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Charlie Catlett

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.

Podcast: Smart Sensors Capture Pulse of Chicago

Imagine a health monitor for the city, but instead of measuring heart rate or daily steps, this device measures everything from air quality to vehicle traffic.

The idea may sound like science fiction, but it’s becoming a reality for cities like Chicago through the Array of Things project, a collaborative effort between scientists, universities, local government and community members to collect real-time data on the city.

The project, based out of Argonne National Laboratory, is led by Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data at UChicago and Argonne. Catlett is aiming to install 500 sensor nodes around Chicago and eventually setup a network around the world “to improve living and working in the city.”

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.

A Guide to Chicago's Array of Things Initiative

If you’re a frequent reader of all things civic tech, then you may have already come across the Array of Things (AoT).  Launched in 2016, the project, which consists of a network of sensor boxes mounted on light posts, has now begun collecting a host of real-time data on Chicago’s environmental surroundings and urban activity.   After installing a small number of sensors downtown and elsewhere in 2016, Chicago is now adding additional sensors across the city and the city’s data portal currently lists locations for all of AoT’s active and yet-to-be installed sensors.  Next year, data collected from AoT will be accessible online, providing valuable information for researchers, urban planners, and the general public. 

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.

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?

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 gets serious about tracking air quality and traffic data

Source: Matt McFarland, CNN Money

There may be a solution to asthma perched high above a handful of Chicago intersections.

Last week, the city began installing sophisticated computers on traffic poles to track air quality, weather and road data at a block-by-block level.

The project's leaders liken the project to giving an entire city its own Fitbit (FIT), which should help it better track and address everything from public health risks to congestion on roads.

Chicago begins building 'fitness tracker' to check its vitals

SOURCE: Aadmer Mahani, USA Today

CHICAGO — The Windy City has begun installing what sounds and looks a whole lot like a Fitbit that can measure the vitals of a bustling metropolis.

Chicago, which partnered on the project with researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and several corporations, last week installed the first two of 500 modular sensor boxes. The devices will eventually allow the city and public to instantly get block-by-block data on air quality, noise levels, as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The project — dubbed the Array of Things and described by Chicago officials as a "fitness tracker for the city" — is a first-of-its-kind effort in the nation. Plans are in the works to replicate the project in the coming years in more than a dozen other cities, including Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Seattle. The Chicago project was funded with the help of a $3.1 million National Science Foundation grant.