Chicago Installs First Sensors For The Array of Things


Chicago is taking the sensor-based smart city concept one step further by launching its own “Array of Things”. The city installed the first round of sensors for the array this week. The first phase of sensors will focus on air quality and will also include low-resolution cameras that will be installed on traffic poles.

The array is backed by a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation in addition to some city and local university dollars. The project and its analysis will be led by the Urban Center and Computation and Data at the University of Chicago and Argonne.

Once fully installed, the array will consist of 500 sensors and the data will be made available to the public through the city’s OpenGrid portal and Chicago’s The OpenGrid was launched in January, as CivSource reported at the time. The tool allows users to see how the information contained in Chicago’s data is represented within their specific neighborhood. If a user has a question about city services in their area, they’ll be able to see on a map what services are available.

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.

Initial node locations and data applications were determined based on interactions with community organizations and research groups. Eight nodes in Pilsen will contain sensors for tracking air quality and its relationship with asthma and other diseases. Partnerships with the Chicago Loop Alliance and Vision Zero motivated studies of pedestrian and vehicle flow and traffic safety in The Loop neighborhood. And scientists at UChicago and Argonne chose locations along the lake and across the middle of Chicago that will allow for optimal measurements of features related to urban weather and climate change.

The array of things concept takes smart cities one step further by moving away from individual pilot projects centered on parking or streetlights and moves the city into a more coordinated, comprehensive data environment.

“We at the National Science Foundation are proud to support the Array of Things,” said Jim Kurose, head of Computer and Information Science and Engineering at NSF. “The launch of the first nodes will provide important information and data-driven insights about the health of cities and residents, and illustrate how fundamental research is vital to the transformation of our local communities envisioned by the National Smart Cities Initiative.”