The Internet of Things in Action

This blog post is by Glynis Startz — Smart Chicago’s Harvard Ash Center Summer Fellow. Glynis is assisting with Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement work, among other smart cities-focused projects. Glynis is a Master in Public Policy Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

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Last month Smart Chicago wrote about civic engagement and the Internet of Things in Aberdeen, Scotland. Given the conversations & questions at the public meetings for the Array of Things project, we wanted to explore and share some examples of the Internet of Things (IoT) around the world.

IoT is defined as

“the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.”

Unless you work in technology or ‘Smart Cities’ it can be difficult to mentally translate the concept of the IoT to the reality. Imagining how the Internet of Things will affect the way your city is run, or how you interact with the government or your environment, is hard without some reference points. Here are a couple of ways the Internet of Things is currently being used, and how it has affected citizens and cities.

IoT in our backyard

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If you live in Chicago (or in hundreds of other places), you’re throwing your trash into the IoT. Smart waste removal is intended to save money and keep things cleaner through better timed trash pickups. The solar powered Bigbelly trash compactors the city has used since 2011 are one of the most visible examples of the IoT in action. Bigbelly trash cans send information back to a hub about how full they are, and indicate when they need to be emptied. Philadelphia was an early adopter of the now ubiquitous cans, and reported savings of around $900,000 in the first year. (The program isn’t without its critics, of course, with reports of overflowing cans in some areas and the usual complaints about graffiti.)

IoT far, far away

Some cities have started weaving together multiple IoT applications, creating what is often referred to as a network of networks. Laura Adler has written an article on Barcelona’s network of networks on the Ash Center blog. The city has long had an extensive network of fiber optic cable which it has used “to build out individual IoT systems across urban services.” Now, the Internet of Things is embedded in energy consumption, waste management, and transportation.

There are two distinct types of IoT applications to explore in Barcelona: ones in which citizens interact directly with technology (either their own or the city’s), and ones in which technology facilitates some government process, improving it before citizens enter the equation.

The first type includes projects like interactive bus stops to help travelers plan their routes, and a public parking pay app. ApparkB lets residents use their smartphones to pay for public parking in the city, utilizing GPS to limit the number of people who have to use traditional parking meters. IoT applications in this mold often seem like first generation tests at this point. They conform more closely to what many people think of as ‘smart’, but at this point still seem like fun toys or conveniences instead of things being built into the architecture of governance.

Projects in Barcelona that are more tied into the city’s fundamental structure are the second type of IoT applications, which operate behind the scenes. Traffic lights interact with emergency vehicles, clearing their path to an incident, which decreases response times and traffic incidents. Barcelona also uses sensors in irrigation systems to save money and water across the city. Sensors monitor and control the output of water in public spaces by evaluating data on weather, rainwater, evaporation, and drainage.

Where do we go from here?

Waste management and irrigation might seem mundane, but the most functional examples of the IoT are often the least “sexy.” They’re the ones that let citizens keep living their lives the way they did before: smoothing the rough patches off daily actions or optimizing government actions to lower costs. IoT and Smart Cities are often sold as complete reinventions of The City as we know it, and the relatively unobtrusive applications we see today can be a letdown, but implementations that promise to entirely change the way residents live or move just haven’t manifested yet. From the unfinished Smart Cities in South Korea and China, to a 50 million dollar competition for redesigning transportation in a US city, transformative smart city projects are still possibly years or decades down the road.

It seems that the more transformative a technology promises to be, the more skeptical we as citizens should be. Balancing academic and practical goals within a single implementation is a difficult task. It’s much easier to imagine what researchers will do with granular ecosystem data than imagine how those granular ecosystem data will immediately impact residents. Benefits of academic research are diffuse and long term. Conversely, projects that provide short run cost savings for a city don’t necessarily create the type of data researchers need to answer academic questions. This doesn’t mean the IoT can’t create value in both of these categories, just that residents should be wary about promises of new technology being everything to everyone right away. There’s a great deal of potential value in smart city technology and the IoT, but the type or timing of that value may look very different depending on the project.

Ways Residents Can Give Feedback on the Array of Things Governance & Privacy Policy

ArrayofThingsLogo-smallToday the draft Array of Things Governance & Privacy Policy was released. The policy discloses the privacy principles and practices for Array of Things and defines how decisions about the program are made. Residents can comment on this draft policy from June 13, 2016 to June 27, 2016. This blog post takes inventory of each way residents can contribute their voices to the draft Governance & Privacy Policy.

