Array of Things is an intelligent urban sensing project comprising of a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes that are installed around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city's environment, infrastructure, and activity.
This project was originally the brainchild of Charlie Catlett, Director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data. The process of bringing it to reality was a collaboration between a few of Chicago's largest R&D organizations, including PDT, University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Northwestern University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the City of Chicago, and the Urban Center for Computation and Data.
Charlie Catlett, Director of the Urban Center for Computation & Data
As an open source project, all data collected is open, free and available to the public. This is to encourage individuals, organizations, researchers, engineers and scientists to study urban environments, develop new data analysis tools and applications, and inform urban planning. The Array of Things utilizes Waggle, a secure, open source software and hardware platform for building an intelligent sensor network. This allows for easy modularity, and the potential to add our own sensors, computing pipelines and data analysis.
Array of Things comprises nodes that are capable of measuring barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, ambient sound intensity, and are remotely programmable to use artificial intelligence to analyze images in order to measure activities such as pedestrian and vehicle traffic flows. Examples of how these measurements can be used include monitoring traffic, tracking pollen in the air, how traffic builds up at certain intersections or rain and flooding concerns based on current weather conditions.
The working collaboration of University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Argonne National Laboratory asked PDT to join the team to help design and manufacture the enclosure system, originally created by the designers at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, that protects the nodes from the harsh Chicago environment.
Locations for the Array of Things sensors were selected through interactions with residents, community groups, science teams, and partners in multiple City of Chicago departments, coordinated by the Department of Innovation and Technology. Most nodes were installed by the Chicago Department of Transportation's Division of Electrical Operations. Some 200 nodes have been installed in Chicago as well as in cities across the US, in England, and in Taiwan. Over 100 cities have expressed interest in the project.
“The Array of Things' potential for improving the built environment is enormous, and the fact that it is open source means innovation can come from anyone and anywhere," said David Carhart, Director of Prototyping. “At PDT, we’re excited to be part of a project that has a lot of immediate benefits, and will probably yield some revolutionary breakthrough that is impossible to predict now.”
PDT is a global, full-service product design and development firm with 120 employees worldwide. Team members have expertise in a wide range of product development disciplines, including strategy, scouting, design research, industrial design, user experience development, mechanical and electrical engineering, software development, and sourcing. PDT’s award winning product designs have been recognized with more than 70 awards from authorities such as BusinessWeek, Fast Company, the Industrial Designers Society of America and The Consumer Electronics Association.