for it” and I think it turned out great and unlike anything currently available. 

Get in Touch

Please contact us if you would like more information about our audible alarm sounds.

Human Factors Engineer: What It Is and How To Become One

As we return after the Easter break, many of us start to reflect on our current career paths and consider making a change. One field that has gained popularity in recent years is Human Factors Engineering. Whether you’re a new graduate or someone looking to pivot to a new career, you may be curious about what it takes to become a Human Factors Engineer. In this article, we’ll break down what a Human Factors Engineer does, the necessary skills for the job, the path to certification, where you can work as a Human Factors Engineer, and the future of the industry. So, let’s dive in and discover whether a career in Human Factors Engineering is right for you!

What Is A Human Factors Engineer?

A Human Factors Engineer is someone who studies the interactions between people, technology, and the environment. The goal is to design products, systems, and environments that optimise safety, efficiency, and user satisfaction. Human Factors Engineers consider a wide range of factors, including user experience (UX), cognitive psychology, physical capabilities, environmental conditions, and safety. They use research methods, such as surveys, experiments, and simulations, to analyse data and identify potential problems. Based on their findings, they make recommendations for design changes or improvements to ensure that the product or system is safe, efficient, and easy to use.

What Do Human Factors Engineers Do?

Human Factors Engineers work on a variety of projects, from designing airplane cockpits to developing medical devices to creating video game interfaces. They may be involved in any stage of the design process, from initial concept development to testing and evaluation. They may conduct user research, create user profiles, design prototypes, and test products or systems to ensure they meet user needs and are easy to use.

They may also work closely with other professionals, such as designers, engineers, and project managers, to ensure that products meet their overall system performance goals.

What Skills Do I Need To Become A HF Engineer?

To become a Human Factors Engineer requires a diverse skill set that includes technical, analytical, and interpersonal abilities.

Technical skills are essential, including knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, statistics, and research methods.

Problem-solving skills are also crucial for Human Factors Engineers. You will need to identify potential problems and come up with creative solutions to improve the usability and safety of products, systems, and environments. This often involves observing users’ behaviours, analysing data, and designing studies to test potential solutions. Strong critical thinking skills and attention to detail are necessary to ensure that all factors are considered and that the final solution meets the needs of users while also meeting regulatory or stakeholders requirements.

You will also need strong analytical skills to evaluate data and identify trends, as well as communication skills to explain your findings and recommendations to others.

Additionally, you’ll need to be comfortable working collaboratively with others, as teamwork is often essential to success in this field.

How Do I Become A Human Factors Engineer?

While having a degree in a related field can be helpful in becoming a Human Factors Engineer, it is not always necessary. Pursuing certification through professional organisations such as the HFES or the UK Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors technician grade membership can also provide the necessary training and knowledge to succeed in the field. In fact, some employers may even prioritise certification over traditional education.

To become certified as an Ergonomist or Human Factors Professional, you will need a minimum of two years of relevant experience and to have your qualifications reviewed by a board of peers.

This certification provides recognition of your expertise in the field and can improve your job prospects and earning potential. Certification can also be a valuable way to demonstrate your commitment to the profession and your dedication to staying up-to-date with the latest developments and trends.

One practical step that can be taken to gain experience in this field is through volunteering. This could involve volunteering at a conference, a non-profit organisation, or a charity. For example, some STEM charities in the UK offer opportunities for people to work with young people who are interested in STEM, and this can provide an opportunity for new graduates to develop their skills.

Additionally, the UK Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF) message boards can be a good place to reach out and see if you can find a mentor. Mentors can also sometimes be found in your own organisation, so it can be beneficial to connect with experienced Human Factors Engineers in your workplace.

Another practical step to take is to seek out internships or apprenticeships in the field. Many companies offer internships or apprenticeships in Human Factors Engineering, which can provide valuable hands-on experience and help you develop a network of professional contacts.

How Do I Become a Human Factors Engineer? Image of a usability study conducted by a Human Factors Engineer.

Additionally, online courses can be a great way to learn more about Human Factors Engineering and develop new skills. Liv Systems, for example, offers practice-based online courses in HFE that are self-paced and supervised by experienced HF practitioners.

Where Do HF Engineers Work?

Human Factors Engineers have a wide range of career options and can work in various industries. Some of the most common industries for Human Factors Engineers include aviation, healthcare, transportation, and consumer products. However, they can also work in fields such as defence, energy, and finance.

Human Factors Engineers can work for a variety of organisations, including government agencies, academia, research firms, or consultancies. Some Human Factors Engineers also work for large corporations or startups, particularly those that focus on user-centered design.

Working as a Human Factors Engineer often involves working in interdisciplinary teams, collaborating with professionals in other fields. For example, they may work closely with designers, engineers, project managers, and marketing professionals to develop products that are both user-friendly and marketable. Collaboration is essential to ensure that a product is designed with the end-user in mind, as well as meeting business goals.

