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Brief Published: 12 Sep 2016

Array of Things: Fitness Tracker for the City

Areas of Chicago have been fitted with a network of sensors known as the Array of Things, which will provide both scientists and citizens with open data about the urban environment.

The urban sensing network was developed by the Urban Center for Computation and Data at the University of Chicago, the Argonne National Laboratory and the City of Chicago. Functioning like a fitness tracker for the city, the first of 500 beehive-shaped sensor packages were installed last week on lamp posts and buildings across the city.

The project’s aim is to help researchers, city officials and software developers study and address critical city challenges, such as preventing urban flooding, improving traffic safety and air quality, and assessing the nature and impact of climate change. 

"We'll be able to understand things like road conditions better, because the Array of Things will show us where water is collecting," said Brenna Berman, the City of Chicago's chief information officer. "It will help us predict vehicular and pedestrian traffic patterns better, so we can offer better services."

Cameras fitted to the sensors also obtain data about vehicle and foot traffic, standing water, sky colour and cloud cover. The information will be accessible to all via open platforms, including the University of Chicago’s website. By 2018, a citywide network is hoped to be in place.

For more on the technologies that will shape our urban environments, see our coverage from Digital Life Pulse: Lift 2016