Capacity for Integration Spurs Technology Innovation
With its T-Mobile 5G installation, Peachtree Corners eyes the potential of operating video surveillance, connected lighting, connected buildings, environmental sensors, drones and virtual reality, among other innovations.
Peachtree Corners’ autonomous vehicles talk to streetlights and traffic signals. They, in turn, can send communications to pedestrian smartphones.
“It really is the city street of the future. We created this laboratory, we added all these devices, and then we made it available to public and private organizations to use,” Johnson says. “It is a living laboratory. We consider it to be the ‘walk’ phase of ‘crawl, walk, run’ for technology. In a closed laboratory environment, you can crawl with tech initiatives. Here, you can walk in the real world.”
The capacity to test tools in a real-world environment has drawn companies to Peachtree Corners to demonstrate or even integrate within the lab. The results have produced innovations including a growing electric vehicle hub.
“We have the largest DC fast-charging hub in Georgia for electric vehicles. We have 18 fast chargers in one location, and people can bring their electric vehicles and charge from a fully depleted battery to a 100 percent charge in less than 40 minutes,” Johnson says.
Other innovations include cameras that can detect objects in a roadway and alert traveling cars and solar roadways that power infrastructure through solar panels.
Partners Lend Their Expertise and Resources to Curiosity Lab
Peachtree Corners depends on the expertise of its partners to make things happen, Johnson emphasizes.
“We are the owners, the operators, the maintainers and the regulators of public infrastructure. But that’s really where our true expertise ends. To take things further, we needed the help of other entities — mostly private, but some public,” he says. “We’re not an educational institution trying to teach or trying to invent the next big thing, or a private company trying to scale the next product. We just want the activity, because activity begets more activity, and that’s how we as a municipality benefit.”
Research partners test tools in the real-world environment of the test bed, organizations commit to participating in trials at Curiosity Lab facilities and companies relocate to the area. All that brings financial growth to Peachtree Corners as well.