Podcast: Smart sensors capture pulse of Chicago

Knowledge Applied examines computer scientist Charlie Catlett's data-driven research

Array of Things on campus
An Array of Things sensor node located on the UChicago campus.
Photo by
Jean Lachat
Andrew Bauld
News Officer for Arts and HumanitiesNews Office

Editor’s note: Knowledge Applied is a podcast from the University of Chicago. Each episode will take listeners inside the research of UChicago scholars helping reshape everyday life. The first season of Knowledge Applied will feature researchers tackling some of the biggest questions facing cities today.

Imagine a health monitor for the city, but instead of measuring heart rate or daily steps, this device measures everything from air quality to vehicle traffic.

The idea may sound like science fiction, but it’s becoming a reality for cities like Chicago through the Array of Things project, a collaborative effort between scientists, universities, local government and community members to collect real-time data on the city.

The project, based out of Argonne National Laboratory, is led by Charlie Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data at UChicago and Argonne. Catlett is aiming to install 500 sensor nodes around Chicago and eventually setup a network around the world “to improve living and working in the city.”

“We talked to people in the city of Chicago to understand what their challenges are,” Catlett said. “And we found from talking with them and from our own work there’s a lot of data that’s missing, that should be able to be measured, and that requires data analytics, it requires data integration infrastructure and it requires a measurement strategy.”  

On this episode of Knowledge Applied, we visit with Carlett at his lab at Argonne to see how the sensors are designed, learn more about their sophisticated measuring capabilities, and discuss the future of “smart cities.”

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