Annotate the Governance & Privacy Policy Using Madison

The text of the draft Governance & Privacy Policy is posted here on the OpenGov Foundation’s Madison Platform. Using Madison, residents can edit and annotate specific sections and language of the policy. Using this co-creation web tool aligns with Smart Chicago civic engagement model & goals.

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See this video to get more information on how to sign up for and use Madison:

Comment on the Policy Using this Online Form

In addition to or instead of using Madison, residents are invited to submit comments and questions on the policy through this form also below:

Attend a Public Meeting

To learn more about the Array of Things and give feedback on the Governance & Privacy policy in person, all are invited to the scheduled public meetings:

Food will be served. Smart Chicago documenters will record, archive, and share the proceedings from these meetings.

 

Smart Chicago will synthesize and analyze residents’ comments from Madison, the online form, and the public meetings. We seek to facilitate a process where smart city infrastructure like the Array of Things is built for and with everyone. We want to spur a conversation about data, sensors, privacy, and the Internet of Things and how these innovations can be put in service to the people of Chicago.

Find all of the background information, writing, and work for Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement work on here.

Announcing the June 22nd Array of Things Public Meeting at Harold Washington Library

As part of Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement Work, we’re hosting an event in in the Loop on Wednesday, June 22, 2016:

Event: Array of Things Public Meeting

Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Time: 5:30pm – 7pm

Location: 400 S State St. – Harold Washington LibraryThe meeting will take place in the Lower Level Multi-Purpose Rooms A&B of Harold Washington Library. Directions to the Lower Level Multi-Purpose Rooms A&B: From the main entrance on State St., enter the Library and walk toward the main atrium. Turn left down a hallway and and follow the sign for the escalator to go downstairs. Go down the escalator and look for signs guiding you to the room.

There will be food catered by Corner Bakery – assorted sandwiches, salad, fruit, cookies, chips, and beverages

The Array of Things project is a collection of multi-purpose sensors that will collect data about the livability factors in our city like air quality, noise pollution, and flooding. These data will fuel new research about Chicago neighborhoods. This is an open meeting. Everyone is invited. No knowledge of technology or sensors is required to be a welcome, meaningful addition to the event.

Here is the flyer for this meeting:

The purpose of the Array of Things Public Meetings is educate the public on the Array of Things project and help facilitate community feedback on the Array of Things Privacy & Governance policy. You can read more about our goals and model for this work in this blog post.

If you are interested in attending the Array of Things Public Meetings or would like to receive more information about the Governance & Privacy Policy, please fill out this form:

Fill out my online form.

Announcing the June 14th Array of Things Public Meeting at Lozano Library

As part of Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement Work, we’re hosting an event in in Pilsen on Tuesday, June 14, 2016:

Event: Array of Things Public Meeting

Date: Tuesday, June 14. 2016

Time: 5:30pm – 7pm

Location: 1805 S Loomis St. – Lozano Library

The Array of Things project is a collection of multi-purpose sensors that will collect data about the livability factors in our city like air quality, noise pollution, and flooding. These data will fuel new research about Chicago neighborhoods. This is an open meeting. Everyone is invited. No knowledge of technology or sensors is required to be a welcome, meaningful addition to the event.

Here is the flyer for this meeting:

The purpose of the Array of Things Public Meetings is educate the public on the Array of Things project and help facilitate community feedback on the Array of Things Privacy & Governance policy. You can read more about our goals and model for this work in this blog post.

If you are interested in attending the Array of Things Public Meetings or would like to receive more information about the Governance & Privacy Policy, please fill out this form:

Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement Goals & Model

Smart Chicago has committed to educate and engage residents with the new Array of Things project, which is operated by the Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) — a research initiative of the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory — also in partnership with the City. This engagement work aligns with our guiding principles. We want to facilitate a conversation in Chicago about data, sensors, the Internet of Things, and how we can put these things in service to the people.

Put simply, it’s Smart Chicago’s job to make sure that the public knows about this project and that any resident who has questions or input is heard.

Array of Things is an urban sensing project — one of the first of this kind and scale. Sensors will be placed across the city to measure livability factors like climate, pedestrian traffic, air quality, and flooding. The sensors will collect data about our city. That data will then be released publically for residents and researchers to interpret and use.

