By Cynthia Curry, Director of IoT/AI/Smart Cities Ecosystem Expansion, Metro Atlanta Chamber
The U.N. predicts that almost 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Metros across the globe are faced with challenges around sustainability arising from such rapid growth. Issues of safety, transportation, sustainability, equitable housing/infrastructure and workforce development are topics of discussion across the globe. Many communities are looking to technology to help them solve these challenges and “redefine smart” to focus on citizens more than technology. This September, gamechangers leading the way on these initiatives will assemble at Smart City Expo Atlanta (SCEATL) to discuss how a city can only be “smart” if they are focused on equity, prosperity, humanity, inclusion and justice, as well as cutting-edge technology.
SCEATL is the first and only U.S. edition of FIRA’s Smart City Expo World Congress, the world’s leading Smart City and urban development conference in Barcelona. A large delegation from Georgia has attended the conference for several years and helped recruit the expo to Atlanta – we’re thrilled to be chosen as the inaugural U.S. location and ongoing host city for the coming years. The expo benefits the region in substantial ways, as leaders across the globe will experience metro Atlanta, share their stories of success and failure when creating smart communities, forge partnerships and inspire ideation on what’s possible when creating the communities of tomorrow.
Smart City technology can play a part in so many different sectors, from safety to environment and transit and much more. Metro Atlanta has several Smart City projects that are leveraging innovation to address challenges in the region. For example, the IoT.ATL Living Labs program tests and validates sustainable Smart Cities technologies. The inaugural lab is focused on AgTech and is identifying scalable solutions addressing the need for resilient urban food systems. The first Living Lab launch with Ponix occurred on the eve of Smart City Expo Atlanta. The project is a wonderful example of public, private partnerships in action and is supported by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Georgia Power, Invest Atlanta, New City Properties, AGCO, the City of Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine and AgLanta. Partnerships such as these will drive Smart City programs of the future and are vital to the success of creating a smart region for metro Atlanta.
Atlanta was one of the first U.S. cities to embrace Smart City technology and applied for the Smart City Challenge in 2015. The application process rallied the region to unite and embark on the journey of what becoming a Smart City could mean for the area. The Smart Corridor on North Avenue launched in 2017 along with over 60 Smart City pilots across metro Atlanta. The Smart Corridor has since won several awards, including an international Smart Mobility Award in 2018 for transformational programs in transportation and safety.
Since the launch of the Smart Corridor, multiple Smart City programs have expanded throughout the region that are redefining smart and focusing on equity, sustainability and resilience. Georgia Tech’s Georgia Smart program is taking smart technology to rural areas and has helped eight communities across Georgia adopt Smart City programs that address the needs of their community. The Ray is exploring new technologies in sustainable transportation and driving the future of mobility with EV solar-powered roads and much more. Peachtree Corners launched The Curiosity Lab, a 1.5 mile lab, the second in the nation providing real-time/real-world testing opportunities for AV V2X, 5G and Smart City technologies. The initiative will identify sustainable Smart City solutions of the future by offering a free testing area for companies to validate their innovative 5G/AV technologies.
Metro Atlanta’s Smart City future looks strong, and SCEATL will usher in renewed energy and global wisdom to light the way for a bright tomorrow. Looking forward, for metro Atlanta to thrive and become a Smart City of the future, the region must work together and forge partnerships. The power of Smart Cities lies in the community it serves and the collaborative engagement it receives. Smart Cities are not born from one source – Smart Cities are born from collective dreams of the community. They are built by the cooperative power of neighboring corporate, educational, civic, startup and government ecosystems working together for a common goal. Smart Cities should be a collective reflection of the priorities of the community and should serve to enhance the lives of the people living within them.