big-data-chicago-20140621

Only will be used to track the urban youths social clubs.

Via Chicago Tribune

The curled metal fixtures set to go up on a handful of Michigan Avenue light poles later this summer may look like delicate pieces of sculpture, but researchers say they’ll provide a big step forward in the way Chicago understands itself by observing the city’s people and surroundings.

The smooth, perforated sheaths of metal are decorative, but their job is to protect and conceal a system of data-collection sensors that will measure air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation and wind. The sensors will also count people by measuring wireless signals on mobile devices.

Some experts caution that efforts like the one launching here to collect data from people and their surroundings pose concerns of a Big Brother intrusion into personal privacy.

In particular, sensors collecting cellphone data make privacy proponents nervous. But computer scientist Charlie Catlett said the planners have taken precautions to design their sensors to observe mobile devices and count contact with the signal rather than record the digital address of each device.

Researchers have dubbed their effort the “Array of Things” project. Gathering and publishing such a broad swath of data will give scientists the tools to make Chicago a safer, more efficient and cleaner place to live, said Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, part of a joint initiative between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, near Lemont.

The novelty of a permanent data collection infrastructure may also give Chicago a competitive advantage in attracting technological research, researchers contend.

“The city is interested in making Chicago a place where innovation happens,” said Catlett.

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HT Wirecutter

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