Smart Chicago Engagement Goals

The first goal is to build citywide awareness around Array of Things. We’ll do this through writing, convening, polling, and otherwise communicating with residents.

The second goal is to aid the operators of Array of Things in their research and community needs. Here’s how we describe that work on our project page:

Specifically, we’re going to work together in the design and implementation stages of Array of Things to consider the general public’s use cases for the network and creating applications relevant to everyday life in Chicago. The main thrust of our work will be to design and implement a strategic plan to inform and engage the public in the deployment and utilization of AoT.

The third goal is to aid the City of Chicago in gathering input on the governance and privacy policy for Array of Things. A draft of this policy will be released in mid-June and a two-week public comment period will follow. This governance and privacy policy was developed in cooperation between the operators of the Array of Things and the City, with input provided by an independent policy board including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research.

Managing feedback on the governance & privacy policy

Several methods will be used to collect resident feedback on the policy: public meetings, online forms, and Madison.

The OpenGov Foundation’s tool Madison is a government policy co-creation platform that collects public edits on policy or legislation. Here is how the OpenGov Foundation describes Madison:

Madison is a government policy co-creation platform that opens up laws and legislation previously off-limits to individuals and the Internet community. Launched to battle the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), it has since been used to power citizen participation in government policymaking in the United States Congress. With Madison, you can access the law as it’s being written, leave comments, annotate specific content, and interact with other civic-minded participants. Madison brings the lawmaking process straight to you, and gives you a say in your government’s decisions.

During the public comment period for the Array of Things governance and privacy policy, the text of the policy will be posted on Madison. Interested Chicagoans will be able to sign on to Madison to annotate, comment on, or support the text.

Public meetings to learn, engage, and share

Smart Chicago will host public meetings in which residents can learn about Array of Things from the project’s operators, ask questions, and provide input through polling and community discussion.

These public meetings will have several components:

  • A presentation on Array of Things from the project’s operators
  • Community discussion and Q&A
  • Resources for further action. We will have Laptops set up for residents to see the Array of Things website and provide feedback on the Array of Things governance and privacy policy

We will also have people working through our documenter program to record, archive, and share the proceedings.

We are holding two community meetings during June. The first will be at Lozano Library on Tuesday, June 14th from 5pm to 7pm. The second will be at Harold Washington Library on Wednesday, June 22nd from 5:30pm to 7pm. More details on those events will follow on the Smart Chicago blog.

If you would like to attend a public meeting or stay updated on the governance and privacy policy, fill out this form:

Resident Engagement with the Internet of Things: The Case of Aberdeen

At Smart Chicago, we’re developing methods for resident engagement with the Internet of Things. This year, I will be leading a series of activities and events that will bridge the current gap between the urban sensors measuring our city and the people who live in the city. We believe that ‘smart city’ technology should benefit and be informed by the public and that we should work towards a smart city that truly works for everyone.

Fortunately, there is a framework in place to build on from the UK. On April 28, 2016, Professor Pete Edwards and Caitlin Cottrill from the University of Aberdeen presented at the University of Chicago Convening on Urban Data Science. Their project in Aberdeen is called “Trusted Things & Communities: Understanding & Enabling A Trusted IoT Ecosystem.” The goal of the project is to create a community-based approach to building trust into the Internet of Things (think: networked sensors gathering data).

At the 2016 Convening on Urban Data Science at the University of Chicago, Dr. Cottrill from the University of Aberdeen discussed privacy and the Internet of Things

Presenters from Aberdeen emphasized the importance of authentic engagement to a trusted ‘smart city.’ The text from the slide above is an excerpt from “The Internet of Things: Making the Most of the Second Digital Revolution” by the UK Government Office for Science and created context for the conversation:

“There are more connected objects than people on the planet. The networks and data that flow from them will support an extraordinary range of applications and economic opportunities. However, as with any new technology, there is the potential for significant challenges, too. In the case of the Internet of Things, breaches of security and privacy have the greatest potential for causing them.”

The “Trusted Things” Project in Aberdeen

IMG_7034 smallThe “Trusted Things” project in Aberdeen aims to inform and engage residents on the public value, governance, and privacy implications of a local Internet of Things project.  It focused primarily on the Tillydrone district of Aberdeen.

