Smart cities, not just for the Jetsons

A few weeks ago, I was able to attend the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Atlanta’s February meeting on smart cities. The meeting featured Cynthia Curry, Director of Smart Cities Ecosystem Expansion at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Congress. Being a proud Metro-Atlantan, I always love learning about what’s going on in Atlanta and getting to be a cheerleader for the city.

Let’s start with the basics

Smart cities are all about data. And using that data to make decisions to create a more “equitable, inclusive, sustainable, efficient, resilient and enjoyable community,” said Cynthia. Data enables cities, like companies, to have a reason to back the choices they’re making.

Impact of smart cities and their technology 

  • Facilitates measurement: Network sensors have become affordable, making it easier and more realistic for cities and companies to utilize them. These sensors can be used to measure and visualize environmental impact. And then those data-driven decisions can be made. According to Cynthia, the global environmental sensor market is predicted to be over $3 billion by 2027.
  • Improves efficiency: Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), combined with sensors, reduce energy consumption and emissions. ML and AI can also be used to optimize energy creation. For example, Google can predict wind output 36 hours in advance. This would make the use of alternative energies more predictable and efficient.
  • Develops the economy: Introducing AI to agriculture, water, energy and transportation would create 38.2 million jobs and reduce greenhouse emissions by 4% by 2030.
  • Minimizes risks: Cynthia drove the point home that the population of Atlanta is rapidly growing, but our space and resources aren’t. When a city or company utilizes ML and the combination of historical and current data for climate risk analysis, they can create climate model datasets that predict extreme weather risks. And fiber optics and satellites increase the ability to survey and protect the environment and our communities. This combination also enables more precise control of the industrial process, increasing energy efficiency and minimizing pollution.
  • Increases the use of 3D printing: Technology is constantly evolving and advancing. The world of 3D printing is no stranger to this. 3D printing can now be used to create cars, homes and even entire communities, cutting down the overall cost and manufacturing time.

Smart city technology in Atlanta 

Atlanta has been named the third city expected to make the most of smart city and IoT tech. It’s also the top AI startup ecosystem to watch around the world. The smart city technology already in Atlanta includes:

  • The Ray is located in west Georgia off of I-85 and has 18 miles of land. It was started by Ray Anderson, an early proponent of sustainability. Its focus is on identifying the future of transportation. Here are some of the smart innovations at the Ray:
    • Wattway solar road: Solar panels on the road that charge electric cars while they’re driving. This is the first demo of this technology in the United States and the second in the world.
    • PV4EV: Solar-powered vehicle charging stations that charge electric cars in 15 minutes instead of hours.
    • Rubber Roads: The Ray is also the first in the country to test combining recycled tires and asphalt to create roads. This mixture would extend the life of roads by 15-20% and would reduce road noise.
    • V2X Connected Tech: Vehicle to “anything” connected technology. This is a partnership with the Georgia Department of Technology and Panasonic to create the first connected interstate in all of Georgia.
    • WheelRight: This technology would check the overall health of your car as you drive over it, including tire pressure, alignment, etc. It can tell you anything that needs to be fixed so that your car can run more efficiently.
  • Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners is a 1.5-mile test track with 5G technology. It’s one of the only V2X labs in the United States on real-time roads. The track interacts with over 8,000 real-world vehicles and pedestrians in traffic. The Curiosity Lab launched in September 2019.
    • Autonomous vehicle testing: The track is set up for cars to be accurately tested since they are interacting with real traffic and real people. This is actually very unusual as most of the testing done for autonomous vehicles is done in a closed setting.
    • State-of-the-art living lab: Through a partnership with T-Mobile, the lab has 5G and IoT technology to test all kinds of smart technology in the lab. This is huge for Atlanta as it can attract new businesses and companies to the city to test their products with ease.
  • Georgia Smart Communities Challenge is put on by Georgia Tech and is the first of its kind. The goal of this initiative is to take smart city technology to rural areas. There are currently several projects around Georgia that have stemmed from this initiative including:
    • North Ave Smart Corridor
    • Data-Driven Policing
    • Mobility Equity
    • Transit Signal Prioritization
    • Smart Traffic Management
    • Sea Level / Flood Warnings
    • Equitable Housing
    • Shared Autonomous Vehicles
    • Smart Kiosks
    • Smart Walk-to-School programs
  • Georgia Power smart neighborhoods is a completely smart neighborhood. These homes are all equipped with:
    • Solar panels that produce 1/3 of the home’s energy use
    • Smart panels to control all connected products
    • Smart thermostats & HVACs with sensors and Amazon’s Alexa connection
    • Smart outlets for control and scheduling
    • Smart shades that leverage voice control and scheduling
    • Smart water heaters that can be used as thermal energy storage devices
    • LG battery storage systems storing energy for future use
    • Battery and solar controllers for forecasting, scheduling and automating energy use

What’s to come?

To wrap up her presentation, Cynthia gave us a sneak peek at what’s to come in the ways of smart, sustainable technology for cities. By 2025, Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. The focus is on designing for the next generation, which has led to the development of work, live, play environments in Atlanta and all over the world. The goal is to create spaces where people can collaborate and socialize. The environments will have communal outdoor spaces and cutting-edge technologies to drive sustainability.

Gen-Z has also influenced plans for future designs. The generation has shown an increase in affinity for bettering the environment. So, green buildings and smart cities are impacting the design and architecture of the future.

It’s clear that we have a lot to look forward to in the way of smart cities and new technologies. And getting to have some of these great advances happening in our own backyard makes me even more proud to live in the Atlanta area. As always, AITP put on an insightful discussion. And it’s an honor for Synergis to sponsor events like this that spark meaningful conversations. For more on smart cities, download our infographic below.



About the author

Stephen Stringer has been with Synergis for almost 15 years and is currently the Sales Director. He’s leading the charge on customer delivery and expansion with his team. Stephen’s specialty and passion in recruiting is building out teams in the digital space (Research, UX, computer accessibility, Front-End Development, Visual Design, Content and Product). He earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Auburn University, where he also played football.

Let's get started.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.