Array of Things Civic
A Summary of Public Feedback & the Civic Engagement Process
Denise Linn, Program Analyst
Glynis Startz, Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow
As smart cities embrace and deploy innovative technology embedded in public spaces, residents voices need to be represented. To prevent disconnect between residents and their city’s technology, broad engagement is key — not only to inform residents of innovations, but to take inventory of public concerns and questions associated with them.
The purpose of this report is to describe the civic engagement and resident feedback collection process associated with a new Internet of Things (IoT) initiative in Chicago: The Array of Things. This report outlines the methods, decisions, and philosophies that went into this effort to increase Chicagoans’ engagement and involvement with smart city technology. Since the deployment of Internet of Things is so timely for cities around the world, we’ve shared the lessons we gleaned from our work. We hope this information can be of service to similar projects in other cities.
About Smart Chicago.Smart Chicago is a civic organization devoted to improving lives in Chicago through technology. Smart Chicago was founded in 2011 and is guided by three organizations: the City of Chicago, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust. We are guided by our principles — technology, open, everyone, and Chicago — and we stay focused on providing access, skills, and data. The Smart Chicago model is based on a lean organization focused on have a broad regional impact, centered among philanthropy and government.
Array of Thingsis an urban sensing project — one of the first of this kind and scale. Sensors will be placed across Chicago starting in August of 2016 to measure livability factors like climate, pedestrian traffic, air quality, and flooding. The sensors will collect data about our city. That data will then be released publically for residents and researchers to interpret and use.
The Smart Chicago Collaborative has committed to educate and engage residents with this new IoT project which is operated by the Urban Center for Computation and Data(UrbanCCD) — a research initiative of the Computation Institute at the University of Chicagoand Argonne National Laboratory— and implemented in partnership with the City of Chicago.
This engagement work alignswith Smart Chicago’s guiding principles: open, everyone, technology, and Chicago. We want to facilitate a transparent conversation in Chicago about data, sensors, the Internet of Things, and how we can put these things in service to the people.
The first goal of this engagement work was to build citywide awareness around Array of Things. The second goal was to aid the operators of Array of Things in their research to address community needs. The third goal (and the focal point of this report) was to aid the City of Chicago in gathering input on draft governance and privacy policies for Array of Things. These policies were developed in cooperation between the operators of the Array of Things and the City, with input provided by an independent policy board including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research.
Methods of Resident Engagement
Smart Chicago, in partnership with the City of Chicago and Urban CCD, collected public feedback on the Array of Things Governance & Privacy Policies in three ways: public meetings, online forms, and the new OpenGov Foundationtool MyMadison.io. All feedback collected in
While having one centralized feedback collection method would have been simpler, we found that the added accessibility to residents was worth the complication of using multiple platforms. Preserving varied feedback loops including offline, anonymous, and accessible modes of engagement was a priority.
Madison is a government policy cocreation platform that opens up laws and legislation previously offlimits to individuals and the Internet community. Launched to battle the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), it has since been used to power citizen participation in government policymaking in the United States Congress. With Madison, you can access the law as it’s being written, leave comments, annotate specific content, and interact with other civicminded participants. Madison brings the lawmaking process straight to you, and gives you a say in your government’s decisions.
The MyMadison.io values of openness and collaboration aligned with the Smart Chicago’s values as well as the goals of this Array of Things Engagement Project and the guiding principles of the Array of Things Governance and Privacy Policies. The entire draft of the Array of Things Privacy and Governace Policies was posted on MyMadison.io on Monday, June 13, 2016 and remained open for public annotation, edits, and comments online during the two week comment period.
The OpenGov Foundation is still improving Madison’s functionality for both resident and institutional users. In the spirit of building better civic technology, we wanted to partner as an early adopter of Madison in Chicago. We saw the potential of Madison not only as a means of cobuilding draft public policy, but also as a landing page to centralize resident feedback from other sources.
Knowing the range of Chicago residents’ digital skills and engagement preferences, Smart Chicago also wanted to complement this platform with a simple online form and public meetings. Questions and comments from those other inperson and online feedback loops would later be incorporated into Madison.
Smart Chicago and our partners saw the importance of preserving an anonymous, lowbarrier medium to providing feedback on the Array of Things policies. Participation in a meeting required time, effort, and transportation. Participation on Madison required creating an account, having an email address, and attaching your name to a comment or question.
A PDF of the online form form can be found here. All responses can be found in this folder. With the exceptions of organizations or individuals that explicitly included their names and contact information within their comments, the forms in that folder are anonymized.
Smart Chicago hosted public meetings for residents to learn about Array of Things directly from the project’s operators and the City of Chicago, ask questions, and provide input through community discussion.
Meeting in Libraries
We held two community meetings during the public comment period the first at Lozano Library on Tuesday, June 14th from 5:30pm to 7pm and the second at Harold Washington Library on Wednesday, June 22nd from 5:30pm to 7pm. These locations were targeted because they were close to the first projected locations of the Array of Things sensors. The map for those proposed locations can be found here.