Here is a summary of the questions of interest and main goals of the “Trust Things” project from the original grant description:

What are the appropriate governance arrangements covering IoT deployments? How do we deliver meaningful accountability? How can we develop an understanding of the interplay between individuals and devices, and the wider relationship to social/cultural norms? What are the attitudes of citizens and communities to privacy and risk in an IoT context? How should risks and benefits be communicated? How do users make informed decisions to judge the trustworthiness of information?

Answers to these (and the many other questions that will certainly emerge) will lead us to develop prototype solutions that will be evaluated with members of the Tillydrone community. Our ambition is to create a means by which a user can review the characteristics of an IoT device in terms of its impact on their personal data, answering questions such as: What type of data is it capturing? For what purpose? Who sees it? What are the (potential) benefits and risks? They also should be able to exert a degree of control over their data, and be guided to assess its reliability and accuracy.

To find out what residents want from urban sensors, ask them

Professor Pete Edwards remarked how, when asked “Do you Trust the Internet of Things?”, the natural response of residents was, “What is the Internet of Things?”. The “Trusted Things” approach, therefore, checked assumptions about residents’ knowledge, opinions, and priorities by simply engaging with them — talking to real people about a complex, but important piece of urban technology.

From the experience of the “Trusted Things” project, here is an inventory of all of the information and control requested by the public from their local sensors:

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People want to know who is using data and for what end. They want to know who controls the devices and who controls the data. People want access to the data and potentially to interact with the resulting data. They feel they have the right to change the devices and data’s behavior. Residents also believe that the they deserve notice of changes in the sensors’ capabilities or data gathering processes.

An example of a resident connection with the Internet of Things? In Aberdeen, there are sensor-enabled bus stops that citizens can interact with on their mobile devices. The mobile app tells interested residents what the sensor is doing, what it’s measuring, and what that bus system data will become.

Privacy & the Internet of Things

IMG_7030 smallProfessor Caitlin Cottrill overviewed the privacy concerns and governance issues surrounding sensor devices in the Internet of Things.

Cotrill pointed out that the Internet of Things is inherently different than other forms of data collection residents might be familiar with. Why? Sensor data isn’t static like census data. Instead, it’s spatially and temporarily detailed. Becauses these devices collect data continuously and always in the same specific place, these data have the potential to point to more sophisticated information: habits, routines, and health indicators, for instance. If the sensors happen to be capable of collecting personally identifiable data, privacy is a potential public cost.

This threat is why “privacy by design” is embraced. “Privacy by design” simply means that personal privacy is considered throughout the development of an Internet of Things project. Privacy is an ongoing concern that shapes the planning, building, engagement, and deployment or an urban sensor. Privacy isn’t an afterthought.

Cotrill also explained that it was a best practice for the creators and collectors of data to write and share an official privacy policy. It is also customary to publish governance or administrative procedures that surround the collection and sharing of sensor data.

To read more about privacy principles surrounding smart city technologies, see “Privacy by Design: 7 Foundational Principles,” developed by Ann Cavoukian, the former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada.

Chicagoans & the Internet of Things

ArrayofThingsLogo-smallLast week, the Chicago Tribune wrote two stories about the Array of Things project — an urban sensing project operated out the the University of Chicago Urban Center for Computation & Data and Argonne National Laboratory. Both stories raised issues of privacy and resident engagement.

The first, “Array of Things sensor network to be installed in the Loop this summer” overviewed the new timeline for deploying the sensors in the Loop this year. It also referenced the Array of Things privacy policy to be released in mid-May — a policy collaboratively created by the City of Chicago, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Smart Chicago, and several other partners. The second article, “Chicago seeking ‘smart city’ tech solutions to improve city life,” echoed privacy concerns:

But already the city’s nascent efforts to collect environmental data are sparking concerns about further erosion of individual privacy in a city already outfitted with police cameras, red light cameras, in-store cameras and public transit cameras. And, perhaps most critically, some observers question whether the collection and analysis of data will lead to meaningful improvements to urban life, as advocates suggest, or just enrich big tech vendors.

These concerns make authentic, inclusive resident engagement and the lessons from Aberdeen all the more relevant for Chicago. If the University of Aberdeen case recommended one central idea, it was this: community-based and community-centered dialogue is a key ingredient to implementation.

To read background on the Array of Things urban sensing project go to this website. To read more about Smart Chicago’s civic engagement work in Array of Things, visit our project page.