Living City Network

Living City

This week I was asked to help out with final mesh network creation and configuration for the Living City project, going on exhibit starting December 11th at the Van Alen Institute’s public gallery. The project is the brainchild of The Living’s two architects, David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang who are currently resident fellows at the Van Alen Institute.

“Living City is a full-scale prototype building skin designed to breathe in response to air quality. During their fellowship term, David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang have been developing one of the first architecture prototypes to link local responses in a building to a distributed network of sensors throughout the city. The prototype will be exhibited at Van Alen Institute’s public gallery and will communicate wirelessly with air quality sensors around New York City, opening and closing its gills in response to information the sensors collect.”

The technical work of sensor network communication turned out to be straightforward, although the tight deadline for the project made for a challenging assignment, much of which was accomplished in the wee hours. However for me, the most fascinating part isn’t technical or architectural, it’s the conceptual leap from simple sensor networking to creation of a data community. From the Living City site:

“Individual buildings already collect a variety of data through onsite sensors and use it to respond to changing conditions. Local input is connected to local output. But what if the buildings could share their local input with other buildings? If each building had access to remote input as well as local input, its output could become more responsive, more calibrated, more sophisticated.

In contrast to a centralized network with a pre-planned scope and function, Living City is a decentralized platform. The network begins as soon as two buildings share their data with one another. But it grows over time, and it gets better with each new participant. The more buildings that join, the better off each one becomes. Over time, buildings will build their own social networks on the Internet, inviting new acquaintances to connect, setting varying levels of access to personal information, and logging data about themselves in an online profile.

Buildings are ready to talk. They just need the platform.”

These buildings won’t just be sensored, they’ll be social. An urban network of sociable sensors could create a powerful and complex topography with fascinating potential for interactions between building systems, facility management and tenants across the urban landscape. I’m thrilled to be a part of the exploration.