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Chicago installs its first of “Array of Things” data collection sensors

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The open data system will monitor weather, noise, pollution, traffic patterns, and more

After much anticipation, the first light pole-mounted, data collection nodes comprising Chicago’s ambitious city-wide Array of Things sensor network are finally starting to come on line. Initially installed in the Pilsen neighborhood last week to specifically study air quality, these first few sensors will soon be expanded to more locations across the city and will grow to roughly 500 nodes by the end of 2018.

While a project to install hundreds of unblinking robotic sentinels across the Windy City might seem like something out of an Orwellian dystopia, the Array of Things is interested in monitoring the Chicago’s urban environment — such as temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, pollutants, sound intensity, traffic — and not its individual residents. As an added layer of transparency, all data will be published openly across multiple portals completely free of charge.

The open nature of the Array of Things system is expected to pay other dividends in the form of spin-off applications. According to AoT’s website, the open data policy "will also support the development of innovative applications, such as a mobile application that allows a resident to track their exposure to certain air contaminants, or to navigate through the city based on avoiding urban heat islands, poor air quality, or excessive noise and congestion."

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project comes from the Urban Center for Computation and Data and is a joint initiative between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. The data collected and published by Chicago’s Array of Things should be an exciting new tool for scientists, policymakers, and educators to get a better picture of what’s happening across the city and engineer new solutions.

Check out the video below to learn more: