How Chicago Is Turning Its Street Lights Into Smart Infrastructure

Nearly five years ago, Charlie Catlett, the Director of Urban Center for Computation and Data at Argonne National Laboratory, heard that the city of Chicago would be replacing its street lights. He began to envision a sensor that would capture a vast amount of location-based data for research purposes—and began asking fellow scientists at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory what kind of urban data might be useful for their research. “I thought, what a tremendous opportunity that would be for the science community to better understand things like climate and air quality,” Catlett says. The project began to move forward under the name “Array of Things.” The city of Chicago got involved, since Catlett’s vision for the project dovetails with its ongoing initiative to provide data to the public in an accessible way. Students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago submitted designs for what such sensors might look like.When the National Science Foundation agreed to fund the development and manufacturing of the nodes last September, the Array of Things kicked into full gear.

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