Release of the Array of Things Civic Engagement Report

On August 15th, Array of Things released the final version of the project’s governance and privacy policies as well as responses to public feedback collected in June through the Array of Things Civic Engagement Project.  Alongside this release, Smart Chicago shared The Array of Things Civic Engagement Report.

Here is an excerpt outlining the purpose and content of the Report:

As smart cities embrace and deploy innovative technology embedded in public spaces, residents voices need to be represented. To prevent disconnect between residents and their city’s technology, broad engagement is key — not only to inform residents of innovations, but to take inventory of public concerns and questions associated with them.

The purpose of this report is to describe the civic engagement and resident feedback collection process associated with a new Internet of Things (IoT) initiative in Chicago: The Array of Things. This report outlines the methods, decisions, and philosophies that went into this effort to increase Chicagoans’ engagement and involvement with smart city technology. Since the deployment of Internet of Things is so timely for cities around the world, we’ve shared the lessons we gleaned from our work. We hope this information can be of service to similar projects in other cities.  

This civic engagement work was accomplished alongside Array of Things operator UrbanCCD as well as the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation & Technology. Smart Chicago’s Documenters played a key role in promoting and recording public meetings. Additional partners who participated include the Chicago Public Library (CPL), The OpenGov Foundation and the Harvard Ash Center for Democratic Governance & Innovation. CPL provided welcoming community spaces to host public meetings, the OpenGov Foundation worked with us as we utilized Madison to collect resident feedback, and our graduate fellow from the Harvard Ash Center, Glynis Startz, helped execute and write about this work.

The Internet of Things and the data which will emerge from it have great potential to advance research and community priorities. Involving residents in these projects early and regularly ensures that technology is relevant, not just innovative.

Smart Chicago continues to seek new ways to engage residents with emerging urban technologies. As we do, we are committed to writing about and sharing our successes, challenges, and best practices. If you have questions about this report, please contact us.


Array of Things Final Governance & Privacy Policies Released

Today, the Array of Things project released its final governance and privacy policies. The Array of Things website now houses the final policies as well as answers to public feedback from the project’s operators.

ArrayofThingsLogo-smallArray of Things is a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes that will be installed around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. The Array of Things project is led by Charlie Catlett and researchers from the Urban Center for Computation and Data of the Computation Institute, a joint initiative of Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago.The governance and privacy policies for this urban sensing project were shaped by the comments and questions collected during the civic engagement period in June.

There are 3 online forms you can fill out to get involved or receive news on Array of Things:

  • If you’re interested in becoming a research partner for Array of Things, fill out this form from the Array of Things operators.
  • If you’re interested in suggesting ideas for the Array of Things project, including new locations for sensors, fill out this form from the Array of Things Operators.
  • If you’re interested in receiving general news and updates about the Array of Things policies and civic engagement, fill out this Smart Chicago form.


Youth-Led Tech Career Days 2016

This year the Youth-Led Tech program developed targeted Career Days and a Career Development Day. These two programs were designed and integrated into the 6-week technology curriculum to introduce youth to careers both technical and non technical, as well as assist them in beginning to think more strategically and concretely about how to secure employment.

The Youth-Led curriculum is fluid enough to allow for the inclusion of speakers three times during the six-week program and a full day with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD. Students were visited by several local professionals who shared their stories at each site in the community they selected.

Our Roseland Community sites were visited by Jeffrey Beckham the owner of Black Box Creative during the first Career Day held July 7, 2016.

Special guest is here at Dr. Elzie Young Community Center

David Wilkins owner of Rally Cap and Divine Designs visited with our Austin students.

RallyCap at career Day

Jazelle Smith rounded out the first wave of entrepreneurs for the first Career Day.

Jazelle Career Day

The second and third Career Days were held July 21st and July 28th.

Our special guest was Dr. Philips West _D

The second component to the workforce readiness program, “How to Develop a Career Plan 101” with Dr. Phyllis West, PhD focused on “developing a personalized career plan and an overview of strategies of successful people.”  The workshop introduced students to the fundamentals of career planning, helped identify their interests and career goals and learn the trends of the fastest growing careers in America.


Systematizing Privacy and Governance of Data and the Internet of Things

This blog post was originally published on Data-Smart City Solutions and 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.

