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The air up there: Air quality sensors inhale slews of data

From wildfire smoke to traffic pollutants, air quality sensors track data to help city leaders make informed interventions, and their use across cities is growing.

Cities including Chicago, Seattle and Portland, OR have launched air quality sensor pilot programs. Chicago’s project began this year as part of its Array of Things (AoT) connected urban sensor program. The city currently has 100 devices installed and an additional 100 will be operational by year’s end, on the way to the ultimate goal of 500.

The existing units measure “seven different gases including ozone, carbon dioxide and nitrogen by using experimental electrochemical gas sensors. They also have particulate matter sensors,” Charlie Catlett, senior computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, told Smart Cities Dive.

Wrigley Field serves as classroom for Lane Tech students

Lane Tech College Prep High School students, in collaboration with the University of Chicago, will be installing sensor boxes at Wrigley Field to measure sound levels, customer satisfaction and air quality, among other things. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

When Cubs fans leave Wrigley Field starting Tuesday night, they may encounter a simple console with two circular buttons: one a red, angry face, the other a green, smiley face. The sensor will have a question attached asking fans about their experience at the ballpark and whether they would recommend a Wrigley visit to their family and friends.

But it won’t be Cubs executives on the other end monitoring the responses. Rather, each push of a button will be recorded and registered on the computers of Lane Tech High School students.

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

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.

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.

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.


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.


The Array of Things Is Coming to Chicago (and the World)

SOURCE: Whet Moser, Chicago Magazine

Last week, two small white fixtures, each a bit bigger than a human head and looking like an upside-down stack of Tupperware bowls, were mounted on lightpoles at Damen and Cermak and Damen and Archer. Inside the fixtures are environmental sensors, designed to measure air quality, weather conditions, light, vibration, and magnetic fields, plus a microphone for detecting decibel levels and a camera capturing still frames. (A Bluetooth modem that caused some concern a while back has been scrapped.) Small Linux-based computers process the data and pass it on to Argonne National Laboratory.

Chicago deploys computers with eyes, ears and noses

Chicago this week began deploying sensors on light poles to monitor, photograph and listen to the city. The effort is costing as much as $7 million, and may be the largest urban data collection of its kind once all 500 nodes are in place.

The beehive-shaped nodes have an array of sensors with enough onboard computing capability to conduct data processing on the device and minimize the amount of bandwidth needed to transmit data.