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GCN : March 2015
GCN MARCH 2015 • GCN.COM 27 BY PATRICK MARSHALL Federal, state and local agencies are just now beginning to explore applications of the Internet of Things (IoT), which, despite its build-up as “the next big thing,” seems destined to live up to the billing. The IoT generally comprises networks of remote sensors capa- ble of detecting everything from traffic to air quality, to buildings’ energy consumption, to the direc- tion of gunshots on city streets. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES SEE PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES The U.S . Postal Service, for ex- ample, has called on vendors to propose IoT projects that might make USPS operations more effi- cient and might also generate new products that can provide value for businesses, government and local communities. The military is also interested. The Defense Information Systems Agency includes IoT on its list of impor- tant technologies to develop and declared in its strategic plan for 2014-2019 that “from improved logistics tracking to opti- mized building security and environmen- tal controls to health monitoring of indi- vidual soldiers, the Internet of Things will impact everything we do.” Many of the most forwardly focused civilian agency projects are those par- ticipating in the second round of the SmartAmerica Challenge, called the Global City Teams Challenge, sponsored by the National Institute for Standards and Technology. The challenge is specifi- cally aimed at encouraging collaboration and the development of standards for IoT projects. But the real action in actually imple- menting IoT in a public sector environ- ment is happening with a pair of federal research labs and the cities where they are based. THE ARRAY OF THINGS The Array of Things, a joint project of the Argonne National Laboratory, the Univer- sity of Chicago and the city of Chicago, is considered ready to move from prototype to initial deployment. While the project was initially aimed at monitoring air quality, said Charlie Catlett, team leader and senior computer scientist at Ar- gonne, it is capable of much, much more. Ultimately, sensors deployed around Chicago in the Array of Things will not only be able to mon- itor air quality block-by-block, but applications that tap into its data will be able to alert users to areas with traffic congestion, pedestrian traffic or even icy patches on side- walks. City planners will also use the data to work on reducing vehi- cle emissions by controlling traffic flows. According to Catlett, the first set of boxes being deployed – about the size of a briefcase and attached to light posts – are filled to capacity with 17 sensors, including those that measure temperature, humid- ity, light, carbon monoxide, nitro- gen dioxide and vibration. The box- es also include a sound sensor and an infrared camera that can pick up surface temperatures. “We had been working here at Argonne with remote sensing since 2005 or so,” said Catlett. “We developed a remote sensing platform that is designed for sen- sors or cameras in locations where you can’t easily get back there to fix things, so they have to be self-healing and very autonomous.” Catlett saw an opportunity to work with the city of Chicago to help both re- searchers and residents. “With the move- ment toward smart cities, a lot of research groups and companies will want to exper- iment with urban-scale technology where The cities of Chicago and San Francisco are partnering with local national labs to develop a network of large, remote sensing platforms capable of gathering data on traffic congestion, air quality, buildings’ energy consumption and the direction of gunshots on city streets. SUPER SENSORS AN INTERNET OF AUTONOMOUS, DATA HUNGRY, The Array of Things is a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes around Chicago collecting real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure and activity for research and public use. 0315gcn_028-028.indd 27 3/5/15 12:45 PM