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FitBit for Chicago? Windy City Builds 'Fitness Tracker' to Keep its Metropolis in Shape

Aug 31, 2016 04:10 AM EDT
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Chicago, in partnership with researchers at the University of Chicago, Argonne National Library and other companies, has started building what looks like a fitness tracker to check the vitals of the metropolis.

According to a report from USA Today, the first two of the planned 500 modular sensor boxes were installed last week. The said device will allow the public and the city to get information about the current noise level, air quality and traffic in surrounding areas.

Apart from the above mentioned, it can also measure barometric pressure, surface and air temperature, vibration, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, etc. The beehive-looking device will be installed in light posts fitted with two cameras for data collection.

“It will be viewed as a utility -- the same way view our street lights and the way we view our buses. They are there for us and they help us get through the city more easily. They are just part of our everyday life," said Chicago’s chief information officer Brenna Berman.

The pioneer project called Array of Things is backed by a $3.1 million grant from the National Science Founation. Berman explains that they aim to embed this system or "fitness tracker" to Chicago residents, resulting to new services and policies in five years' time.

“What it means for the city is if we know there are pockets of poor air, we can work with environmentalists and community groups to improve air quality in those areas of the city that need that focus," Berman explained.

FOX 32 notes that despite the promise of the new technology, there has been a slight public concern with regard to privacy, but majority of the locals support it.

"We're all being watched one way or another so I have no problem with it,” one city resident told the outlet.

The data from the sensors could be accessed not only by scientists and other institutions but the public as well to improve the quality of life in the area. There are currently 50 sensors being installed on light poles, and completion of installation is targeted by 2018.

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