Smart Chicago and Open Data

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Smart Chicago and Open Data

Chicago is the third most populous city in the US, with more than half the population of the state of Illinois living within its metropolitan area. The current population of 2.722 million people is forecasted to grow to 3.054 million in 2040.

“I want Chicago to be the most data-driven government in the world” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, elected in 2011. He demonstrated a firm interest in bringing a data policy to the city from the start by introducing two new positions to his office: Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Data Officer (CDO), to help him on strategic technology matters.

The ‘Windy City’ is keen on becoming smart, connected and technological, with the goal of improving the quality of life of its citizens. Over the last few years it has seen the introduction of multiple smart city and open data projects, and invested in the upgrade and modernisation of buildings and systems around the city.

Here are just few of the initiatives that they already have in place:

  • the Chicago Smart Lighting Project, to enhance public safety by improving the quality and reliability of the outdoor lighting;
  • the Smart Grid, to help residents receive more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electricity;
  • the Digital Skills Initiative, a technology training programme for youth, seniors and families across the city;
  • Connect Chicago, a network around the city where internet access and online resources are available for free;
  • Smart Health Centres, a platform to connect with medical records and find health-related information;

The last Open Data project launched by Chicago is the Array of Things (AoT), a network of interactive sensor boxes around the city that collect real-time data from the environment. It works as a “fitness tracker” for the liveability of the city, by measuring climate information, air quality and noise level. The aim of this project is to help planners, residents and researchers to monitor the environment and how it changes over time, to make Chicago more efficient and liveable.

There are a lot of different potential applications for the data collected, such as understanding road conditions to provide better services, analyse pedestrians and vehicles traffic patterns and flow to improve safety, reduce congestion and pollution, or even prevent property damage.

The AoT data is open and free, to allow everyone to have access to it and develop new analysis or technologies, to make the government more efficient, effective and open. This is a way for communities to understand their neighbourhoods better, and for officials to better understand residents’ interests, concerns and needs.

The installation of the AoT started at the end of 2016 and they are planning to install 500 nodes across the city by the end of 2018. Scientists, universities and foundations in the city have been involved in the project since the beginning, and will continue to work to better understand the urban systems. The data collected is available since the beginning of 2017 and anyone can access it online, but it will require a bit more time to see some actual results.

The Internet of Things is now part of our everyday life and new solutions to efficiently utilise the data are constantly being introduced to the market. The Array of Things will be soon used in other nine global cities, and many other have already expressed interest in the project.

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