Chicago introducing smart city technology

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Construction crews often find something unexpected and have to phone the city which then sends out a specialist who ascertains if the pipe is still being used. This can often cause significant delays in construction. The problems are so prevalent that the city even has an Office of Underground Coordination to pour over old maps in an attempt to find out what is underground before a crew digs.

The city is now using new technology to create a digital blueprint of Chicago’s underground network of sewer, water, electricity, gas, and other services delivered by about 30 different companies. The construction manager will be able to access the data through his or her phone. This effort along with others is being done through a public-private partnership UI Labs (University industry). According to its website the partnership is designed to “address problems too big for any one organization to solve on its own”. The company will create a 3D map of Chicago’s underground infrastructure. It was started last October. UI labs is using a program Cityzenith that has already been used in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and even San Francisco in the US. When completed the digital map could replace the outdated paper maps.

The city is also using technology to map where rodents are likely to be so they can be controlled before complaints start to pour in. It uses reports on where garbage is overflowing, where there are planned sewer repairs and other happenings that are likely to increase the number of rodents. The effort to collect more data on rodent infestation started several years back. Chicago also put tracking devices on all its snowplows so that citizens will know where snowplows are. The city also has GPS in every bus that provides the city not only with information about the arrival time of buses but also allows the city to estimate where there will be traffic congestion.

Chicago is also to introduce free wifi described as follows: “The new internet kiosks coming soon to downtown Chicago will be way bigger than the iPad-sized screens dotting New York — they’ll be 55-inch touchscreens, the project’s developer says. As part of a AT&T Smart Cities pilot in Chicago, Civiq Smartscapes will install five interactive Civiq Waypoint touchscreen kiosks on Michigan Avenue and in other locations downtown.” While the kiosks will provide free Wi-Fi, the screens will also provide information about attractions, activities, and points of interest. Some analysts have criticized the system as discussed in this article. George Burciaga who is managing director of global development at Civiq Smartscapes said: “It’s geared to instigate citizen engagement. We’re providing a device that connects people with different services and information.” The appended video discusses other aspects of Chicago’s use of new technology and data collection.

Chicago is hosting a Smart Cities Summit Conference on October 16, and 17th this year. The agenda can be found here.

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