Chicago to become world’s next smart city

Chicago is rolling out the first 50 of 500 sensors that will be installed across the city to measure everything from air quality to pedestrian traffic. The project – dubbed the Array of Things – is the first of its kind in a US city.

The project’s website sheds some light on the purpose of the installations:

“What if a light pole told you to watch out for an icy patch of sidewalk ahead? What if an app told you the most populated route for a late-night walk to the station by yourself? What if you could get weather and air quality information block-by-block, instead of city-by-city?”

The sensors will initially measure temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, ambient sound intensity, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and surface temperature. Future research and development will enable the sensors to monitor other urban factors such as flooding and standing water, precipitation, wind and pollutants.

The project is a joint effort between Chicago University and Argonne National University. Eventually, a range of different sensors will be installed. Image: http://arrayofthings.github.io/
The project is a joint effort between Chicago University and Argonne National University. Eventually, a range of different sensors will be installed. Image: http://arrayofthings.github.io/
An example of how the data might be used to benefit citizens. Image: http://arrayofthings.github.io/
An example of how the data might be used to benefit citizens. Image: http://arrayofthings.github.io/

The public has expressed some concern about privacy, considering that the city will soon be littered with hundreds of sensors taking high-definition images and video at frequent intervals. According to Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data at the University of Chicago, none of the video captured will be stored for more than three minutes and none of it will be available to researchers, city officials or the public.

Algorithms will analyse the video for the specific information researchers are interested in and only the results of the analysis will be transferred; it will not be possible to go back and pick out individual people or cars from the video, he added.

It is expected that all 500 sensors will be rolled out by 2018.