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Array of Things Forms Design and Manufacturing Partnership

By Rob Mitchum // January 6, 2016

A new partnership between Array of Things (AoT) and Product Development Technologies (PDT) will drive the public launch of the urban sensing project in 2016. PDT, based in Lake Zurich, IL, will spearhead the design and manufacturing of a custom enclosure system for AoT nodes, protecting the technology from weather conditions while enabling accurate measurements.

Expanding upon prototypes created by School of the Art Institute of Chicago designers, PDT will create a new enclosure to house the sensor technology inside the first wave of nodes. Their design will be used for the first 50 nodes installed in Chicago in Spring 2016, as well as an additional batch of nodes that will be shared with research partners in other cities.

“We’re thrilled to work with this innovative, Chicago-area company on the expanded production of AoT node enclosures,” said Charlie Catlett, lead investigator of Array of Things and director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data. “This partnership enables us to scale up the Array of Things project to achieve our installation plans in Chicago and provide additional nodes to research collaborators in cities around the world.”


In total, 500 sensor nodes will be installed on Chicago streets by the end of 2017, funded by a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Foundationsupport from the Chicago Innovation Exchange and Argonne National Laboratory, and enabled by a partnership with the City of Chicago. The nodes will collect information on the urban environment, infrastructure, and activity, creating a rich open data source for use by residents, community organizations, scientists, and government agencies to create a healthier, cleaner, and more livable city.

“The potential of Array of Things for improving the built environment is enormous, and the fact that it is open source means innovation can come from anyone and anywhere,” said David Carhart, Director of Prototyping. “At PDT, we’re excited to be part of a project that has a lot of immediate benefits, and will probably yield revolutionary breakthroughs that are impossible to predict now.”

The first set of nodes will collect and analyze high-resolution data including temperature, barometric pressure, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, ambient sound intensity, and pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Nodes will support advanced capabilities such as measuring sound levels on busy streets and around public transportation, detecting street flooding, or assessing air quality in neighborhoods near industrial facilities.

Custom boards for the nodes are being produced by Schaumburg-based Surya Electronics, based on hardware designed by Argonne’s Peter BeckmanRajesh Sankaran, and Catlett.

Additional nodes will be shared with research partners in at least a dozen cities with interest in pilot projects in early 2016, including Seattle, Atlanta, Mexico City, and Bristol, England. Those groups will work with their municipal governments and utilize customized AoT nodes to measure factors of local interest, such as precipitation, air pollution, and walkability.