Chicago’s ‘Fitness Tracker’ Keeps A Pulse On The Vitals Of The City
The metropolis is installing connected monitors on street corners that collect data such as traffic, air quality, sound pollution and pedestrian density
The University of Chicago has developed a platform that collects information block by block, and sends it to the cloud. Called the Array of Things, the network will record air quality, pedestrian activity, traffic and a host of other things for a real-time and localized peek at the city.
With the Array of Things, people won’t simply settle with city-wide averages of pollution levels, temperature, and other data sets. Instead, they can garner detailed information at an unprecedented resolution. Apps can now generate jogging routes in Chicago with the best pedestrian-level air quality and minimum foot traffic. It can also identify the most ideal part of the city to lounge al fresco in.
The nodes, the hub of sensors that feed data to the Array, will attach onto streetlights which will also provide the electricity. These nodes were based off the Waggle sensor platform developed by major collaborator Argonne National Laboratory.
Fresh data will be sent to the cloud twice every minute. To make the platform more fitting to their surroundings, they will be modular. This means a node near a heavy traffic area can have more advanced pollution sensors while one nearby a construction site can be fitted with noise meters.
The project plans to install 500 nodes in Chicago by the end of 2018. Eventaully, node units will be shared across the United States and in England, Mexico, and Taiwan.
Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center and Computation and Data at the University of Chicago and Argonne and the lead investigator of Array of Things, says this is a community project. He adds:
“It’s about creating new streams of data that help us understand and address the most critical urban challenges. Where we see an intersection of resident concerns, science interests and policymaker interest, that’s where we see opportunity for Array of Things deployment in Chicago.”
Data from these sensors will be available for free via APIs and open data platform plenar.io. Unlike CCTV monitoring, these nodes don’t store or release any identifiable information. The first 50 nodes will measure the following: air and surface temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and ambient sound intensity.