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Sensing the City - With the Array of Things program, environmental inequity meets urban technology

It's called “the nursery.” A half-dozen white-domed machines lie on racks in a high-ceilinged room at Argonne National Laboratory, about half an hour west of the city. With the low, winter afternoon sun hitting them just right, it’s not a stretch to imagine them as eggs warming in an incubator. 

These little plastic nodes are packed with sensors and backed by millions in federal funding. Eventually, the microwave-sized devices will make their way out to lampposts in Chicago or Detroit or Denver or beyond to quietly measure the world around them. They’ll look for traffic patterns, and they’ll measure sound. They’ll count particles in the air and note the amount of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants present. They’ll measure vibration, magnetic fields, and light. And if all goes according to plan, they’ll send this information back to a database where scientists, city officials, hacktivists, and residents will be able to access and analyze the streams of hyperlocal data.

This is the vision of the Array of Things (AoT), a joint initiative between Argonne, a U.S. Department of Energy laboratory operated by a subsidiary of the University of Chicago, the University of Chicago, the City of Chicago, and various technology firms. The project expects to start publishing data from its preliminary nodes to the city’s open-data portal earlier this year, at which point they hope to have a hundred of them up around the city quietly quantifying the traffic, noise, and emissions that make city living unpleasant at least, and environmentally unjust at worst.

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Public Opinion Often Sets Privacy Standards for Smart City Tech

ATLANTA — As cities have begun to collect and release unprecedented amounts of data, questions about citizen privacy have become increasingly relevant. Local governments, for their part, often lack specific privacy policies and rely on checks such as community outcry, industry best practices and guidance from law professors to dictate the limits of their work. This was an overarching topic at many panels during the recent MetroLab Annual Summit.

Perception is also important, as Chicago and its collaborators learned upon launching the Array of Things project, an influential smart cities initiative made up of thousands of nodes. Array of Things, which is in the process of being spread to other cities, was born of a collaboration between the city and researchers at the University of Chicago, like Charlie Catlett, the director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data. 

Catlett said that when they were first setting up the nodes that collect data for the Array of Things project, the community was skeptical of any government effort to collect info, so technologists had to learn to become very deliberate when they explained what they were doing and why.

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How Cities Use HPC at the Edge to Get Smarter

Speaking at SC17 in Denver this week, a panel of smart city practitioners shared the strategies, techniques and technologies they use to understand their cities better and to improve the lives of their residents. With data coming in from all over the urban landscape and worked over by machine learning algorithms, Debra Lam, managing director for smart cities & inclusive innovation at Georgia Tech who works on strategies for Atlanta and the surrounding area, said “we’ve embedded research and development into city operations, we’ve formed a match making exercise between the needs of the city coupled with the most advanced research techniques.”

Panel moderator Charlie Cattlett, director, urban center for computation & data Argonne National Laboratory who works on smart city strategies for Chicago, said that the scale of data involved in complex, long-term modeling will require nothing less than the most powerful supercomputers, including the next generation of exascale systems under development within the Department of Energy. The vision for exascale, he said, is to build “a framework for different computation models to be coupled together in multiple scales to look at long-range forecasting for cities.”

Citizen devices tracking Chicago's pollution hot spots

Researchers at the Urban Center for Computation and Data, an initiative by the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, have developed equipment that is being posted on light poles around the city to provide granular details about air quality, traffic, sound volume and temperature.

After working out glitches with the electronics and redesigning protective enclosures for the devices, dubbed the Array of Things, the scientists are planning to have 500 monitors up and running by the end of next year.

Charlie Catlett, a data scientist who directs the project, said the goal is to provide researchers and the public with new kinds of data that can be used to improve quality of life. The latest version of the monitors is designed to make it easier to add new technology as the field improves and expands.

10 cities living in the future

Chicago is ahead of the curve in its effort to use sensors to track traffic conditions. Chicago's Array of Things project posts sensors above many of the city's intersections to track air quality and traffic conditions on a block-by-block level.

The project is an early example of how cities will leverage data to better serve citizens.

Commentary: Invest in smart technology for a smarter city

At Lane Tech High School over the past year, more than 150 students accessed real-time data from some 500 sensors in order to learn about problem solving, design, measurement, data analysis, the scientific process and teamwork. Thanks to the “Array of Things” — a partnership of private-sector leaders, the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory — there is great hope that this program will continue at Lane Tech and even expand throughout Chicago.

Let’s consider what would happen if that expansion were sped up. What if tomorrow Chicago’s approximately 500,000 students all had access to such a program? What if there were a million or more sensors involved in collecting data that could be used to address a wide array of civic challenges? How could children on the West Side conduct experiments with sensors from schools on the lakefront through a connected network? Where would data be stored, secured and shared so that residents anywhere in the city could participate in creating solutions? What kinds of dashboards could be created to share the findings?

The Quantified City: A Closer Look at Chicago's Array of Things

Source: Brittnay Micek, Carto

Chicago, is the latest city to crack the syntax of smart cities and hack the Internet of Things. Instead of focusing on data to quantify individual productivity and activity, the city has partnered with researchers to analyze sensor-collected data to measure the City by the Lake’s “fitness.”

Dubbed the Array of Things (AoT), a network of interactive, modular sensors, is collecting new streams of data on environment, infrastructure, and activity. This hyper-local, open data can help researchers, city officials, and software developers study and address critical city challenges, such as flood prevention, traffic safety, air quality, and availability to civic services.

Weekend Web: Chicago's 'Array of Things'

Source: NBC Chicago

NBC5's Charlie Wojciechowski talks with the City of Chicago's Chief Information Officer Brenna Berman about a bold experiment that uses sensors around the city to collect data.

Chicago’s innovative new streetlights will monitor the city’s every move

Source: Yahoo! Sports

As one of America’s largest cities, Chicago has a unique personality wholly original to itself. To help achieve a better understanding of the Windy City’s character and temperament, Charlie Catlett — the Director of Urban Center for Computation and Data at Argonne National Laboratory — decided “why not outfit the city with an abundance of sensors to track its every move?”

By taking advantage of the city’s impending investment in new streetlights this past year, Catlett’s innovative vision recently came to life this week as Chicago began installing the revolutionary sensors. Dubbed the Array of Things, Catlett’s initiative should provide an unprecedented snapshot of Chicago.

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Chicago’s new smart sensor network is a game changer for city data

Source: Patrick Sisson, Curbed

A new high-tech network that collects street-level city data will make the Midwest metropolis the City of Big Sensors

Alert Chicagoans may have already spotted the strange bundles of wires and gear on a growing number of light poles across the city. Designed to mimic the shape of weather stations, these odd additions to the streetscape look a little bit like stacks of white plastic ashtrays. But these sensors, packed with tools to collect data about environmental conditions, represent the future of urban research. Chicago’s Array of Things, an ambitious vision to collect and share city data on a micro and macro level, and potentially reshape how we formulate urban policy, is now live.

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