Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Lemont, Ill., and the Chicago Innova-
tion Exchange, University of Chicago.
Jim Kurose, head of computer and information science and engineering
at the NSF, said the first nodes installed in The Loop, the neighborhoods of
Pilsen and Logan Square, and along Lake Michigan are designed to yield in-
formation and data-driven insights about the health of cities and residents.
“[They also] illustrate how fundamental research is vital to the transfor-
mation of our local communities envisioned by the National Smart Cities
Initiative,” he said.
In September 2015, the White House launched the Smart Cities Initiative to make it more attainable for cities, federal agencies, universities
and the private sector to work together to research, develop, deploy and
test bed new technologies to make cities more livable and desirable. In
addition, the Obama administration took several complementary steps such
as the Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, through which the NSF is
working with the private sector to invest nearly $100 million to develop
four city-scale testing platforms for wireless technologies, including 5G
cellular and beyond.
Another notable, related initiative is the Department of Energy’s Better
Buildings Initiative and Smart Energy Analytics campaign. It uses building
management technologies and analytic tools to reduce reliance on energy.
Array of Things
Rob Mitchum, communications manager for the University of Chicago’s
Computation Institute, said the concept originated with Charlie Catlett,
a senior computer scientist at ANL and director of the Urban Center for
Computation and Data. Catlett installed devices around his home, for example, monitoring the activity of his basement sump pump. He became
interested in how sensors could help cities collect information about their
environment and infrastructure, new data sources that could improve city
services, development and livability for citizens. Catlett approached the
city of Chicago, which signed on.
The Ao T partnership benefits from contributions from the School of
the Art Institute of Chicago on node design and educational curricula.
Also called an urban sensing project and fitness tracker for the city,
the Ao T began with node installation in August 2016.
“Currently, we have six nodes installed on Chicago streets and another
two dozen or so being tested at Argonne and other private property sites,”
Mitchum said. “The plan is still to have 500 installed in Chicago by the
end of 2018, and we will also send additional nodes periodically to other
cities, which would like to test the nodes in their locations.”
The nodes contain sensors for measuring air and surface temperature,
barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide,
ozone and ambient sound intensity.
The Waggle sensing technology used in the nodes is an open platform
that runs open source software. The Ao T nodes use Waggle, but the
platform is also being deployed for other sensor-based research projects,
including the urban climate study WxSeNet and a pilot running at the
Chicago Botanical Garden in Highland Park, Ill. Currently, nodes conduct
communications over an AT&T cellular network.
Mitchum said the Computation Institute has been contacted by either
researchers or government officials from more than 100 cities around the
world interested in deploying some form of Ao T in their location. In early
2017, they will send nodes to Denver; Seattle; Bristol and Newcastle,
England; and Delhi, India.
“Each city has its own priorities on what types of data they want to
collect and problems they want to solve, but in order to participate, all must
share their data openly with the Ao T project and the public,” he said.
O’MARA is a journalist with more than two decades
experience writing about security, life safety and systems
integration, and she is the managing director of DLO
Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at
email@example.com or 773.414.3573.