Big data and its purported utility comes with the attendant need to actually collect that data in the first place, meaning an increase of sensing devices being attached to all manner of things. That includes treating many everyday things, from skyscrapers to human beings, as sensors themselves. When it comes to the urban environment, data on air quality, weather, traffic, and other metrics, is becoming more important than ever. However, in general, the sensors that collect this data are fixed, attached to buildings or found in other stable spots. “They’re good in time, but not in space,” said Kevin O’Keeffe, a postdoc in MIT’s Senseable City Lab, in a release from the university. Airborne sensors such as drones, on the other hand, explained O'Keefe, work well in space, but not in time. To collect greater data that more accurately reflects an entire city—in both space and time—mobile sensors would be needed at street level. Cities already have fleets of mobile devices close to the ground: vehicles. While private cars operate only sporadically, and buses run fixed routes, taxis spend all day and night traversing large swaths of cities. Incidentally, the lab also tried using garbage trucks, but they did not collect as much data as they predicted cabs could. Inexpensive sensors could be attached to taxis to provide researchers and others important data on the on-the-ground status of urban environments. However, to see the viability of this concept, the Senseable City Lab had to first find out just exactly how much ground taxis actually cover. And then, how many sensor-enabled taxis would it take to create an accurate picture of a city's terrain and air quality? By analyzing taxi routes in New York City, researchers discovered that a relatively small number of cars covered a pretty wide territory. It took just ten cabs to cover a third of Manhattan in a single day. And, while one might expect this to be particular to Manhattan and its orderly grid, the researchers also discovered that similar patterns occurred in cities across the world, from Vienna to Singapore. That said, because many taxis travel to similar areas and along high-traffic routes, the number of cabs it takes to cover even greater ground grows quite rapidly. In the case of Manhattan, it takes 30 taxis to cover half the island and over 1,000 to reach 85 percent. To realize the full potential of car-borne sensors, which can reach popular areas as well as underserved ones, O’Keeffe suggested a hybrid approach: placing sensors on taxis along with a few dedicated vehicles, à la Google Street View. The research team hopes that this data will help planners and politicians put together a more realistic idea about how mobile sensing could work in their city, its cost, and potential impacts. The data will also hopefully help cities tailor any mobile sensing projects to their particular needs, and the Senseable City Lab believes that these mobile sensors would be less expensive than traditional options. This research also appears in a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that was co-authored, along with O’Keeffe, by Amin Anjomshoaa, a researcher at the Senseable City Lab; Steven Strogatz, a professor of mathematics at Cornell University; Paolo Santi, a research scientist at the Senseable City Lab and the Institute of Informatics and Telematics of CNR in Pisa, Italy; and Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab and professor of the practice in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Curious urbanites can check out the accompanying maps and infographics on the lab’s website.
Posts tagged with "Buildings Embedded With Sensors":
Self-described “open-source architecture studio” UNStudio is spinning off the tech startup UNSense, which will focus on collecting data from buildings to ultimately improve how people occupy them. UNStudio co-founder and Dutch architect Ben van Berkel has called the move integral to incorporating technology with architecture, and the first step in future-proofing potential new projects. UNStudio is no stranger to futuristic concepts or designs, having built an undulating train station for Arnhem in the Netherlands, proposed a revolutionary new urban-rural farming system, and designed a Zaha-esque cable car system for Gothenburg, Sweden. Now, even though UNSense will be run as a separate sister company, UNStudio will develop “‘hardware’ for the built environment, while UNSense, by contrast, uses very different expertise to develop ‘software’ based applications.” Citing an aim to improve the environment and health of cities through more efficient design, UNSense will focus on using sensors to cut waste, create seamless interaction between the occupants and the building systems, and track air quality. UNSense will be located in its own office at the Freedom Lab Campus tech hub in Amsterdam. While the company was only just formed, it’s hit the ground running with the launch of a power-generating “solar brick” and recommendations for planning sustainable, people-focused cities that learn from the data they’re collecting. “I see a great opportunity as an architect to create buildings and cities that are sensible and sensitive to human beings,” said van Berkel in a statement. “The digital revolution is driving change in every part of our lives, except within the built environment. Now it’s time to catch up with technology.”
Google has awarded an endowment worth half a million dollars to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to build a “living lab” for the search engine giant’s Open Web of Things (OWT) expedition. OWT envisions a world in which access to networked technology is mediated through internet-connected buildings and everyday objects—beyond the screen of a smartphone or computer device.
“A future where we work seamlessly with connected systems, services, devices, and ‘things’ to support work practices, education and daily interactions.” -in a statement by Google’s Open Web of Things.Carnegie Mellon’s enviable task is to become a testing ground for the cheap, ubiquitous sensors, integrated apps, and user-developed tools which Google sees as the key to an integrated machine future. If that sounds like mystical marketing copy, a recent project by CMU’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute sheds light on what a sensor-saturated “smart” city is capable of. The team headed by Anind K. Dey has created apps like Snap2It, which lets users connect to printers and other shared resources by taking photos of the device. Another application, Impromptu, offers relevant, temporary shared apps. For instance, if a sensor detects that you are waiting at a bus stop, you’ll likely be referred to a scheduling app. “The goal of our project will be nothing less than to radically enhance human-to-human and human-to-computer interaction through a large-scale deployment of the Internet of Things (IoT) that ensures privacy, accommodates new features over time, and enables people to readily design applications for their own use,” said Dey, lead investigator of the expedition and director of HCII. To create the living lab, the expedition will saturate the CMU campus with sensors and infrastructure, and recruit students and other campus members to create and use novel IoT apps. Dey plans on building tools that allow users to easily create their own IoT scripts. “An early milestone will include the development of our IoT app store, where any campus member and the larger research community will be able to develop and share an IoT script, action, multiple-sensor feed, or application easily and widely,” Dey said. “Because many novel IoT applications require a critical mass of sensors, CMU will use inexpensive sensors to add IoT capability to ‘dumb’ appliances and environments across the campus.” Researchers at CMU will work with Cornell, Stanford, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop the project, code-named GIoTTo. The premise is that embedded sensors in buildings and everyday objects can be interwoven to create “smart” environments controlled and experienced through interoperable technologies.