A walk through connected Chicago

Last week, I attended the IoT World Forum in Chicago aimed to further promote the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT). The event provided many case studies and best practices presented by practitioners and innovators from business, government, and academia.

With Chicago being my hometown, I was excited to experience first-hand how the city’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel intends to “make Chicago one of the most connected cities in the world” and participated in a “Smart City Walking Tour”. A few of my highlights were:

  • Smart intersection: Air-quality and traffic sensors capture data to notify approaching vehicles of potentially dangerous situations.
  • Connected traffic signal: Signal controllers offer remote real-time monitoring and control of the active phases at the intersection.
  • City WiFi: A city network that connects sensors and actuators with a central operations center and with city personnel.
  • Connected street lights: Smart nodes enable power to all poles and provide network control over equipment including remote on/off, dimming, energy monitoring, etc.
  • Connected buses and shelters: Telemetric information sent by each bus to predict arrival times at each station.
  • Connected trash compactor: Solar-powered trash compactors that draw their power from sunlight to compact trash. When full, the cans send a signal to the Sanitation Department.
  • Connected retail experience: An app allows pedestrians to receive location-appropriate information as they walk through the city.
  • Chicago police command vehicles: Mobile command and control posts integrated with public safety and communications technology infrastructure for increased flexibility in onsite police presence.

It was interesting to see how many projects have already been implemented in Chicago. I actually live in an IoT showcase; that’s pretty cool! Not all participants of the tour seemed to share my excitement; some expressed their concerns about the loss of privacy that comes with sensors and cameras being installed all over the city. I get it and I don’t. Sure, does it feel comforting that the city can track actions of its citizens? Maybe just a little bit. But we are already being watched constantly; street cameras, phones and credit cards are providing real-time data to prevent criminal activity. If an increased level of monitoring improves sustainable living, public safety and mobility, I take the potential loss of privacy.

The connected city movement will undoubtedly continue to gain momentum. It’s only a matter of time until additional cities turn into IoT ecosystems. Until then, I say: Embrace the infinite possibilities of the IoT for your city!  


About the author

Christina Grün

Christina Grün

I studied International Marketing in Germany and France and moved after my graduation to Chicago to join Bosch Software Innovations’ marketing team. Since then, I have been managing our US marketing activities for a variety of industry verticals.