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Public Big Data Project Makes A Comeback Thanks To Federal Grant

By Kate Shepherd in News on Sep 14, 2015 10:13PM

The city's "Array of Things" data project is in the works again after a year full of technical glitches and financial setbacks delayed the controversial plan.

The National Science Foundation announced a $3.1 million grant to the ambitious data collection project run by the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory Monday, according to the Tribune.

The federal money will allow the sensors to be built and placed on 50 utility poles by the end of the first quarter of 2016 and as many as 200 by the end of 2016. The sensor boxes will collect real time data on the Chicago's environment, including temperature, humidity, light, sound and air quality. Researchers and city officials hope the data, which will be available to the public, will help them better understand our urban atmosphere. Cameras will take readings of information such as standing water in the streets after a rain but the images will not leave the sensor.

The sensors were originally set to track human movements by counting cell phones in the area but plans were halted due to a public outcry over privacy.

"We are trying to create something where the people are watching the city; it's the polar opposite of the city watching the people," the project's lead scientist Charlie Catlett told the Tribune. "This is fiercely protective of privacy."