The reconstruction of parts of Christchurch in the wake of the 2011 earthquakes has given planners and engineers the opportunity to create a "sensing city," which will provide a full suite of real-time data on its running and operation.

In what will be a world first, the Sensing City will see the installation of sensors throughout the city of Christchurch to gather real-time information on the city, covering areas including pedestrian flows, vehicular traffic and water and air pollution. This data can then be used to enhance the functionality of the city by uncovering those areas which suffer from inefficiency or defect.

“The rebuilding of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquakes present an extraordinary opportunity to fit the city with sensors and hardware, to collect data that will improve the functionality of the city and the lives of its residents,” said Roger Dennis, founder of the Sensing City project.

Dennis is working with specialists in the development of smart cities from Arup to bring the project to life, beginning with a pilot project launched at the start of September which involves urban residents testing their own water quality.

Members of the public can participate in the project by testing water quality thorough the city using Little Water Sensor Kits developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Students have received a total of 200 such kits, which will test for levels of potassium hydride, nitrate, hydrogen and the general water hardness of the city’s waterways.

“What’s key to sensing city is that we also want the people of Christchurch to be able to collect data about what’s important to them, and the first of our pilot projects is designed with that in mind,” Dennis said.

Following the water testing program, the next two pilot projects, slated for launch within the next three months, will focus on gathering real-time data on a huge road rebuilding program and environmental variables which can impact respiratory health.