Imagine you are an asthma sufferer who works in a downtown Chicago office building. One morning, the forecast warns of a high pollen count, but with no details beyond the city’s overall pollen level that day. So you open up an app on your phone that shows you a real-time map of the pollen count on each city block, and even plots the route with the cleanest air from the train station to the office. Along your walk, artful boxes mounted on streetlights change color as new data updates the local pollen levels, further guiding your path.
That is just one potential application of the data that will be collected and released by the Array of Things, a new urban sensing project developed by scientists from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and the Computation Institute, in partnership with the city of Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Open data collected by interactive sensor “nodes” will serve as a “fitness tracker” for the city, providing valuable new information for residents, scientists and policymakers to build a safer, cleaner and more efficient urban environment.
The first two nodes were activated in June at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and Regenstein Library at UChicago, part of a pilot phase that will bring a total of 11 nodes to the campus this summer. This week, the project received $150,000 from the UChicago Innovation Fund, which will be matched by an additional $150,000 from Argonne. The funds will be used to finalize software development and build more than 100 new nodes for deployment in Chicago and other cities.
Eventually, the Array of Things team hopes to mount hundreds of nodes throughout Chicago neighborhoods. Each one will contain sensors for temperature, humidity, light, sound levels, air quality and more, to take the pulse of the city at unparalleled resolution. All data will be available to the public, for use in research studies, application development or civic improvement, stimulating the local tech industry and community engagement with the city.
“The Array of Things will create a new public utility of open data for the citizens of Chicago,” said Charlie Catlett, director of the Computation Institute’s Urban Center for Computation and Data and senior computer scientist at Argonne. “The unprecedented flow of data from these sensors will create exciting new opportunities for research, technology development and education that will enrich our knowledge about the city…”