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.
Source: Kathy Bergen, Chicago Tribune
Come late June, city electricians are expected to start strapping beehive-shaped sensor boxes to municipal light poles — environmental Fitbits for neighborhoods, essentially.
How's the air quality? Where does rainwater pool? Where do air temperatures spike?
The 14-inch-high cylinders filled with sensors and cameras — developed by computer scientists and designers at Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago — should shed light on stubborn urban problems — everything from asthma clusters and flood-prone intersections to so-called "heat islands," densely developed corners of the city that trap heat. Ultimately, the data should lead to affordable, energy-efficient solutions to those problems and others.
The project, dubbed the Array of Things, is the most aggressive element of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push to transform Chicago into "the most data-driven government in the world," as his top tech lieutenant recently put it. But the emerging quiver of public-private experiments aimed at honing a high-tech image for the city is fraught with risk.
Source: Justin H.S. Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory
As urban populations increase, so too does the complexity involved in maintaining basic services like clean water and emergency services. But one of the biggest barriers to making cities “smarter”—for example, comprehensively monitoring sources of waterway pollutants in real time—is quick and easy access to data.
Future scenarios like these depend on technology not yet widely available. Future “smart” cities would have to feature hundreds, maybe thousands, of strategically placed sensors. These devices would record everything from air pressure and temperature to microbial content, and the data would be relayed instantly to the laptops of people who can make decisions based on what they are seeing.