wireless lanThe Internet of Things is becoming a reality in the city of Chicago, where sensors send an alert when trash cans get too full and sensors at city beaches report hourly on water temperature and wave height.

Many of Chicago’s sensors use 3G for communications. For example, bike racks located around the city report every 15 minutes on how many bikes they have available for rental using either CDMA or GSM depending on signal strength. And GPS equipment originally installed on city buses to trigger destination announcements now reports on traffic congestion via a 3G link.

“We try not to spend cash on sensors,” said Brenna Berman, chief information officer for the city in a panel presentation for reporters at the Internet of Things World Forum in Chicago this week. As an alternative, the city seeks to obtain sensors through partnerships that often are research-driven, Berman said.

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One such partnership with Argonne Laboratories and the University of Chicago will involve 500 sensors that will include low-resolution infrared cameras along with sensors to measure sound, vibration, air quality and temperature. The city plans to make data gathered in this manner available to outside parties as it has done with much of the other sensor-gathered data.

“We want to create economic value” by enabling outside parties to build products and services using the information that the city gathers, Berman said.

Internet of Things Success
Making sense out of vast amounts of data gathered requires powerful analytics – and Berman shared some success stories there. For example, she said the city built a “predictive model informed by 31 different variables,” including some gathered from sensors, to determine where problems with rodents were likely to emerge and to bait for rodents in those locations. In comparison with previous procedures – which involved baiting for rats after residents reported problems – the city has reduced costs by 20%.

The rodent project was successful for another reason, too, Berman noted. The project was chosen, in part, because it was unlikely to ruffle any feathers. “Rats have no constituency,” quipped Berman.

 

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