Project Details

The Array of Things

Urban-scale sensor and embedded systems pilot project

By The Urban Center for Computation and Data

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @arrayofthings

Organisations Involved The Urban Center for Computation and Data (@UrbanCCD)
Argonne National Laboratory
City of Chicago
University of Chicago

  • Community Engagement
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Data
  • Internet
  • Open Source
  • Physical Computing

In 1800, only 3% of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050, researchers at the Population Reference Bureau expect the figure to be at 70%. 

We still have a long way to go in monitoring and improving the health and wellbeing of our cities, but Chicago is leading the way with its Array of Things (AoT) project launched in 2015. 

In partnership with the Urban Center for Computation and Data at the Computation Institute (a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago), the windy city will install 500 sensors connected across 237 city miles over the next three years. 

The sensors will collect real-time data on factors that impact liveability in Chicago, including air quality, noise, light and traffic. The data, as well as open-source hardware and software, will be stored on secure servers at the Argonne National Laboratory, and available for free, so that anyone, from students to scientists, can use the data to develop applications that will benefit the city’s 2.7 million residents.

Other cities collect data, but never before has there been such a comprehensive effort to monitor the city’s liveability across so many areas. The impact could be huge. For example, air-quality data could help a pedestrian navigate a route through the city that avoids pollution and allergens, or at night, a route that has the most activity and light. Temperature data could inform the city’s government about where to deploy salt in winter, and traffic data could help guide decisions on where to install bike lanes. 

The project has the potential to inspire other cities. The team in Chicago is discussing rolling out the model to Seattle in the US, and Bristol and Newcastle in the UK. To follow its progress, visit  

Image courtesy of Bunny & Norm Lenburg

Last updated: 10th of August, 2016

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