Almost 50 years after Simon and Garfunkel sang “Hello lamp post, whatcha knowin,” the streetlights of Chicago will answer them. The city will start collecting data through Web-connected sensors installed on lamp poles this summer. In addition to foot traffic, the project will measure air quality, sound volume, heat, light intensity, and precipitation as a means to better understand the urban environment and ultimately make Chicago a safer, more pleasant place to live.
Dubbed the Array of Things, the initative will start with eight sets of sensors placed at various intersections along Michigan Avenue. Brenna Berman, the city’s commissioner of information and technology, says she hopes to add 300 in the next few years as part of a continued effort by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to push Chicago as a tech innovation hub. The boxes of electronics will be wrapped in perforated plastic shields that students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago designed to look more like sculpture than Big Brother black boxes.