A Guide to Chicago’s Array of Things Initiative

Sean Thornton at Data-Smart City Solutions: “The 606, Chicago’s rails-to-trails project that stretches for 4.2 miles on the city’s northwest side, has been popular with residents and visitors ever since its launch last year.  The trail recently added a new art installationBlue Sky, that will greet visitors over the next five years with an array of lights and colors. Less noticed, but no less important, will be another array on display near the trail: a sensor node from Chicago’s Array of Things initiative.

If you’re a frequent reader of all things civic tech, then you may have already come across the Array of Things (AoT).  Launched in 2016, the project, which consists of a network of sensor boxes mounted on light posts, has now begun collecting a host of real-time data on Chicago’s environmental surroundings and urban activity.   After installing a small number of sensors downtown and elsewhere in 2016, Chicago is now adding additional sensors across the city and the city’s data portal currently lists locations for all of AoT’s active and yet-to-be installed sensors.  This year, data collected from AoT will be accessible online, providing valuable information for researchers, urban planners, and the general public.

AoT’s public engagement campaign has been picking up steam as well, with a recent community event held this fall. As a non-proprietary project, AoT is being implemented as a tool to improve not just urban planning and sustainability efforts, but quality of life for residents and communities. To engage with the public, project leaders have held meetings and workshops to build relationships with residents and identify community priorities. Those priorities, which vary from community to community, could range from monitoring traffic congestion around specific intersections to addressing air quality concerns at local parks and schoolyards.

The AoT project is a leading example of how new technology—and the Internet of Things (IoT) in particular—is transforming efforts for sustainable urban growth and “smart” city planning.  AoT’s truly multi-dimensional character sets it apart from other smart city efforts: complementing environmental sensor data collection, the initiative includes educational programming, community outreach, and R&D opportunities for academics, startups, corporations, and other organizations that could stand to benefit.

Launching a project like AoT, of course, isn’t as simple as installing sensor nodes and flipping on a switch. AoT has been in the works for years, and its recent launch marks a milestone event for its developers, the City of Chicago, and smart city technologies.  AoT has frequently appeared in the press  – yet often, coverage loses sight of the many facets of this unique project. How did AoT get to where it is today?  What is the project’s significance outside of Chicago? What are AoT’s implications for cities? Consider this article as your primer for all things AoT….(More)”.