We hear a lot lately about all the problems in Chicago. But I’m here to tell you that Chicago is a great and beautiful city with nice people, a World Series winning baseball team, and a great food and entertainment scene.
Of course, if you have any interest at all in Chicago, you probably already know all that. What you may not know, however, is that Chicago is working on an array of smart city initiatives.
For example, digging is underway on city streets, as this CNET video report illustrates. But in this case it’s not just your standard work to address potholes in the road. Instead, workers are stopping traffic so they can create more complete inventories of underground infrastructure such a power, sewer, and water lines.
This five-year effort involves workers taking videos of these assets with their smartphones. That will be used to create 3D maps of what exists under the streets.
That way, workers can avoid severing these lines during future digs. And city planners and their partners will know where additional infrastructure can most easily be added in the years ahead.
This is just one of several initiatives on which Chicago is working with UI Labs, which was established to bring together universities, industry, and civic organizations to drive tech-based economic development in the Midwest.
“City Digital was established in 2015 as UI Labs’ second innovation platform,” the UI Labs website explains. “It uses Chicago as a testbed to develop and deploy new technology focused on improvements in four key areas: buildings and other physical infrastructure, water and sanitation, energy management, and mobility.”
The goal is to take what is learned as part of these efforts to benefit both Chicago and other cities as they work to become smarter and more connected.
UI Labs says Chicago is the first city in the world to stream live data from green infrastructure. They’re employing sensors to show how much water is being diverted from sewers as part of that initiative.
The city and UI Labs also are experimenting with how buildings can more efficiently use power. For example, they can use sensors and heat maps to see if no one is using part of a building at a particular time. If people are not present, building climate control and lighting systems can be programmed to power down.
Speaking of lighting, the partners are just getting ready to power up an effort to make street lights more efficient. The effort will involve connecting new LED lights to the power grid. That will enable the appropriate city agencies to know when street lights are due for replacement.