(c) 2014. Sean MacEntee. Licensed under CC-BY-2.0Did you notice it? Chicago’s main webpages were are safer and more secure than they were in 2016. Chicago’s homepage is now using “HTTPS” for its visitors. Things will not look different, but it provides a number of benefits for those visiting Chicago’s home pages. Now when visitors visit www.cityofchicago.org and select city websites, the connection will be secure so others cannot snoop or steal information being sent between users and the City of Chicago. Everything is encrypted between your device and the City of Chicago so it can even keep your information private when you are on a wireless connection.

City of Chicago websites will also be easier to find because sites using HTTPS are preferred by Google. In the future, encryption will allow webpages to load faster. New web standards, such as SPDY, are much faster and will only work with secure websites.

You may also notice that other websites you use, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google also use HTTPS. Secure websites are becoming more important and now City of Chicago websites provide the same level of trust and privacy each time you visit the site. We have a few websites still being transitioned to HTTPS, just look for the padlock icon in your address bar.

OpenGrid was launched almost one year ago. Since that time, users have been providing feedback on how the platform can be even easier to navigate their neighborhoods. Over the past few months, the team has continued to focus on bettering the user experience and making data more easily accessible to the user as they navigate around the map. Users have told us that it took too many clicks to see data. For instance, users would need to click the “Find Data” to anytime they moved the map to get updated data.

The latest version of OpenGrid will now refresh each time the map is moved. You will no longer need to manually re-run your search when you want to see data for a new area. Each time the map moves or you zoom in or out, OpenGrid will instantaneously refresh with the newest data. Simply choose the data you want to see, click “Find Data” once, and you can explore Chicago.

The number of clicks needed to retrieve data has been significantly reduced in the last few months, making it easier to get data but still allowing powerful searching across over two dozen data sets.

OpenGrid in 2017

New features will be rolled out to OpenGrid team through 2017.  In the next few month we are aiming to add some new features:

  • Implement bubble plots on the map—The bubbles will vary in sized based on a numeric value associated with queried data. Consider, plotting the potholes in the city. It would be useful to be able to plot the site of the circle to correspond to the number of potholes filled on the block.
  • Display data with parent-child relationships
  • Graph time-series data
  • Improve the ability to share queries

Interested in contributing to OpenGrid?

If you’re interested in collaborating with the city, you can take a look at the past meeting notes on the project’s Wiki. While the source code is online, the project’s documentation gives a concise overview for developers. Likewise, look at the instructions for contributors to help us run a useful, collaborative project.

Chicago residents and visitors took more than 27 million taxi rides in 2015, traveling 83 million miles and spending more than $400 million.

The City of Chicago assures the quality and safety of those rides through its Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP).  We have long published the taxi drivers and vehicles licensed by BACP on the Chicago Data Portal.

As part of its mission, BACP is also authorized to collect information on taxi rides, themselves.  It does so through periodic reporting by two major payment processors believed to cover most taxis in Chicago.  Based on these reports, we are now able to provide a dataset of over 100 million Chicago taxi rides, dating back to 2013.

Chart of rides per month

Rides Per Month

More…

Back in April, the City of Chicago partnered with one of the Smart Chicago Collaborative anchor programs, the Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup), to host a UX testing feedback session attended by more than 20 Chicago residents for OpenGrid. The purpose of these tests was not only to engage all of Chicago in the civic app development process, but provide valuable information to OpenGrid developers seeking to enhance the apps’ usability and performance. The newest version contains improvements to OpenGrid to make it easier to use. The latest release contains friendlier language, an improved user interface to highlight more important features while deemphasizing more technical options, and reducing the number of mouse clicks to see data. Below are some of the highlights of this release.

Simpler Advanced Search Panel

More Accessible Language throughout the application

During the CUTGroup testing, we saw that there were some opportunities to make the language more accessible. Users commented that the language throughout the application seemed to be targeted more towards developers and people with tech backgrounds. For example, in the Advanced Search panel, language such as “Geo-spatial filters” and “Queries” seemed to cause some hesitation to users.  Therefore, we simplified the language to make it more user friendly. “Advanced Search” was changed to “Find Data,” “Datasets and Standard Filters” was changed to “Select Data,” and “Submit” and “Reset” were changed to “Get Data” and “Clear Search” respectively.

