The Array of Things
Smart transportation projects are coming up everywhere, rebuilding systems - expanding and improving the possibilities. Of course, in this technological era, how else can a city best improve its infrastructure without incorporating the Internet of Things? After all, it has only reached almost every area of everyday living.
One of the largest upcoming projects is found in Chicago called the Array of Things (AoT). It is an urban-scale sensor and embedded systems pilot project, with the goal: measure the city in sufficient detail to provide data to help engineers, scientists, policymakers and residents work together to make Chicago and other cities healthier, more livable and more efficient; accomplishing this by providing real-time, location based data about the city's environment, infrastructure and activity.
Essentially a fitness tracker for the city, this system will monitor pollution and vibration levels via Honeywell and Texas Instruments sensors attached to streetlights; keeping track of factors that impact livability of the city. The collected research allows the city's decision makers to make accurate and informed choices to better improve and take action to make the city healthier.
The 500 nodes placed around the city, keep track of temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, ambient sound intensity, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, surface temperature, and more. Continued research and development will help create sensors to monitor other urban factors of interest such as flooding and standing water, precipitation, wind, and pollutants.
In terms of funding, Chicago has support from university and government grants, some pending, to cover AoT deployment. Its operating costs are about a notebook’s worth of electricity per node.
All the information collected by and through the Array of Things will be open, available, and free to the public. This decision is to encourage the people to take advantage of this research and use it to further improve and enhance the city; either through the creation of apps, or other efforts.
“Publishing the data to the city's open-data portal will occur in almost real time,” says Brenda Berman, commissioner and CIO of the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology. “Any department in the city will tell you that more precise data will lead to more precise planning.”
Just this past month, the decision has been made for this project to expand outside of Chicago as well, in hopes of affecting other cities in the same positive way. Seattle is next in line to begin installing 10 sensors they will get through the Array of Things project. With Seattle, they will be making adjustments to the sensors in order to make use of the existing rain sensors in Seattle, and increase the effectiveness of both systems.
“We’re getting ready to pull the trigger, so it’s an exciting and hair-raising time." - Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data
They will be experimenting with multiple projects with these nodes, so it is going to be an interesting summer. The first batch of sensors go up in Chicago by summer and the next batch should go to Seattle, Bristol, and Newcastle around June and July.