Welcome to the Array of Things, a networked urban sensor project that’s changing our understanding of cities and urban life.

The Array of Things is a collaborative effort among leading scientists, universities, local government, and communities in Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. With more nodes coming to Chicago’s streets in 2018, the Array of Things team is excited for the year ahead.

To learn more about the project and its updates, keep tabs on this website, check out our blog, and follow us on Twitter @arrayofthings. You can also explore Array of Things data, read about the first Array of Things nodes installed on Chicago intersections, watch our introductory video, and read coverage of the launch from USA Today and CNN.

If you have an idea for Array of Things sensors or node locations, please submit it here. For research partners who would like to get involved with Array of Things, please fill out this form.

Project Updates

In late May, Array of Things installed its 100th node in Chicago! Read about the first hundred nodes, the first batch of released data, and this year's Lane of Things project at Wrigley Field.

On March 26th, Array of Things was featured in an episode of Knowledge Applied, a University of Chicago Podcast that highlights research reshaping everyday life.

On January 12th, Smart Cities Connect and US Ignite included the Array of Things as one of its Smart 50 Awards winners, which honors the 50 most transformative smart projects of the past year worldwide.

On November 13th, Array of Things team leaders Charlie Catlett and Pete Beckman spoke at Supercomputing 2017, an international conference for high-performance computing, networking, storage and analysis, held in Denver, Colorado. Their opening plenary session, "The Century of the City," is available for viewing here.

On October 18th, Array of Things held a public meeting at Association House in Humboldt Park. Read more about the event from our partners at City Tech Collaborative here, and stay tuned for future events.

We have published the final governance and privacy policies for the Array of Things, as well as responses to public feedback and an engagement report from Smart Chicago. We thank the public for their valuable input.

Read about Lane of Things, our educational curriculum with Lane Tech High School in Chicago.

What Is The Array of Things?

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 El station by yourself? What if you could get weather and air quality information block-by-block, instead of city-by-city?

The Array of Things (AoT) is an urban sensing project, a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes that will be installed around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. AoT will essentially serve as a “fitness tracker” for the city, measuring factors that impact livability in Chicago such as climate, air quality and noise.

Read more about Array of Things at Bloomberg View, Chicago Magazine, USA Today, the Chicago Sun-Times, and E+D Magazine, or watch a video on the project from WIRED. Array of Things was a nominee for the 2014 Cooper Hewitt People's Design Award.

What is the Goal of the Array of Things?

AoT will provide real-time, location-based data about the city’s environment, infrastructure and activity to researchers and the public. 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. The data will help make Chicago a truly “smart city,” allowing the City to operate more efficiently and realize cost savings by anticipating and proactively addressing challenges such as urban flooding and traffic safety.

Because the data will be published openly and without charge, it 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.

What Data is Collected?

The nodes 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. Continued research and development will help create sensors to monitor other urban factors of interest such as flooding and standing water, precipitation, wind, and pollutants.

Array of Things is interested in monitoring the city’s environment and activity, not individuals. In fact, the technology and policy have been designed to specifically minimize any potential collection of data about individuals, so privacy protection is built into the design of the sensors and into the operating policies.

What Can be Done with this Data?

Potential applications of data collected by the Array of Things include:

  • Sensors monitoring air quality, sound and vibration (to detect heavy vehicle traffic), and temperature can be used to suggest the healthiest and unhealthiest walking times and routes through the city, or to study the relationship between diseases and the urban environment.
  • Real-time detection of urban flooding can improve city services and infrastructure to prevent property damage and illness.
  • Measurements of micro-climate in different areas of the city, so that residents can get up-to-date, high-resolution "block-by-block" weather and climate information.
  • Observe which areas of the city are heavily populated by pedestrians at different times of day to suggest safe and efficient routes for walking late at night or for timing traffic lights during peak traffic hours to improve pedestrian safety and reduce congestion-related pollution.

Array of Things data and technology will also be available for educational purposes, engaging local students and training them on important job skills. Read about Lane of Things, our curriculum with Lane Tech High School in Chicago.

What Data Will be Available?

Data collected by AoT will be open, free, and available to the public. The nodes will transmit data to a secure central database server at Argonne National Laboratory. Data will then be published openly to allow individuals, organizations, researchers, engineers and scientists to study urban environments, develop new data analysis tools and applications, and inform urban planning. Raw data will also be posted to the City of Chicago’s open data network and Plenario, a web-based portal that supports open data search, exploration, and downloading with open datasets from Chicago and around the world.

In addition, software, hardware, parts, and specifications will also be published as open source, to encourage participation and oversight from the developer community and public. You can view the architecture and current sensor list of the nodes here. Full specifications will be available soon at our Github page, when the initial node design is finalized.

How Will Privacy and Security be Protected?

All hardware, software and data being collected will be regularly reviewed by a Technical Security and Privacy Group chaired by Von Welch, director of Indiana University’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. Operating as an external, independent review team, the committee will also be consulted whenever there is a request for a new kind of data to be collected.

The Array of Things Executive Oversight Council will be co-chaired by Commissioner of the City's Department of Innovation and Technology Danielle DuMerer, Urban Center for Computation & Data Director Charlie Catlett, with additional members selected from academia, industry, non-profits, and the community. No data will be monitored without the approval of the privacy and security external oversight committee, the City of Chicago and the AoT executive committee, and the operation of the Array of Things will be governed by privacy policies that will be published prior to installation of nodes.

When and Where Will Nodes be Installed?

In partnership with the City of Chicago, the nodes will be mounted on streetlight traffic signal poles around the city, beginning in Summer 2016, with 500 nodes installed in the next few years. The Array of Things team will work with several partners, including the City of Chicago’s Department of Information and Technology and Department of Transportation, researchers, neighborhood groups and community members, to determine the best locations for the deployment of AoT. View a map of the proposed locations for the first 42 nodes, to be installed in Summer 2016.

Who is the Array of Things Team?

The Array of Things project is led by Charlie Catlett and researchers from the Urban Center for Computation and Data of the Computation Institute, a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago. The underlying software and hardware design, known as Waggle, was developed at Argonne National Laboratory by Pete Beckman, Rajesh Sankaran, and Charlie Catlett. The custom enclosure for the sensor nodes was developed by Product Development Technologies, based on early designs from Douglas Pancoast and Satya Mark Basu of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The project is executed in partnership with the City of Chicago.

The Array of Things project also involves partnerships with scientists at academic institutions including Northern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of Notre Dame, Arizona State University, the Santa Fe Institute, University College London, Clemson University, and the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia. AT&T is the project’s communications partner, providing all AoT connectivity for Chicago. Technical advice and support comes from a growing number of industry partners including Cisco, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Intel, Motorola Solutions, and Zebra Technologies.

Array of Things is funded by the National Science Foundation, the Chicago Innovation Fund, and Argonne National Laboratory.

Contact us at aot@uchicago.edu and follow us on Twitter @arrayofthings and Facebook.

Copyright © Array of Things 2016