Submit and Reset buttons are now set as footer

Previously, users would have to scroll to the bottom of the advanced search panel to run or clear a search. Now these buttons are static at the bottom of the page for easier accessibility.

before-and-after

Color coded dots for each dataset

When multiple datasets are added to a search, the dots for each dataset are now assigned a different color by default. Now that the user doesn’t have to manually assign a new color, we have cleaned up the advanced search panel to retract the color and opacity under “Color Options.”

color-options

Advanced Search Panel Retracts After Executing Query

To maximize the amount of data viewable to the user upon executing a search, the advanced search panel now retracts upon performing a search.

The ability to perform searches using OR

When applying filters for a dataset, users were only limited to applying an “AND” operator, now users can select “OR.”

Easier-to-read Map

Map Icons More Accessible

Users no longer have to retract the Find Data Panel in order to apply a layer or create a measurement on the grid. The layers and measurement icons have been moved to the boot left of the map for easier access.

map-icons

More Prominent Grid View

As seen in the screenshots above, we have changed the grid view access bar to a bold and black color, whereas previously it was gray and overlooked by users.

Map Extent by Default

When performing a search, all of the data is limited to a default geographical area shown on the map (i.e. map extent). The map extent is now setup to return results of the area that is currently visible on the grid. For example, if a user pans or zooms in to the Loop or Humboldt Park area and runs a quick search on crimes or fires, the results will return within the area that the user extended on the map.

Note: The default map extent does not apply when searching for points of interest like Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.

New Base Map

The new base map is now lighter and has a better contrast quality, allowing users to see the data displayed on the grid more clearly.

Map Legend

The map legend displays all of the datasets that were included in the users search. It appears at the bottom right of the grid when an advanced or quick search is executed.

legend

Future of OpenGrid

To continue our efforts in improving the user experience, the team is working towards making the map more responsive as users move around the city. As the user drags the map, the query will refresh to the new map extent. The team is also working towards upgrading Leaflet to v1.0 (previously v0.7) as well as all dependent plugins. Lastly, we will also be improving the Quick Search feature to allow users to perform multiple quick searches as well as perform a quick search along with an advanced search (now called, “Find Data”).

Interested in contributing to OpenGrid?

If you’re interested in collaborating with the city, you can take a look at the past meeting notes on the project’s Wiki. While the source code is online, the project’s documentation gives a concise overview for developers. Likewise, look at the instructions for contributors to help us run a useful, collaborative project.

Earlier this month, Mayor Emanuel and Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan visited toured Chicago’s tech centers, including 1871 and UI Labs to look at Chicago’s startup culture and data-driven innovation. Chicago and London signed a data alliance for “bi-lateral relationship to enable the exchange of knowledge and expertise with the intention of driving expanded growth and opportunity for all people in the two cities.” The two cities will sharing solutions to avoid duplication and share ideas on how to use data within large cities.

White House highlights Chicago data and technology initiatives

  • Array of Things are being installed across Chicago to collect environmental, noise, density and other data that is designed to improve the city and is limited to protect individual privacy. The data will be made publicly available online. You can now follow along when new nodes are installed on the open data portal. See a map of new locations.
  • Digging for the next innovation! An underground utility is struck every 60 seconds in the United States, causing billions in damage. Chicago partnered with UI Labs’ City Digital and a consortium to build and pilot new technology to scan and map underground infrastructure. Take a look at the video to show how this information can be browsed in the future.
  • The White House highlighted Array of Things and the Underground Mapping project as examples of innovative programs as part of their $80 million expansion of investments in the Smart Cities Initiative.

Redesigned websites ready for public feedback

Screenshot of the new open data portal

  • Chicago’s Annual Financial Analysis report went digital for the first time this year. The report was assembled using open source and available tools, suck as Jekyll and GitHub, forgoing more costlier methods.
  • Chicago has released a half-dozen APIs in the past 5 years. A beta of a new developer portal is now available to connect developers and researchers with documentation and updates to those services. You can reach out to developers@cityofchicago.org to provide your thoughts.

Open Data Portal continues to expand

  • Dozens of new education-related data sets are on the open data portal. See maps of school locations for the past 10 years, school profiles, and much more.
  • Business Activity codes — which describe what a business does — has been added to the open data portal’s Business Licenses data set.

