With the aim to improve the city's urban planning and safety, researchers in Chicago are set to deploy small metal fixtures attached to light posts that will be able to track patterns of people and their surroundings.
Dubbed the 'Array Of Things', the experiment will enable the collection of environmental data like air quality, noise levels, and wind, as well as the density of pedestrian activity within a particular area. The latter will be done by observing cell phone traffic.
The data collected will immediately be published, and those behind the experiment are hoping that authorities, corporates, app developers, as well as the general public will come up with innovative ways to make the most out of the collected information.
“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 Charlie Catlett, the director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data.
Although collecting data from people could help determine useful information like popular walking routes, choked sidewalks, and more, it also raises privacy concerns. However, according to Catlett, all the data collection is anonymous.
"We don't collect things that can identify people. There are no cameras or recording devices", he said, adding that the sensors will be collecting sound levels but not recording actual sound. The only imaging will be infrared, rather than video.
The experiment, which will begin next month, has secured more than $1 million in in-kind contributions of engineering help from corporations including Cisco Systems, Intel, Zebra Technologies, Qualcomm, Motorola Solutions and Schneider Electric. The sensors are being designed by staff at Chicago’s School of the Art Institute.