Instrumenting the City

Charlie Catlett (Argonne National Laboratory)


Abstract: Government transparency and associated open data initiatives over the past several years have opened new opportunities for greater scientific understanding of cities and for the use of scientific tools to inform policy in areas ranging from efficient operations to resilience and sustainability, to urban design and public safety.  Yet there are many research or policy questions related to urban systems—cities—for which today’s data is inadequate. Understanding the variations of public health, air quality, storm intensity, vehicle or pedestrian flow, across an urban area requires data whose temporal and spatial resolution are commensurate with the dynamics of these variations. In some cases, such as air quality or weather, existing sensors are typically spaced miles apart, each capturing 10-100 square miles, thus lacking the spatial resolution to investigate respiratory illnesses that vary from one neighborhood to the next.  The Array of Things project, a partnership between the City of Chicago, University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, aims to deploy sensor devices, with in-situ data processing capabilities, in 500 locations throughout Chicago during the coming 30 months.  These devices will report environmental, air quality, and other data to several open data platforms including UrbanCCD’s Plenario and the City of Chicago’s open data portal.  All data will be open, accessible through these platforms via web-based tools as well as APIs for accessing or subscribing to data streams.

Bio: Charlie Catlett is the founding director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, UrbanCCD, which brings scientists, artists, architects, technologists, and policy makers together to use computation, data analytics, and embedded system to pursue insight into the dynamics, design, and sustainable operation of cities.  He is a Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.  In previous roles he was Chief Information Officer for Argonne National Laboratory, Director of the National Science Foundation “TeraGrid” nationally distributed supercomputing facility, designer and director of the I-WIRE regional optical network, and Chief Technology Officer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.  He has worked in Internet and supercomputing technologies since 1985. Recognized in 2014 as one of Chicago’s “Tech 50” technology leaders by Crain’s Chicago Business, Charlie is a Computer Engineering graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.