As cities begin to see big data as an essential part of governing, more are examining and formalizing their handling of data, and of the Internet of Things (IoT) in particular. There is a growing expectation that governments deal with data in a systematic way and embrace responsibilities beyond encryption of personally identifiable information (PII). As an Ash Center Summer Fellow at the Smart Chicago Collaborative, I’ve had the opportunity to witness Chicago’s process before the deployment of the Array of Things. As feedback rolled in on the Array of Things Governance and Privacy Policy, it seemed an ideal time to explore how other cities have dealt with this issue in comparison, and the direction or directions in which the conversation is moving. Recent examples include Seattle’s Technology Privacy Policy and New York City’s Internet of Things Privacy Policy.

In late 2013, in response to resident concerns over several public failures of data transparency, Seattle launched the City’s Privacy Initiative. According to CTO Michael Mattmiller, its goal was “driv[ing] consistency across the city” and helping departments evaluate their data handling and governance on a project by project basis. Seattle Information Technology led the process by creating a Privacy Advisory Committee of local experts and academics from the University of Washington. The effort culminated in the adoption of six Privacy Principles as City Council Resolution 31570 and a Privacy Policy directing city departments to follow a more in depth Privacy Statement. The principles outlined in the document are 1. We value your privacy; 2. We collect only what we need; 3. How we use your information; 4. We are accountable; 5. How we share your information; and 6. Accuracy is important.  

Approaches in Seattle & New York City

Instead of focusing on creating a set of static requirements, Seattle created a process which forces individuals and departments to fully to think through the implications of their data related actions for individual projects. Staff must consider these privacy principles when creating a new service, as well as create a privacy impact assessment for new technologies. The choice to structure the privacy policy in this way both requires and relies on future care, effort, and thoughtfulness of employees across the city.

New York City’s Internet of Things privacy document, which deals only with the governance of IoT data, is longer and more specific, but sets forth similar principles. There are a number of issues—surveillance, transparency—which are significantly more salient with the sensors required by IoT, but there are many common themes between the two policies. NYC lists their principles as 1. Privacy and Transparency; 2. Data management; 3. Infrastructure; 4. Security; and 5. Operations and Sustainability.

The Seattle and New York City approaches focus on establishing the spirit of the law rather than specific requirements which can be followed to the letter. There are positives and negatives to this approach, which puts the impetus on employees to react to specific situations. This could mean more tailored, sensible approaches to different technology projects, but it also forces citizens to rely on the city government to accurately evaluate each circumstance. That could be difficult for employees to manage and difficult for residents to check. In these policies is the assumption of basic trust in government to follow the spirit of the law when the letter is absent.

Trading less information for more privacy

Both Seattle’s and New York City’s approaches imply that privacy and governance start before the data hit the city servers. They emphasize not just careful handling of data, but also transparency, openness, and careful deliberation surrounding data collection. I believe it is the attention to data collection that really indicates a new level of maturity in technology or data initiatives in cities. It recognizes that cities that hold data have a responsibility to keep it secure. Some could argue that the technical ability to safeguard data has not grown as quickly as the ability to collect large amounts of data inexpensively. This issue is particularly relevant in regard to IoT devices which generally have the ability to gather almost continuous measures. For cities, the decision becomes less about how much data it wants to collect and more about about how much data it will discard.

Growth in the Internet of Things means cities open themselves up to new innovations, but also to a tempting, but potentially dangerous approach to data collection: ‘if we can get it, we may as well’ could create difficult questions about requirements for maintaining data, opening data up to the public, and keeping data secure. The ability to capture large amounts of data easily and cheaply is both a boon and a possible danger for local governments.

Both Seattle and NYC have a framework for thoughtful decision making about information collection. New York in particular requires data collection in projects be designed toward specific purposes and addressing specific problems. The importance of these policies rests on a couple of assumptions: that residents give up privacy when their data are collected, even if those data are not technically Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and that the only way for data to be truly protected is for data not to be collected in the first place. I think these are both valid assumptions, though ones that should be weighed against the value of these data collected, or, more importantly, the potential value of these data not collected. This move to push departments to think through all the future implications of data collection is an important step in the maturation of tech in government.

