Array of Things Expands with Partner Projects Around U.S.

The logo for Array of Things riffs on the flag of the City of Chicago, the home of the project and the site of our initial launch. But Array of Things was never meant to stay solely within Chicago’s borders. Since the early days of the urban sensing project, we’ve heard from over one hundred cities around the world interested in adapting our sensor nodes and open science model to study and improve their own locations. In addition to supporting scientists, governments, and residents in these communities, this expansion creates exciting new opportunities to compare cities and understand the urban environment in richer detail than ever before.

This summer, we’re excited to announce the first class of Array of Things partner projects, a group of collaborations with universities, governments, and industry in cities across the United States. In recent months, teams in Palo Alto, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Detroit, Chapel Hill, and Syracuse have received a small number of AoT nodes that they will deploy and test, collecting data on issues of local importance.

Each partner project received the same nodes that have been installed around Chicago, with the same ensemble of sensors inside. Partner project teams, typically collaborations between local universities and government, will deploy their nodes to measure data and address a wide range of questions around air quality, vehicle and pedestrian traffic, urban climate, and other topics. As with Array of Things in Chicago, data collected by these partners will be open and freely available for all to use.

“We see these partner projects as mutually beneficial for Array of Things,” said Charlie Catlett, Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and principal investigator of the project. “Our partners can apply AoT technology to support their local initiatives and provide their communities with useful new streams of data, while also testing our nodes under different regional conditions and applied to new use cases. Longer term, we see these partner projects as the first steps towards a global Array of Things network that augments urban research and data-driven policy around the world.”

Node 008 installed in Denver (photo by Peter Jacobson)

The partner projects include what is currently the longest-running node, installed 18 months ago in a 400-acre “living lab” in Denver, Colorado by Panasonic CityNOW, the company’s smart city solutions team. Array of Things is one of many technologies currently tested at the site, in partnership with the City of Denver, regional transportation organizations, and other local stakeholders. The company is currently looking for locations to install 8 additional nodes around the Denver area, with many clients expressing interest in using node data to meet building WELL standards, said Peter Jacobson, Program Manager at Panasonic CityNOW.

In Palo Alto, California, the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab led by Rishee Jain plans to deploy three nodes along a busy commercial mixed use corridor to study the relationships between people, buildings, and energy usage. The new measurements collected through AoT will supplement datasets previously collected by the research group to model urban energy consumption.

“We were already working with the city, looking for an open platform, and had many interactions with many companies,” said Jain, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. “But we had challenges with them around data access, and proprietary protocols. That was a big reason why we wanted to go with AoT; so we would have this extendable platform that we can build on top of.”

The same flexibility and transparency attracted the City of Syracuse, who learned about Array of Things from former City of Chicago Chief Data Officer Tom Schenk.

“We were thinking about how to thread the needle of having an accessible platform still gives us the information we want,” said Sam Edelstein, Chief Data Officer for Syracuse. “The open source hardware was exciting, it made us feel that it was sort of future-proofed for the deployment of new sensors. That is more useful in the long term.”

In collaboration with the School of Engineering at Syracuse University, city agencies want to use the nodes to study conditions near a stretch of highway that cuts through the city. As policymakers decide whether to eliminate or rebuild the roadway, detailed data on air quality, noise, and other factors can inform the debate and offer a baseline for comparison after changes are made.

As part of the partnership with Array of Things, each pilot city agrees to make the data it collects available openly and publicly. Like Chicago measurements, partner data will be available through our Plenario platform and as direct downloads from our data browser.

In each of these cities, the partner projects are drawing upon non-technological aspects of Array of Things as well. Partners are adapting the privacy policy drafted by the Array of Things and the City of Chicago for their own use, and conducting community outreach to inform local residents about the intentions, limitations, and open access nature of their local AoT project.

AoT partners and other collaborators will join the project team for a Users Workshop in late August at Argonne National Laboratory.

“As we expand Array of Things into new cities, new technologies, and new research areas, it becomes a more robust tool for urban science, city planning, and community engagement,” Catlett said. “It’s very exciting to see our Chicago-born seedling bloom into a global collaboration.”


Complete list of AoT partner projects and participants:

  1. Detroit: Detroit Health Department, City of Detroit
  2. Denver: Panasonic CityNOW
  3. Portland: Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, City of Portland
  4. Seattle: Information School, University of Washington, City of Seattle
  5. Palo Alto: Stanford Urban Informatics Lab, Stanford University, City of Palo Alto
  6. Syracuse: College of Engineering and Computer Science, Syracuse University, City of Syracuse
  7. Chapel Hill: RENCI and DICE Center, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill