Establish next-generation infrastructure that enables residents and businesses to become more digitally-engaged

Improved Broadband

(Initiative 1)

The City of Chicago will work with internal and external partners to improve the speed, availability, and affordability of broadband across the city.

Chicago Broadband Challenge

In fall 2012, Mayor Emanuel launched the Chicago Broadband Challenge, which seeks to create an affordable gigabit-speed network in targeted commercial and industrial corridors, establish free wireless service in parks and public spaces, and increase accessibility and affordability of Internet service in underserved residential areas across the city.

Affordable Gigabit-Speed Network

In February 2014, the City issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking experienced companies to design, construct, implement, and manage a state-of-the-art gigabit-speed broadband network that can serve businesses and organizations in innovation zones, or key commercial and industrial corridors throughout the city, at a cost substantially below current market offerings. Next, the City will issue a Request for Proposals to those RFQ respondents who were found qualified. To support the build-out of this network, the City will offer a variety of City assets to the selected respondent, including existing City-owned fiber and right-of-way access to freight tunnels and sewers, as well as provision of broadband services to specified City offices.


Digital Public Way

(Initiative 2)

The City of Chicago is digitally connecting its physical assets, and making that information readily available to anyone, to improve the way residents and visitors interact with and navigate around Chicago.

Bus Tracker Digital Displays

As of April 2015, the Chicago Transit Authority has installed 350 Bus Tracker displays at bus shelters with high ridership and rail stations with large numbers of riders who transfer between rail and bus service.

The first 172 were installed in 2012. In 2013, an additional 108 were installed and cellular connectivity enhancements were made at 280 shelters. In early 2015, another 70 displays were installed. The CTA will install another 70 displays by the end of 2015, bringing the total to 420 available citywide.

Divvy Data Released

Divvy, Chicago’s bike-sharing system, with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations across the city, released its 2013 and 2014 trip data. Anyone can download this trip data, which includes trip start and end dates, times, and stations, and rider type, gender, and year of birth. To celebrate, in 2014 Divvy launched its first Data Challenge contest, where more than 80 entrants brought Divvy bike trips to life using visual design.On March 18, 2015, Divvy announced the winners of its’ second Data Challenge. Winners received a BizSpark software package, XBOX One, and XBOX Kinect from Microsoft, and two free Divvy memberships. Winning entries are also featured in full page ads in the RedEye and on the Divvy website.

Divvy station information is available on the City’s Open Data Portal and Chicagoans can download several apps to assist with ride planning.

2015 Data Challenge Best Overall Winner DIVVY.VISION from Matthew Shaxted

2015 Data Challenge Best Overall Winner Who’s Faster? Divvy Riders vs. Transit Riders from Shaun Jacobsen


Urban Technology Experimentation

(Initiative 3)

The City of Chicago will implement policies and basic infrastructure that make Chicago friendly to technology experimentation, allowing Chicago to become a global leader in environmental sensing, spectrum research, and wireless connectivity, while enabling researchers to develop solutions to city problems.

Beach Water-Quality Automated Sensors

The Chicago Park District maintains sensors at beaches along Chicago’s Lake Michigan lakefront. During the summer, these sensors capture hourly measurements of water temperature, turbidity, wave height, and period. Beginning in 2014, the information is now published to the City’s Open Data Portal during beach season, giving Chicago’s residents up-to-the-hour information on the condition and quality of local beaches before they visit. This sensor data is also valuable to researchers who may be interested in correlating this information with weather or other data.

Initiative 3 - Beach Water Quality

Array of Things

In addition to providing continually growing amounts of data to the public, Chicago has launched a first-of-its-kind initiative to create new ways to generate and collect city data. Funded by a National Science Foundation grant to the University of Chicago’s Urban Center for Computation and Data, the “Array of Things” project will mount sensors on light poles throughout the city. This is the first stage of a data collection system whose platform will be opened up to other cities.

The array network will have 12 sensors collecting data on humidity, air quality, light, temperature, noise level, carbon monoxide/carbon dioxide levels, and pedestrian foot traffic in the downtown area. All data will be published on the City’s Open Data Portal with multiple updates per minute.

The network is projected to grow in the next few years with grant funding for additional sensors. Independent experts from industry, academia, and government will regularly review all software, hardware, and experiments for privacy, security, and scientific considerations. Final approval for all instrumentation and data collection will be granted through an executive committee, which is led by the City and includes members from various research fields.

The Array of Things will help researchers and policymakers better understand how cities function and allow Chicago to become a global leader in urban sensing initiatives.