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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.

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.

How Chicago Got Smart About Sensors

Source: Susan Crawford, Medium Backchannel

The Array of Things will be the central nervous system of cities. Without invading your privacy.

This month, the Array of Things moved several giant steps closer to becoming a crucial general-purpose, worldwide sensor data infrastructure for researchers and policymakers. New money from the National Science Foundation is coming in, new collaborators from around the world are learning about it, and 50 devices will be installed on the streets of Chicago in early 2016, with hundreds more to be added in the years to come. Most importantly, the leaders of the initiative (the City of Chicago and the University of Chicago’s Urban Center for Computation and Data) are committed to openness and public consultation — which means the Array of Things initiative will continue to thrive.

Chicago's New High-Tech Lamp Posts Will Track Everything, Always

Source: Belinda Lanks, Bloomberg Business

Almost 50 years after Simon and Garfunkel sang “Hello lamp post, whatcha knowin,” the streetlights of Chicago will answer them. The city will start collecting data through Web-connected sensors installed on lamp poles this summer. In addition to foot traffic, the project will measure air quality, sound volume, heat, light intensity, and precipitation as a means to better understand the urban environment and ultimately make Chicago a safer, more pleasant place to live.

Dubbed the Array of Things, the initative will start with eight sets of sensors placed at various intersections along Michigan Avenue. Brenna Berman, the city’s commissioner of information and technology, says she hopes to add 300 in the next few years as part of a continued effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to push Chicago as a tech innovation hub. The boxes of electronics will be wrapped in perforated plastic shields that students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago designed to look more like sculpture than Big Brother black boxes.

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