There are drawbacks to being selective in data collection. It’s not always clear ex ante what data will be the most valuable. Valuable research can be done with data that were collected but never used. Requiring exacting rationales for data collection risks losing the possibility for some of those discoveries, particularly as it becomes easier to facilitate discovery and use of government collected data. In some ways this was a main premise of the early open data movement–cities had data they weren’t using and didn’t necessarily know what to do with, and they put it online for transparency’s sake, but also with the expectation that citizens would make use of it in new and surprising ways.

What’s next for privacy policies?

It seems likely that more and more local governments will be coming out with privacy and governance policies for their data in the coming years — both general policies (like in New York City & Seattle) or project-tailored policies (like in Chicago). Larger cities may follow the path of New York and create ones dealing solely with the IoT, but it is less clear what form these policies will take. There are clearly trade-offs between specificity, clarity, and freedom. Structural decisions may come down to who the policies are designed for, residents or experts, and how much cities are willing to hem themselves in. I’m not sure there’s a correct answer here, but I absolutely think these are questions every city should be sure they’ve asked themselves before writing a policy.

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The proper design of a data governance policy may look very different in different cities. Large cities with significant internal resources and expertise may be more able to put forth generalist policies which put the impetus on departments to make specific decisions. Small cities, on the other hand, may not feel they have the ability to leave the process ad hoc and must instead mandate a one size fits all policy. Pushing the other direction, however, small cities may have more freedom to allow individual deviation because of their less bureaucratic structures, while larger cities have less of an ability to make certain the spirit of non-specific policies are being adhered to.

As more cities create policies, and hopefully engage with residents around them, more insight can be gained about what citizens want and expect from their government in this area. What level of specificity do they require? How much trust do they have in government to do the right thing and how much do they require continued oversight? How do residents view the trade-off between privacy and data use?

Prioritizing Resident Engagement When Implementing the Internet of Things

This blog post was originally published on Data-Smart City Solutions and 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.

The Array of Things Public Meeting at Lozano Public Library | June 14, 2016

The Array of Things Public Meeting at Lozano Public Library | June 14, 2016

This summer the Smart Chicago Collaborative is working with the City of Chicago and the operators of the Array of Things urban sensing project to engage with residents broadly and gather feedback on the project’s Governance and Privacy Policy. This project was recently mentioned in an article by Stephen Goldsmith about implementing Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives. In it, he recommended that cities consider five key themes:

  1. Leverage existing physical infrastructure
  2. Engage the local data ecosystem (ie partner with local researchers or non-profits)
  3. Employ a clear data management strategy
  4. Address security and privacy concerns with transparency
  5. Turn collected data into action

These five points are important technical aspects of a successful IoT initiative, but it’s also important to consider non-technical themes of IoT work. One less highlighted theme vital to IoT reaching it’s full potential in a city: engaging residents early and often.

Engaging with residents to see what they need, and designing projects that reflect that feedback, is necessary and useful. Effective engagement can provide valuable information to improve the implementation of an IoT project, in addition to easing resident objections or concerns.

Why Engagement Matters for Everyone

Engaging with residents is traditionally thought of as a way to gather and maintain local support for a project, but it can also enable implementers to take advantage of unknown neighborhood (institutional) knowledge to make a project more effective. We often see transparency and engagement as a chore–a political requirement instead of something which has more direct and functional value.  

Governmental or academic implementers sometimes underestimate residents and their genuine interest in innovative projects. There is a tendency to assume residents don’t want to engage in the complexities of a problem, and that it is therefore better for the project heads to go ahead and do what they’ve determined is right, but this undersells the commitment and sophistication of many citizens. Because IoT applications almost always touch on data and sensors, engagement involves privacy issues and can seem particularly scary. There are a few predictable reactions to open discussion of these issues which can put anyone off having that talk, but it’s a mistake to assume you know how the majority of residents will react.

A good example of this is the discussion that was reported around an IoT transportation project in Aberdeen. Researchers were concerned about data anonymity because of the low population of the project area, but when residents were brought into the discussion they felt the utility they gained from the project (improved tracking of bus arrival times) made that cost worthwhile.

Learning from Engaging

With that underestimation comes an undervaluing of the feedback residents can provide. There are vast reservoirs of relatively untapped institutional knowledge about neighborhoods or cities in residents’ minds. The more feedback you open yourself up to, and the more time you spend answering questions and listening, the more useful information you can gather. Sometimes you’ll learn things you didn’t know you didn’t know.


