Argonne launches ‘Array of Things’ urban sensing project

Argonne National Laboratory is partnering with the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago to launch an open access urban sensing project - the Array of Things - to better understand and improve the cities.

The Array of Things (AoT) will collect streams of data on Chicago's environment, infrastructure, and activity. This local, open data collection can then be used by researchers, city officials and software developers to study challenges such as air pollution, flooding, traffic safety and assessing the nature and impact of climate change.

‘The Array of Things project is just one example of the advancements that are possible when the city, university and Argonne combine their diverse and complementary perspectives, experience and expertise,’ said Argonne director Peter Littlewood. ‘I'm excited to see the Array of Things fulfil its potential to help make Chicago cleaner, healthier and more liveable, and I also look forward to future game-changing collaborations with our local partners.’

The initial phase of the project will see 500 nodes set up on the streets of Chicago. This process begins with 50 nodes being installed in August and September on traffic poles in The Loop, Pilsen, Logan Square and along Lake Michigan. These initial 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, as well as standing water, sky colour and cloud cover.

A total of 500 nodes will be installed throughout Chicago by the end of 2018, and additional nodes will be shared with cities across the United States and in countries such as England, Mexico, and Taiwan. The initial node locations and applications were determined cased on interactions with community organisations and research groups. This includes eight nodes in Pilsen that will track air quality to study its relationship with asthma and other diseases.

‘The Array of Things is a community technology,’ said Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data at the University of Chicago and the lead investigator of the AoT project. ‘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.’

The AoT was created using the Waggle sensor platform, designed by Argonne researchers led by Pete Beckman, Rajesh Sankaran and Charlie Catlett at Argonne to design, develop, and deploy a novel wireless sensor system. The project included senior contributions from Nicola Ferrier (robotics and computer vision), Yuki Hamada (environmental science, remote sensing), Rob Jacob (climate and weather modelling), Kate Keahey (cloud computing), and Kazutomo Yoshii (Linux kernel and hardware design).

The node enclosures were designed and manufactured by Product Development Technologies in Lake Zurich, Illinois, from original designs by Douglas Pancoast and Satya Mark Basu of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. AT&T is the project's communications partner, providing all AoT connectivity for Chicago. The Array of Things technology was developed with help from industry partners who provided in-kind engineering expertise, including Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, Schneider Electric and Zebra Technologies.

The AoT is funded by a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, with additional investments from Argonne and the Chicago Innovation Exchange.

‘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’ said Jim Kurose, head of computer and information science and Engineering at NSF.

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