Urban researchers jazzed about Chicago lamp post data

Wed, 2014-06-25 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

Tech-bent Chicago is diving deeper into data collection by installing artfully and smartfully designed fixtures on about 50 city lamp posts.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the intriguing fixtures will conceal a dozen data-collection sensors that track a range of environmental information including air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation, and wind. The sensors will also tally the number of people in the vicinity by measuring wireless signals on smartphones and other mobile devices they carry -- a fact that has raised some privacy concerns.

Called the “Array of Things” project, the sensor network is the brainchild of the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UCCD), part of a joint initiative between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Companies helping support the project include SCC Lead Partners Cisco and Qualcomm and Schneider Electric.

There are no clear-cut plans for how the gathered data will be used. UCCD intends to simply make the information accessible to app developers, researchers, scientists and Chicago government agencies and see what they do with it.

“By making this data public, we can imagine people writing all sorts of applications taking advantage of the data, including, hopefully, ones we never would have thought of,” said UCCD director Charlie Catlett in a Digital Trends report.

The Tribune notes that having this permanent data-collection system in place is particular enticing to researchers involved in urban analytics and may boost Chicago’s standing as a center of urban research.

The Chicago data-collection scheme rides in the wake of efforts by other cities to gather and publish data and then let others work their magic on it.

More on working with city-collected data …