Metro Atlanta Chamber to emphasize region as hub for ‘Internet of Things’Metro Atlanta Chamber CEO Hala Moddelmog interviewed AT&T Mobility's Glenn Lurie at a Rotary Club of Atlanta luncheon in March 2017. Lurie was later transferred out of Atlanta and has since retired from AT&T (Photo by Maria Saporta)
By Maria Saporta
The Metro Atlanta Chamber today is launching its latest initiative – IoT.ATL – at the GSMA Mobile World Congress meeting this week in San Francisco.
The initiative reflects Atlanta’s dominance in the area known as the Internet of Things (IoT) – the digital connection between items like cars and appliances and the internet. It is also a next generation of the Chamber’s Mobility initiative, which highlighted Atlanta’s strength in mobile communications.
The launch of IoT.ATL is being made by 33 of companies with Atlanta operations in the IoT space – including Accenture, AT&T, General Electric and the Weather Co. along with Atlanta Committee for Progress. The goal is to attract IoT companies and talent to metro Atlanta and enhance the region’s reputation as a “smart cities” leader.
“There’s a transformation underway from industrial to digital as we are going out to recruit new companies,” said David Hartnett, Metro Atlanta Chamber ‘s chief economic development officer, in a conference call from San Francisco. “Atlanta is very rich in that regard. GE has its global digital hub in Atlanta, and Jim Fowler, CIO of GE worldwide, is on this Task Force.
This Task Force will allow us to tell the world we are a leader in this space.”
The IoT.ATL executive committee includes some of the region’s most influential IoT leaders. It is chaired by AT&T Smart Cities General Manager Mike Zeto, and the executive committee has the following as co-chairs: General Electric CIO Jim Fowler; the Weather Co. CEO Cameron Clayton; and Jim Bailey, senior managing director of Accenture Digital.
“As GE continues our digital transformation and development of our IoT platforms, we are proud to support IoT.ATL, which will fuel innovation and talent in metro Atlanta,” GE’s Fowler said in a statement.
The executive committee will steer strategy, and four working groups within the IoT/Mobile Leadership Council will work to implement IoT.ATL’s guiding principles. The four working groups will focus on legislation, workforce, marketing and funding.
Atlanta has used the same game plan to focus on nurturing other industry sectors that already have a strong base in the region, such as health information technology (Health IT), financial technology (FinTech) and mobile communications. The Chamber also is beginning to promote Atlanta as a center for global health.
“My business is global, and there’s no other Chamber in the United States that has executed in a framework like Atlanta,” said Zeto, who also was in San Francisco. “This is really an evolution of the Mobility Task Force. Connectivity and mobility is now ubiquitous. The Internet of Things is a way for people to use that connectivity and drive more value for businesses and citizens.”
The Metro Atlanta Chamber engaged Accenture to research the global IoT landscape and make recommendations for attracting, recruiting and retaining leading businesses and top talent in IoT. Accenture will continue to work with the Chamber to oversee and advise on strategy and direction on two key areas where the metro region and Atlanta can make a significant and substantial global impact on IoT innovation: intelligent transportation and smart cities.
“We think some of the greatest minds in the IoT space are here in Atlanta,” Zeto said, mentioning Georgia Tech, the leadership within the City of Atlanta as well as the Atlanta Committee for Progress.
“We have got all of the components of the private sector. We have chosen to focus on smart cities because there’s so much momentum and because Atlanta is a major transportation and logistics hub. The Internet of Things enables that.”
The metro region is home to Georgia Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies, an internationally-recognized center of excellence in IoT and a global leader in fostering the development of IoT research and education.
Georgia Tech and the City of Atlanta today also are launching a Smart Corridor pilot along North Avenue in downtown Atlanta activating more than 100 IoT sensors at the street level to gather rich, real-time data.
The “living lab,” where the street itself can share information on maintenance needs, vehicle congestion and public safety issues, will serve as a model for the future of urban mobility.
Also, the organizer of the San Francisco conference – London based GSMA – recently announced it will be expanding its North American headquarters in Atlanta at Armour Yards.
The pivot from the Mobility Task Force to the IoT.ATL Task Force is happening at a time when AT&T moved several hundred of its key executives out of Atlanta, including two who were instrumental in promoting Atlanta as a mobility hub – AT&T’s Ralph de La Vega and Glenn Lurie. Both served as president of AT&T Mobility, both were transferred out of Atlanta, and both have since retired from the company.
“We had the benefit as a city of having two extremely effective executives here in Atlanta,” acknowledged Zeto, referring to De la Vega and Lurie. “But the beauty of what we are doing here is showing the overall strength of our eco-system. It’s not just about one company.”
And Zeto said AT&T still has thousands of employees based in Atlanta, even though several hundred have been transferred to AT&T’s headquarters in Dallas as well as the West Coast.
“You still have IoT and Smart Cities headquartered here,” Zeto said. “We still have an extremely large presence here. We continue to invest in the region. We are still very committed to Atlanta.”