Argonne researchers Pete Beckman and Rajesh Sankaran test the components of their Waggle operating system. (Mark Lopez/Argonne National Laboratory)

As urban populations increase, so too does the complexity involved in maintaining basic services like clean water and emergency services. But one of the biggest barriers to making cities “smarter” is quick and easy access to data. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have developed the Waggle platform that outfits researchers with a next-generation data collection experience. Featuring the same type of circuit board and real-time processing speeds as a smartphone, users can add their own mix of sensors, specific to what they’re researching, and install programs onto a single, low-power “system on a chip” computer board, complete with a Linux-based operating system to control them.

Waggle can gather the data, send it up to the cloud, and get a picture of whatever physical processes the researcher wants, whether it’s city or climate data, or even hyperspectral data from plants. The platform constantly monitors power use and can be programmed to respond to specific conditions like temperature and light intensity, or a data signature from a camera or other sensor.

Argonne’s scientists are working with the City of Chicago to use Waggle as a platform to increase the spatial and temporal data available for a range of scientific and smart city applications.