Across Chicago, more than 100 Array of Things nodes currently collect data on temperature, humidity, air pressure, magnetic field, vibration, light and air quality, publishing the results openly for scientists, city officials and residents to use. With Lane Tech, AoT researchers have developed a pilot educational program to bring the project into schools as well, using off-the-shelf devices to help students create their own smaller version of the sensor network.
While the first two years of the workshop, called “Lane of Things,” deployed student-built sensors in the hallways of Lane Tech, this year’s partnership with the Chicago Cubs presented a much higher-profile experimental setting. Students quizzed team representatives on their most pressing questions, designed custom devices for measuring sound, weather and customer satisfaction, and installed the sensors around the ballpark in late May.
A new Innovation Generation grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation will help Array of Things expand its educational curriculum to additional Chicago Public Schools classrooms in 2018. Building upon two successful years of workshops with over 300 students at Lane Tech High School, the program will train teachers and package materials for a hands-on experience with the Internet of Things, coding, data science, and other key computer science and technology concepts.
For the second year running, Array of Things worked with Chicago’s Lane Tech High School on a workshop curriculum called “Lane of Things.” Over eight weeks, students in Lane Tech’s Innovation and Creation Lab and Physical Computing Lab worked with scientists and designers from the Array of Things project on designing and building their own sensor boxes. Teams then deployed those boxes around the school, collecting data on foot traffic, air quality, noise, student behavior, and more.
This week in Chicago, the Array of Things team begins the first phase of the groundbreaking urban sensing project, installing the first of an eventual 500 nodes on city streets. By measuring data on air quality, climate, traffic and other urban features, these pilot nodes kick off an innovative partnership between the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and the City of Chicago to better understand, serve, and improve cities.
In the first phase of the project, 50 nodes will be installed in August and September on traffic light poles in The Loop, Pilsen, Logan Square, and along Lake Michigan. These nodes will contain sensors for measuring air and surface temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and ambient sound intensity. Two cameras will collect data on vehicle and foot traffic, standing water, sky color, and cloud cover.
As the Array of Things takes its final steps toward its public launch later this summer, it has locked in two new relationships that will support its research and education goals. Through an Innovation Generation grant from Motorola Solutions, the Array of Things (AoT) team will expand the high school curriculum built around the urban sensing project last year at Lane Tech High School, enabling more students to learn about technology, programming, and other important skills through the platform. Meanwhile, a new agreement with AT&T establishes the company as the wireless provider for the AoT nodes, transmitting terabytes of data to storage.
The first University of Chicago Convening on Urban Data Science, organized by the CI’s Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) and the UChicago Urban and sponsored by the Harris School for Public Policy, reflected this early stage of growth. There was ample enthusiasm about early projects using analytics, sensing, mapping, and both public and private data sources. There was excitement about the future and new collaborations formed across countries, disciplines, and public/private/academic spheres. But there were also passionate discussions about the ethical and moral implications of urban data science, an important reflection for a fast-growing field with the goal of improving policy and people’s lives.
Inside the small wooden box are several tiny sensors, a cellular modem, a battery, and a micro-processor running custom programming code. But the key innovation for Erica Pereira’s “Lane of Things” device might be the laser-printed cut-out design of the outer enclosure: two circles and a square forming a friendly emoji-like face.
Their box was just one of over forty sensor nodes built by Lane Tech students as part of the first Lane of Things workshop, funded by Motorola Solutions and organized by the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) as part of the broader Array of Things (AoT) project. The workshop was the first stage of the AoT’s educational component, using the technology and principles of the urban sensing platform to help students learn about programming, data science, digital fabrication, and additional CS concepts.
UrbanCCD Director and Computation Institute Senior Fellow Charlie Catlett was named one of 25 “Doers, Dreamers & Drivers” of 2016 by Government Technology. The honor celebrates his work creating partnerships between Argonne National Laboratory, University of Chicago, and the City of Chicago on innovative projects such as Array of Things, Plenario, and OpenGrid.
For several years, “smart cities” has been a popular buzzword for applications of data, computation, and technology in an urban setting. So far, the movement has achieved some early successes, such as open data portals and increasing use of predictive analytics from city governments across the country. But these efforts are just the first small step towards the full potential of new technologies to improve cities and the lives of their residents.
In February, a working group assembled by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released their report on this promising area of research and policy. In it, the assembled academic researchers, city officials, and business professionals highlight the brightest examples of urban technology, and make several recommendations for how the federal government can further nurture its growth. Among the 20 authors of the report was the CI’s own Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD), and UrbanCCD projects appear as model initiatives.