Smart Cities

Big Data Lays the Foundation for the Smart City of Chicago

…bring significant economic opportunity for the City, adding jobs and creating new facilities that will train Chicagoans to contribute to Chicago’s growing green economy and help Chicago families save money…

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Chicago has put in place a innovate set of strategies to become a true Smart City in the future. The city has a range of plans and initiatives that aim to strengthen Chicago’s role as a leader in IoT technology. Its growth as a “city of data” provides a glimpse into the transformational understandings we will one day have of all our cities.

Chicago is the first major city in the USA that is building a permanent infrastructure to collect Big Data. “For us in Chicago, it all starts with data. For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, everything comes back to data”, said City of Chicago CIO Brenna Berman. Speaking at the Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago, Berman explained that open data forms the basis of all of the city’s work in building up to becoming a smart city.

Chicago Smart City

Chicago will open source all this data to the public, so that anyone can access the data and make use of it. This is expected to result in innovative new applications emerging from the citizens of the city, which will have a positive affect on Chicago and be transferable to other urban areas around the world. Chicago has already opened up over 600 human and machine readable data sets that inform citizens while also helping the city identify needs and opportunities.

Researchers, and others in the city, have begun using that data to develop projects that will bring in even more data. The city has a platform known as WindyGrid that provides sources of data by list or displayed on a map; ranging from reported crimes, to water quality, 311 call data, licensing and permit data, emergency calls, tweets, and much more, to see what is happening in the city now and historically.

“We can use this for situational awareness, for understanding what is happening, [and] we can use it for research so we can understand what is happening” City of Chicago’s chief data officer Tom Schenk said. “It was originally meant for transparency [but] it has been interesting to see how other people use our data in other contexts”.

“Our emphasis is on using open-source technologies that do not have the cost”, Schenk said. The WindyGrid project has so far cost the city less than $100,000, while the open data project costs less than $50,000 per year to run.

Big data is crucial to the “smart” developments in cities, buildings and the grid. A recent Memoori report estimated that the market for Big Data and Cloud Based Software and Services in Smart Buildings alone will grow from $9.17 Billion in 2015 and at a rate of 33.2% CAGR to nearly $30 Billion by 2020. Connecting smart buildings with street-scale IoT and the electricity grid will create a true Smart City.

Earlier this month, the US government has announced a new Smart Cities Initiative that will invest over $160 million in federal research. This includes $3 million for the University of Chicago to support the creation of the Array of Things in Chicago, the first such network to serve as an infrastructure for researchers to rapidly deploy sensors, embedded systems, computing, and communications systems at scale in an urban environment.

Comprised of 500 nodes deployed throughout the city of Chicago, each with power, Internet, and a base set of sensing and embedded information systems capabilities, the Array of Things will continuously measure the physical environment of urban areas at the city block scale and unlock promising new research trajectories.

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Simultaneously, City Digital, a Chicago-based consortium, will launch two pilots focused on major urban infrastructure challenges. These projects, using Chicago as a test-bed for technology and demonstration, focus on deploying a network of sensors to gather data on green infrastructure, and a virtual underground mapping platform to detect and monitor underground infrastructure.

The City of Chicago is also implementing next-generation Smart Grid technology for smart city infrastructure. “We’re modernising Chicago’s electric infrastructure and building a Smart Grid that will bring significant economic opportunity for the City, adding jobs and creating new facilities that will train Chicagoans to contribute to Chicago’s growing green economy and help Chicago families save money on electricity”, said Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago residents will be among the first electricity customers in Illinois to receive smart meters in homes and businesses as part of a new smart grid initiative to modernise their aging electricity infrastructure. By 2018, ComEd will install more than four million smart meters to help accelerate $170 million in customer savings. To date, nearly 300,000 smart meters have been installed in the Chicago area, and all Chicago residents are expected to have their meters by 2017.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing visions of what a “city of data” looks like can be found at the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Its newest exhibit, titled “Chicago: City of Big Data” explores how digital information is reshaping how planners, architects, engineers and residents view urban issues and approach urban design.

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