Why libraries? Smart Chicago has found value in hosting events at Chicago Public Library Branchesbecause they are close to public transportation, host regular community programming, and are trusted, familiar neighborhood institutions. We hold CUTGroup(Civic User Testing Group) tests at public libraries for these reasons. Libraries are also beacons of information in communities. We chose not to have these meetings in techoriented or academicallyoriented spaces. As much as possible, we wanted to capture and increase the comfort level of community members who did not yet self identify with the Chicago tech scene or with academic circles already following IoT projects and news.
These public meetings had several components:
●A presentation on Array of Things from the project’s operators, including a summary presentation of the privacy & governance policies
●Community discussion and Q&A
●Food. For the June 14th public meeting at Lozano Library, dinner was catered by Taquería Sabor y Sazón. For the 6.22 Public Meeting at Harold Washington Library, dinner was catered by Corner Bakery
These meetings were advertised online and through flyering. Smart Chicago documenters distributed flyers at public computing centers, coffee shops, anchor institutions, small businesses, Alderman Offices, and other community organizations.
Members of our documenter programalso recorded proceedings through photography, notes, and social media, all of which can be found on the Smart Chicago website. Here is a blog post centralizing documentation from the June 14th Public Meeting at Lozano Library and here is a blog postcentralizing documentation from the June 22nd Public meeting at Harold Washington Library.
Summary of Public Feedback
An inventory of feedback can be found on Madisonand on this spreadsheet. Responses to that feedback can be found on this websiteauthored by the operators of Array of Things. This feedback helped shape thefinal version of the Array of Things Governance & Privacy Policies.
Here are the stats about participation & policy feedback:
●About 40 residents attended the 6/14 public meeting at Lozano Library in Pilsen
●About 40 residents attended the 6/22 public meeting at Harold Washington Library in the Loop
●Here is a breakdown of the public feedback received:
○36 questions, comments or annotations from 7 unique account holders originally collected from MyMadison.io
○21 questions, comments or annotations recorded from the 6.14 Array of Things Public Meeting (later placed on the MyMadison.io page)
○14 questions, comments or annotations recorded from the 6.22 Array of Things Public Meeting (later placed on the MyMadison.io page)
○9 Wufoo online form submissions (later placed on the MyMadison.io page) — 6 from individuals and 3 from groups (see below)
Among the feedback collected, three groups or institutions submitted collective, multipart comments on the policies:
●a group from the Symposium on Usable Privacy and Security 2016 (SOUPS 2016) including Lorrie Faith Cranor of Carnegie Mellon University,1 Alain Forget of Google, Patrick Gage Kelley of the University of New Mexico, and Jen King of UC Berkeley
1The comment clarified that Lorrie Cranor is currently on leave from Carnegie Mellon University, serving as Chief Technologist at the US Federal Trade Commission. Comments were her own views and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commission or any Commissioner
Below is a highlevel summary of public input (from individuals and institutions) organized by broad categories. Public input came in the form of questions, requests for more information or clarity, project suggestions, general comments, and formatting/language edits of the policies themselves. These points of interest should be noted by other cities and technologists who seek to understand and comprehensively address public questions about the Internet of Things. In general, commenting residents and institutions wanted to know about partner roles and accountability, how data collection and security worked, and how the community could engage with the new technology.
On Array of Things operators and partners
Comments from both residents and institutions asked for more clarity on Array of Things partners and their roles. They were interested in who was accountable, who owned the data, the University of Chicago’s role, and how partners like SAIC and Smart Chicago contribute to the
project. Commenters also asked about the process for onboarding new, interested partners. In feedback collected online and in person, there were recommendations for new partners that could add value to the Array of Things.
On data collection & personally identifiable information (PII)
There were comments and questions about personally identifiable information (PII) processed, secured, and deleted by the Array of Things sensors. There were requests for more details on the management of images, what the images will capture and not capture, how data will be encrypted, who will have access to the images, how long the images will be stored, and how they will be deleted.
On data sharing & accessibility
Commenters asked for more information about the Array of Things sensor data that would become public. They were interested in exactly how open the data would be and what the data would look like once posted on sources like the Chicago Data Portal. Commenters also sought more information about potential third party researchers who would have access to raw, calibration data — who they might be and the systems of accountability that would govern their work.
Several commenters inquired about how data collected from Array of Things sensors would interact with Chicago’s law enforcement and other third parties. Three commenters specifically brought up warrants. There was interest as to what extent any PII collected would be subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure requests. Commenters were also interested in law enforcement use cases as they relate to future iterations of the Array of Things sensors.