In addition to working in specific industries, Human Factors Engineers may also focus on specific types of products or systems. For example, they may specialise in medical devices or software interfaces. Specialisation in a specific area of Human Factors Engineering can lead to a more focused career and allow individuals to develop a deep understanding of a particular domain.

What’s The Future Of Human Factors Engineering?

The future of Human Factors Engineering is bright, as more companies recognize the importance of creating user-friendly products and systems. With advancing technology, Human Factors Engineers will have an increasingly critical role in designing safe and efficient products that cater to a diverse range of users.

Innovations in virtual and augmented reality offer new opportunities for Human Factors Engineers to develop groundbreaking solutions for various industries. While there may be challenges that come with these advancements, such as the shift towards automated systems, this presents an opportunity for Human Factors Engineers to focus on designing the interactions between the user and the system.

This shift reinforces the critical role of the human factor in the overall system, highlighting the need for Human Factors Engineers.

In addition to technological advances, other megatrends such as aging populations and the need for increased security will also put an emphasis on the importance of Human Factors Engineering. As our world becomes more complex, the need for products and systems that are easy to use and understand becomes increasingly important. Human Factors Engineers will be critical in ensuring that these products and systems are designed with the end user in mind, taking into account their abilities, needs, and preferences.

With the growing importance of creating user-friendly and accessible products and systems, the field of Human Factors Engineering will continue to be in high demand and play a crucial role in shaping our future.

Setting the Right Tone: A Human Factors Design Approach for Audible Alarms

A train driver in a modern train cab, listening to an audible alarm from the far side of the control desk.

The Problem

From experience on a number of projects in safety critical industries, including rail and nuclear power, it has become apparent to Liv Systems that audible alarms in operational environments such as control rooms are often a contentious Human Factors issue. It is commonplace for there to be disagreement amongst the operators regarding which alarm tones would be appropriate for various alarm priority levels. Also, the range of alarm tones which are available for operators to select from often seem to be rather unsatisfactory, with none of the available tones being quite what the operators are looking for. Whilst as Human Factors consultants we can provide guidance on the selection of appropriate alarm tones, we find we are often constrained by the need to choose from a limited selection of less than ideal tones.

Current approaches to developing alarm tones tend to focus primarily on ensuring that the following standards are met:

  • BS EN ISO 7731:2005 Ergonomics: Danger signals for public and work areas (auditory danger signals)
  • ISO 11429:1996 Ergonomics: System of auditory and visual danger and information signals

Whilst it is important to design alarm tones that comply with these standards, focusing purely on standards compliance, in a kind of box ticking approach, does not ensure the development of alarm tones which represent a well designed acoustic experience for the end user. Put in simple terms, the resulting alarm tones can sound pretty ghastly!

The Creative Human Factors Engineering Solution

What is needed therefore is to apply a creative Human Factors design approach to the development of alarm tones, so that not only are the standards met, but also alarms tones are created in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The development of good alarm tones should be approached not purely as a science but also as an art, incorporating creativity into the design process.

Therefore, Liv Systems have been working with the sound designer Gareth Worthy (see our previous blog post interview with Gareth) to develop a number of audible alarm tone ‘families’. Each family of alarm tones has alarms of various priority levels from ‘critical’ down to ‘low priority’ and follows a consistent sound type/category.

Audible Alarm Tone Families

We have developed 3 alarm tone families:

Pure Tones

These are simple square waves or saw waves without any of the more complex acoustic features that may be associated with musical instruments such as timbre.


Sounds based on musical instruments are far more acoustically complex than ‘pure tones’ since for any given note on a musical instrument, in addition to the fundamental frequency of the note itself, there are numerous other frequencies which are emitted which give the instrument its characteristic sound or ‘timbre’.  Using musical instruments as the basis for alarm tones has the advantage that due to their acoustic complexity, they are more likely to stand out from other sounds in the environment. Also, as there may be multiple systems in a control room environment, each with their own alarm tones, the use of musical instrument based alarm tones increases the chance that the alarms will be distinct from other alarms in the environment.


We had not originally planned to develop a set of ‘futuristic’ tones, but through serendipity, as a result of the creative design process, we found that some of the alarms we were developing had more of a ‘sci fi’ feeling, and furthermore these alarm tones seemed effective and appealing. As with the musical tones, these tones have more acoustic complexity than the pure tones. They are based on an electronic/synthesiser sound.

Next Steps

We are close to completing the design of our 3 families of alarm tones. We believe that by working with a sound designer, we have developed sets of alarm tones which will not only prove to be highly effective and have clear and consistent stratification according to alarm priority levels but will also be appealing to the end users thereby providing a significantly enhanced user experience.

Our alarm tones will be available in the near future for purchase as downloadable WAV files, based on a one-time fee (non-royalty) under a standard licence. We will provide further updates once they are available for purchase.