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.
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.