More than two dozen Atlanta-based enterprises have partnered with the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) and the Atlanta Committee for Progress to launch IoT.ATL, a program that intends to boost the region’s tech sector in the burgeoning industry of Internet of Things products and software. Amongst the focuses of the group will be developing educational resources to train IoT-related career skills, connecting startups in the space with large enterprises, and promoting the region as a leader in IoT on a global scale.
IoT is not a product or technology itself, but refers to the connectivity between devices — connected cars, smartphones and communication devices, or even entire Smart Cities — in order to collect and exchange data. IoT can be enabled across a number of industries from household devices to wearables to cars and other vehicles.
Following an analysis, initiated by MAC and led by consulting group Accenture, to research the global IoT industry and the best avenues to establish Atlanta as a leading IoT hub, the group determined the strength for Atlanta would lie in two areas: smart cities and transportation.
“There are other cities that are staking their claim in the Internet of Things around autonomous driving and other specific areas, but in our strategy work one of the things that bubbled up is transportation, logistics and supply chain, given all the rich resources and tremendous players that we have in this region,” says Jim Bailey, Senior Managing Director of Accenture Digital Mobility. Bailey served as the Accenture lead on the project and will be a co-chair of the IoT.ATL executive committee.
Atlanta has a history as a logistics and transportation hub, with four of the top 25 global supply chain companies, along with the world’s most-traveled airport. These industries, which require some of the most sophisticated and detailed tracking and analytics, are ripe for IoT innovation.
“We can really drive economic development, startup hubs, and stake a claim to be a worldwide home for IoT in the segment of supply chain,” says Bailey.
Along with Accenture’s involvement, the IoT.ATL executive committee will see leadership from more than two dozen leading brands and enterprises, including AT&T, GE, The Weather Company and more. AT&T Smart Cities General Manager Mike Zeto will serve as executive committee chair.
IoT.ATL will work closely with other players in the metro region, including City of Atlanta departments. Enabling IoT connections throughout the region is a mission the City has already doubled down on. One major project, the Smart Corridor along North Avenue, which collects data from 100 IoT sensors placed along the street, kicks off officially this week.
Accenture is involved in the SmartATL initiative as well, and Bailey says the City and MAC projects are complementary.
“They definitely have an intersection, with slightly different purposes, around smart cities. The City’s program is very much around transportation and safety for residents — improving quality of life, the way we work and live, which will have indirect economic development benefits for decades to come,” says Bailey. “The Chamber initiative has the same aspects, but also takes a more direct role to say, what are the roles of the public and private institutions in Atlanta around transportation, logistics and supply chain to really make Atlanta the worldwide home for those IoT topics.”
IoT.ATL will also engage the region’s educational institutions, many of which are already conducting IoT research — for example, Georgia Tech’s Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things (CDAIT) works with corporate partners to expand and promote IoT’s transformational capabilities.
To get all of these lofty goals accomplished, IoT.ATL will utilize four working groups to focus on different aspects of the overall goal — workforce development, advocate, promote, and grow & innovate. MAC’s Chief Economic Development Officer David Hartnett explains this formula has been used by the Chamber before.
“There’s a success template that we’ve come up with for why this works — branding ourselves as a leader in an industry. We’ve done it to be the nation’s leader in Health IT, the nation’s leader in transactional processing. We use the same template,” says Hartnett.
“We drill down to make sure we’re being the best that we can be in those areas that are continuing to flourish and grow, not only with our companies but also with talent.”
Projects the working groups will tackle include working with the region’s universities to promote IoT curricula, supporting positive legislation for the industry (and getting ahead of any foreseen negative legislation), and connecting IoT startups with potential funding, as well as enterprises that may be able to utilize their products.
IoT.ATL may even be able to flip the script on startup-corporate connections.
“We have a lot of plans for increasing that cash flow from the enterprise companies over to the startup companies,” says MAC’s Director of IoT Cynthia Curry. “Right now we’re in a discovery phase talking to all the IoT companies to find out what are they doing and what’s working for them. We are going to take those polls, take them back to the startup community as ideas to drive their innovation.”
“So instead of startups taking an idea to the enterprise companies, we’re taking challenges that the enterprise companies are having in the IoT space to startups, so that when they’re pivoting and thinking, they can work around those problems,” says Curry.
Finally, it will be the job of IoT.ATL to promote the work all these companies are doing. This week members of the team are at the GMSA Mobile World Congress Americas conference, the first-ever North American conference put on by the worldwide mobile industry group. GMSA, which has a vertical dedicated to IoT, recently located their U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, as well.
MAC brought a contingent of 50 IoT companies, startup founders, and leaders to the conference to get them in front of industry leaders at the event.
“The vision is that this region will be the hotspot for the best innovations, the newest and most exciting startups, the deepest and broadest employee base, all around the set of IoT topics regardless of whether they’re applied in Atlanta or elsewhere,” says Bailey.