Chicago is leveraging open data as part of it’s predictive analytics

Chicago’s Chief Data Officer spoke with Manhattan Institute’s Aaron Renn on the intersection of open data and predictive analytics in a recent podcast:

 

Banner image “Great Lakes in Sunglint” by NASA (c) 2012 and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 2.0 (CC BY-NC 2.0)

data-portal-workshop

This Friday, Chicago’s open data team will be presenting a free workshop on how to use the city’s open data portal. The data portal contains a wide range of data, from liquor licenses, building permits, incidents of crimes, school profiles, and much more. You will see how you can search and find data related to your community and the ability to make maps and graphs using this freely accessible data. You don’t need to be an IT professional or a researcher to work with data from the portal and this workshop will help connect you with data about your school, business, and community.

Register for the event here. It’s free and open to the public.

If you cannot make the workshop, you can see other tutorials on the data portal from the team’s YouTube channel:

Underground Mapping

Ever wonder what’s beneath the roads in Chicago?

Chicago–founded in 1837–has a maze of water pipes, cables, and tunnels that have accumulated over the city’s 180 year history. There are communication lines, both old and new, that crisscross the streets. Every day in the city, construction crews conduct something akin to open heart surgery each day to upgrade water main lines, repair gas lines, and even lay new fiber optic cable while removing telegraph wires. Of course, this is not unique to Chicago. In the United States, over 400,000 underground excavations take place each day. Since some of this information is outdated or not easily accessible, there is an excavation incident roughly every 60 seconds and causing an estimated $1.7 billion in costs.

The City of Chicago has teamed-up with UI Labs’ City Digital to launch a pilot with a that will begin to deploy a platform to collect and create a 3-D map of underground infrastructure. This platform will provide a clearer insight so engineers and crews can better plan their work, identify issues, and lower the overall time to complete underground excavations and reduce costs. By housing this information in a platform, it will allow the City of Chicago to securely share limited data with utilities and other organizations that need to understand what is below Chicago’s roads, while limiting to only sections that are needed to be known.

Rendering of subsurface infrastructure

Rendering of subsurface infrastructure by HBK Engineering

Digital maps do already exist of Chicago’s subsurface labyrinth. But these often represent construction plans. Sometimes crews go beneath the street only to find there is a need to improvise, often because they come across undocumented structures that impede their initial plans. This new approach will use basic digital cameras and sophisticated software to scan the actual underground assets in the city.

Photo of underground infrastructureA project like this cannot be done alone. City of Chicago teamed up with UI Labs’ City Digital and their partners, HBK Engineering and Accenture, to kick-start this project.

New technology developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Real-Time and Automated Monitoring and Control Lab (RAAMAC) and Chicago start-up CityZenith will allow the city to scan and 3-D map Chicago’s underground assets.

One difficult part of a project like this is collecting the correct data that is economical and relies on widely available techniques. RAAMAC’s solution allows images captured from off-the-shelf cameras, such a basic DSLR camera.

Those images are inputted into RAAMAC’s software to create a stereoscopic image that renders a computer model of the underground infrastructure. Over a dozen images can be seemlessly captured during typical repair and construction adding no additional time for data collection. On-site engineers are able to collect this information without interfering with crews and with cameras that are affordable.

Underground utility stereoscopic map derived from DSLR pictures

Underground utility stereoscopic map derived from pictures using standard digital cameras

These renderings can be provided to engineers, planners, and crews. These models can also be securely shared between the City of Chicago and other companies with underground infrastructure to improve project planning and limiting accidents. Sharing can be limited to specific areas in the city so information does not get over-shared. For those with access, they will be able to see detailed renderings of the location of the underground infrastructure with rich metadata on each pipe, fiber optic connection, water main, and more:

The visualization will provide more than just a sophisticated interface. Having a full understanding of the city’s underground infrastructure will help avoid accidents that have a history of interrupting commutes or worse.

The first Array of Things sensor went online on September 1st and since then, 3 more sensors have gone online. Array of Things was deployed with a commitment to transparency and today we’ve launched an interactive map of the installed and planned sensors to be installed on Chicago’s Open Data Portal.

You can download the raw data behind the map from the portal as well.

Array of Things will continue to expand throughout the next couple of years for a total of 500 sensors. Later this year, after the data from the sensors are validated, data will be streamed online and in the open so researchers, citizen scientists, and the curious can analyze the data.