Brenna Berman and Charlie Catlett overview the Array of Things governance & privacy policies at a public meeting | June 22, 2016

The importance of engaging residents around civic technology more generally is something the Smart Chicago Collaborative has been grappling with for several years. The Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup), a community of residents in Chicago and all of Cook County who get paid to test out civic websites and apps, is one example of direct resident engagement with technology tools. Smart Chicago’s Array of Things Civic Engagement work could be considered an extension of that purpose — directly engaging Chicago residents in shaping technology projects and policies, rather than a tool. By acknowledging that there are some things best learnt from residents and users, these initiatives use civic engagement to improve technology and service delivery in Chicago.

Engagement around the Array of Things project recognizes the potential value of that input. In addition to gathering feedback about privacy concerns, events were a chance for residents to air concerns and ask clarifying questions about data, privacy, and governance, but they also became a forum for researchers to learn what new information residents could provide about their environment, and increase their involvement. Researchers would do well to follow up and continue to learn.

The engagement meeting referenced the historical and contextual knowledge of the area residents could provide, and which researchers may want to draw on when choosing sensor locations. For example, Charlie Catlett told attendees at the Lozano Library Public Meeting that they could influence the exact placement of sensors if there were reasons the Array of Things team didn’t know about or hadn’t thought of. Residents of every neighborhood are likely to have superior information about precisely where various aspects of their ecosystem can best be evaluated.

Engage or Inform

When we’re talking about civic engagement, it’s very important not to confuse informing with engaging. Helping residents understand the project is different from, but a necessary precursor to, collecting targeted feedback about the project and what aspects are useful or not to residents. If a project isn’t willing to be responsive to that feedback, they are informing, not engaging.

I think interaction with citizens in the data and open government sector can be split into three levels. The first level is technical transparency. This is creating an open data portal or putting the text of some policy up online. Technical transparency allows an organization to say they are being open without actively reaching out to citizens. The second level is informing–explaining to citizens what you’re doing while you’re doing it. This goes further than technical transparency in that it requires at least some attempt to curate open information for citizens, but it doesn’t require an explicit feedback loop. The third level is engagement, taking the time not only to inform residents, but to listen to and react to their questions, concerns, and desires. Engagement is the hardest to do well, and the most time consuming, but it can also provide the most value added for everyone involved.

A city or project should decide which of the three levels of interaction is appropriate and manageable. This may depend on the magnitude of privacy concerns or likely impacts on residents, on the potential malleability of the project, and on whether the design of the project makes local knowledge potentially valuable. For some IoT implementations, especially ones testing specific hypotheses, some aspects of the project may not be open to change. To measure the lake effect, for instance, Array of Things may need sensors set up in a certain formation. Sometimes simple informing is ok, and sometimes it’s not.

To capture the full value of the IoT, cities must not only “integrate it into existing data strategies” as Goldsmith points out, but integrate it into the existing social and cultural structures as well.

A resident snaps a picture of an Array of Things sensor at a public meeting | June 22, 2016

A resident snaps a picture of an Array of Things sensor at a public meeting | June 22, 2016

Smart Chicago Congratulates Envision Chicago Student Scholarship Winners

envision_logoOn July 20th, 4 Chicago public high school students were honored with a commemorative resolution at the Chicago City Council Meeting. These students were the winners of the Envision Chicago pilot program and each was awarded a  $1,000 scholarship for proposing improvements to city laws.

Envision Chicago, a project of  the OpenGov Foundation in collaboration with the City Clerk, challenged youth in participating schools — the Marine Leadership Academy, Chicago Excel Academy of Rosalind, Taft High School, and Lake View High School — to propose ways to change laws and improve lives in Chicago.

Read more about Envision Chicago winners in this OpenGov Foundation Press Release. Here is an excerpt:

It’s clear that when government meets students on their terms, and respects their voices, great things can happen. These students learned positive engagement practices on a user ­friendly website of the Chicago Municipal Code and 86 students dove in, discovered laws covering issues they cared about and shared their ideas.

Here is a glimpse at the social media from the day:

Smart Chicago was pleased to sponsor this pilot initiative along with Microsoft Chicago, Comcast, ComEd, and Haymarket. Congratulations to all the youth who participated in this civic project.