20th July 2017

What is The Array of Things?

Dr Theo Tryfonas MBCS CITP, FRSA

The Array of Things (AoT) is a network of interactive, modular sensor boxes proposed originally by Argonne National Laboratory to be deployed around Chicago in order to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use.

The open character of the AoT technology allows for a flexible city-scale deployment that can be tailored to our particular environmental needs and concerns.

The AoT concept is also very versatile – it’s not just about air quality, but also measures noise levels, light pollution and perceivably more complex phenomena, depending on hardware/software additions.

Its open architecture approach allows for concentrating on the need first (what to sense) and then think about technology solutions (how to sense it, what sensors etc.).

In this way it helps in engaging citizens in a discourse about city-scale sensing easier and this is in line with Bristol’s ethos in general as a city and region.

In Bristol we will organise a mini-deployment in a controlled space for us to assess the level of any modification that may be required for our locality.

We will then scale that up to a dozen nodes for a wider test deployment and will work with selected partner organisations and citizens across the city to run a larger pilot.

Ultimate ambition is to be able to deploy around 100 nodes, although numbers may vary depending on the pilot outcomes with respect to coverage/modifications etc. as well as any barriers in deployment or other unforeseen factors.

In this venture we are lucky to have the support of the UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities

Bristol is part of its Urban Infrastructure Observatories network and will receive funding for infrastructure/capital expenditure to that effect.

There are some key figures here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/cabot/news/2015/infrastructure-research.html

Part of this funding is intended to support our AoT deployment. The full range of uses of AoT in Bristol will be determined through further exploration.

We’d like for example to investigate the use AoT for flood risk management and so we may have to modify its ‘standard’ camera equipment to that effect.

We also plan to investigate alternative forms of providing power to the nodes, rather than relying on lamppost deployment, so we’ll look into batteries and renewable ways of sustaining the sensing nodes off-grid efficiently.

The outcomes from this collaboration, including open source designs for city sensing instrumentation, will make it possible for the wider UK engineering community (including universities and related industries) to have low cost access to state of art sensing hardware and software.

Access to such infrastructure will enable a host of localised innovation to take place in the form of applications that analyse the collected data to develop insights of key aspects of city life such as levels of pollution, volume of people movements etc.

The benefit for the general public will be:

  • Firstly, the development of the aforementioned innovation such as city sensing and urban apps may improve several aspects of city life (e.g. transportation).
  • Secondly, potential involvement of the public in the manufacturing of the sensing elements will provide opportunities for up-skilling of local communities in a variety of areas such as embedded electronics, coding and 3D printing.


Dr Theo Tryfonas MBCS CITP, FRSA