On public notice & community engagement
Commenters supported civic outreach efforts and recommended more and continued work on that front. Commenters identified the selection of future sensor node locations as an opportunity to involve residents and community organizations in the Array of Things project. There were several questions about how and if residents could be involved in selecting or informing sensor node placement. Now theArray of Things operators’ new online formasks for resident ideas and suggestions for node locations.
In general, commenters expressed interest in more ways of engaging with or learning about Array of Things. Aside from collecting resident feedback on the project and the project policies, commenters recommended that everyday “notice” be prioritized for affected Chicago residents. Commenters recommended that Array of Things Operators clarify when residents will be alerted in a variety of ways (including methods friendly to lowtech or lowliteracy residents) when they are in range of a node or in a node area. Methods recommended include plainlanguage signs, short links, or QR codes.
Miscellaneous project questions
There were some miscellaneous questions about the sensors themselves. Residents at public meetings were interested in details like why aluminum was chosen for the devices, what types of computers were in the sensors, and at what height the sensors would be placed.
Residents, especially those at public meetings, asked general project questions about Array of Things as well. There were questions about whether other cities were deploying these sensors, whether the sensors were capable of measuring cancercausing pollutants, and whether funding for the project would continue (and from where).
Lessons for Future Engagement Efforts with Urban Sensors & the Internet of Things
Smart Chicago has extracted several lessons that will inform our future engagement approaches with “smart city” projects. We hope these lessons also be useful and relevant to organizations in other cities undertaking similar technology engagement work, especially as they relate to privacy and governance.
Informing & engaging at the same time is a challenge
The public meetings were structured in such a way so attendees did not have to have any technical knowledge or project background to attend. Still, soliciting feedback from residents inperson was a challenge when there was so much background information to get through first. When residents aren’t familiar with a project, it follows that the quality or amount of sincere feedback on that project would be naturally limited. In their blog postreflecting on the June 22nd Public Meeting, the OpenGov Foundation made a similar observation of this challenge:
The concepts behind AoT, it is safe to say, rest on rather advanced, cuttingedge technical knowledge. It took a full 70 minutes of the 90 minute session for the presenters to simply explain AoT. And of the remaining 20 minutes, all but five were devoted to basic questions.
The lesson for other cities or projects to glean from this challenge would be to undergo a wider awareness campaign to inform residents of the who, what, where, when, and why of the project before asking residents to react to that project.
There is a
Though several Array of Things policy commenters recommended less technical language, others also called for more technical detail for the sake of transparency. For future IoT project and engagement efforts, this tradeoff should be taken note of and balanced.
The lesson for other cities or projects would be to communicate not only the content of their policies, but also communicate more about the design of the policy — for instance, why it was chosen to be a certain length, what regulations or principles informed its structure, and why certain information is left out or placed in another document. Another potential approach would be to, as some commenters suggested, layer the public policies; publish a transparent, technical policy, but also a supplementary that piece with a glossary or summary points. In short, it might
be wise to create documentation that is accessible along with documentation that is thorough, but not attempt to accomplish both goals at once.
It’s just as important to communicate what the sensors can’t do
The recurring questions about law enforcement scenarios, cell phone companies, and sound recordings during the public comment period for the Array of Things governance and privacy policies show that more explicit, public descriptions of what the sensors can’t measure was needed.
There were several comments that showed the need for this clarity. For example, commenters asked about functions that sensors didn’t have — capturing video and cellphone information, for instance. Charlie Catlett of UrbanCCDand Brenna Berman of the City of Chicagoclarified during the June 22, 2016 public meeting that Array of Things sensors are not capable of interacting with a cell phones. The public meetings and online literature on Array of Things clarifies that, while data on sound levels is collection, actual sound is not recorded. The concerns expressed during the public comment period revealed a project messaging and communication issue that can be fixed in the future.
Be tool agnostic when it comes to public feedback collection
Smart Chicago used three feedback loops to collect public feedback on this project: Madison, online forms, and public meetings. Given complications surrounding digital skills, Internet access, desires for anonymity, communication preferences, and varied desires of involvement, it was beneficial to preserve a variety of engagement modes. Meeting residents where they are is an important priority — one we’re sure we can improve on in the future.
Our recommendation for other cities or organizations undertaking smart city or IoT engagement work would to be flexible and tool agnostic. Though the subject at hand is technology, the modes of engagement should not always be technical. In a smart city, there can still be room for lowtech outreach and engagement methods like flyering and personal outreach.
We look forward to observing and learning from alternative approaches taken by other cities and organizations deploying smart city infrastructure and the Internet of Things. We publish this information in the hope that our methods and lessons will contribute to the community of practice and to the cobuilding and constant improvement of inclusive smart cities.
Important Links & Resources
●Here is the event flyer for the 6.14 Public Meeting at Lozano Library
●Here is the event flyer for the 6.22 Public Meeting at Harold Washington Library
●A Storify of the 6.14 Public Meeting
●A Storifyof the 6.22 Public Meeting
●A mapof the proposed locations for sensor nodes