Can Metro Atlanta brand itself a hub for the Internet of Things?


About two dozen of the Atlanta area’s top corporate brands have joined in an initiative to sell the region as a tech capital for the Internet of Things.

On Thursday, the the Metro Atlanta Chamber announced IoT.ATL or Internet of Things Atlanta, a task force whose mission will be to recruit startups and established companies in the field to invest in Atlanta, grow talent here and raise the region’s profile as hub for IoT and “smart cities” programs.

In other Technology news:

The idea behind IoT.ATL is based on other task forces the chamber has created to promote metro Atlanta as a capital for mobile communications and financial technology. In addition to creating jobs and recruiting venture capital, the aim is also to eventually influence policy to make the region more attractive to IoT companies.

What is IoT? It’s when complex machines and devices you use every day are all connected to the Internet and talk to each other, share data and even analyze it. A Fitbit, intelligent thermostats and smartphones might be the way most people have been introduced to IoT.

Simply put, IoT has the potential to revolutionize the way people live and work the same way computers have. Think refrigerators that order staples for you when you run out. The backbone of autonomous vehicles will be the IoT infrastructure made possible by sensors and mobile communications technology.

Chamber President and CEO Hala Moddelmog called IoT innovation “one of the key industry sectors emerging as the next frontier for business.”

“Because IoT – and larger digital innovations like it – will impact every part of life for every citizen and business, we’re committed to putting our resources towards driving growth in this critical sector,” she said in a news release.

The Atlanta area surely has stiff competition from Silicon Valley, Boston and other tech centers in the U.S. and around the globe.

Metro Atlanta companies and universities do a ton of IoT research and development, and the chamber and state Department of Economic Development want the world to know about it. IoT.ATL will aid that marketing message.

The launch of IoT.ATL comes as a chamber delegation and dozens of Atlanta area tech companies are in San Francisco for the influential GSMA Mobile World Congress Americas convention.

Georgia Tech has a well-known IoT development center, and Tech and the city of Atlanta have launched a Smart Corridor project on North Avenue where sensors will gather data so that the street can let the city know about congestion or maintenance needs, officials say.

The chamber and consulting partner Accenture say the Atlanta area has its biggest advantage in smarty city technology and in intelligent transportation and logistics.

Metro Atlanta is home to Fortune 500 companies such as UPS and Delta Air Lines. Georgia is also home to the world’s busiest airport and the bustling ports of Savannah and Brunswick, making the state a natural testbed for new logistics technologies.

Metro Atlanta is home to GE Digital, the digital hub of the industrial giant, and other IoT-related tech centers from such corporate giants as AT&T and Honeywell.

AT&T Smart Cities General Manager Mike Zeto will be the chairman of the group, and co-chairs include GE CIO Jim Fowler, Weather Company CEO Cameron Clayton and Jim Bailey, senior managing director of Accenture Digital.

“It’s a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity in the United States,” Bailey said. “Many cities are looking at how they can best capitalize on that opportunity.”

Georgia is a vital cog in the East Coast supply chain. Major companies ship goods through the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the state’s seaports and have distribution centers here. Georgia also boasts an extensive rail and highway network.

Whether its sensors monitoring goods in transit, or perhaps testing autonomous vehicles, Georgia has a nucleus of companies in the transportation IoT sector. Meanwhile, local communities are also piloting smart city programs to make them more efficient.

Cynthia Curry, the chamber’s director of IoT ecosystem expansion, said the task force will monitor how many smart city programs the region moved from pilot to implementation, support the creation of new pilot programs and also recruit and track investments in local IoT startups.

Longer term, the chamber and Accenture plan to create a policy paper looking at state and local policies and offering lawmakers suggestions on how to remove roadblocks to research and development to make the state more attractive to industry players.

David Hartnett, the chamber’s chief economic development officer, said state and local lawmakers will make the hard choices when it comes to examining the issues and approving projects for implementation. The chamber, he said, is here to support that decision-making.

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