The Array of Things: Chicago’s very own ‘fitness tracker’

The Array of Things is a new modular sensor network in Chicago that gathers real-life data about the city’s infrastructure, air quality, climate and noise.

The node components include hundreds of environmental sensors, air quality sensors, light and infrared sensors, Linux node controllers, and a node power manager. The data collected is for free public use and for researchers to improve environmental and living conditions in the smart city.

“This initiative has the potential to allow researchers, policymakers, developers and residents to work together and take specific actions that will make Chicago and other cities healthier, more efficient and more livable,” their website reads.

The devices will not collect private data from individuals. The goal is to gather information about temperature, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, chemical components and air quality and more to observe phenomena like flooding and precipitation or vehicle traffic. The data will be kept on a protected server at Argonne National Laboratory.

“We’re interested in monitoring the city’s environment and activity, not individuals, which is why we have built privacy protection into the design of the sensors and our operating policies,” said project lead Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data.

A joint project of the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Array of Things received a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

By the end of 2018, AoT aims to install around 500 active nodes in Chicago in collaboration with AT&T, the wireless connectivity provider for the project. The first nodes are to be installed this summer, with a slight delay due to data privacy concerns of representatives of the city of Chicago. It is expected that the Array of Things will begin installation after the middle of August, when the privacy policy will be decided.

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