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GCN : June 2014
"This push towards transparency has created a real opportunity for those of us who want to understand cities," said Charlie Catlett, senior computer scien- tist at the Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago, who said he believes the city has moved aggres- sively to make more data available. Chicago is currently working to de- velop its next generation of big data tools. On the data gathering side, Catlett said, it is partnering with industry and the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) to create an embed- ded sensor network dubbed the "Array of Things." Catlett said nodes in the array net- work will have about 12 sensors collect- ing data on temperature, humidity, air quality, sound, light and carbon mon- oxide/carbon dioxide levels throughout the city. The sensors will also be able to detect mobile devices with Bluetooth ac- tive, so smartphones can serve as an in- dicator of pedestrian density. The first of the sensors are slated for installation in early July, when 30 to 50 nodes will be deployed on light poles on downtown Chicago street corners. A funding proposal is in the works to sup- port 500 additional installations. Each node consists of a secure enclo- sure with a power source and Internet access. Developers will be able to sub- scribe to the data stream coming off the instruments. "If someone wanted to write an app that maps downtown to light or sound or temperature --- or even the number of pedestrians with smart- phones --- they could do that," Catlett said. The open sensor data will also travel through the city s data portal, where it will be accessible to city departments who can use it to conduct studies cor- relating data trends they are monitoring with data derived from the sensor net- work. "That is where it gets really powerful for the city," Catlett said. OPEN ANALYTICS PLATFORM Chicago is also embarking on a project to develop a next-generation data ana- lytics platform, which it intends to make available to other cities. While Chicago, New York and San Francisco possess the resources to develop big data analytics, others are wondering how to get started. "We are doing that [platform] as open source project with an eye toward easy replication in other cities," Catlett said. However, cities just turning to big data projects need more than technical resources. Steve Mills, senior associate CASE STUDY CITIES OF BIG DATA 26 GCN JUNE 2014 • GCN.COM While Chicago, New York and San Francisco look to become national models of the emerging data-driven city, Buffalo, N.Y. has its sights on smaller big data jobs, like lling potholes. The second largest city in New York State, with a population of 259,384, found itself awash in data after launching a 311 system to handle community concerns. The system elds around 300,000 complaints and issues in a given year and logs all the calls. Potholes, broken street lights, abandoned houses --- all the things that can go wrong in a city --- are all recorded here. "I realized I'm sitting on all this data," said Oswaldo Mestre, director of citizen services for the City of Buffalo. "What do I do with that data?" The answer for Buffalo was to analyze the 311 data and create a density map of different complaints. The map provided a general idea of which neighborhoods needed help. A layer of law enforcement and demographic data completed a picture of the trouble spots. Based on that information, Buffalo has been able to organize a series of "clean sweeps," in which multiple city and Erie County departments converge on a two- or three- square block area to x what needs xing. Mestre said each clean sweep is different, depending on the issues facing a particular section of city. Buffalo saw 28 clean sweeps completed in 2013, and the city plans to perform 30 such initiatives this year. That compares to the eight that took place prior to the 311 system and its associated data trove. "When we rst started, we didn't have the 311 system, and we weren't looking at the data," Mestre said. "Once we started doing that, it starts to tell you about what is going on in the community." TECHNICAL INFRASTRUCTURE Buffalo uses KANA's LAGAN Enterprise customer service software, a 311 solution, In Bu alo, big data drives precision 311 'clean sweeps' Buffalo used customer service software to create density maps of citizen 311 complaints and orchestrate 'clean sweeps' of two-three block areas