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Peachtree Corners Takes 5G Use Cases To New Heights
I recently spent a day at the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. Peachtree Corners is a small suburb northeast of Atlanta, nestled in a beautiful, forested area of Georgia. Originally established as an industrial park and incorporated over a decade ago as the area’s only master-planned community, Peachtree Corners serves a growing technology base of companies known as the “Silicon Orchard.”
The combination of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) stands to unlock a host of use cases in the coming years There are a number of 5G labs established by cellular infrastructure providers such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, as well as mobile network operators, designed to evaluate the most promising consumer and enterprise applications of these platforms. However, the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners is unique in that it serves as a municipal living lab and technology incubator that utilizes city infrastructure daily to test use cases. Because of this, many consider Peachtree Corners to be one of the United States’ first smart cities, anchored by T-Mobile’s 5G network.
I want to share what I learned from city management, lab partners and T-Mobile executive leadership, given the mobile network operators’ involvement.
City government with a long-term vision
Before diving into the technology, I’ll share some takeaways from the time I spent with Peachtree Corners’ City Manager, Brian Johnson. Mr. Johnson takes a pragmatic approach to the lab’s efforts, and his vision is decidedly long-term. It would be easy to monetize the value of such an operation by charging for access and testbed time upfront. By not doing that, Mr. Johnson and his team are attracting both established companies and mature-stage start-ups to the city, creating higher wage employment opportunities for residents and positively impacting the local economy through increased patronage of local hotels, bars, and restaurants. I find this strategy compelling given my involvement in the City of Austin, Texas Economic Prosperity Commission, and our mission to find ways to accomplish the same outcomes. From my perspective, Peachtree Corners unique model is one that many other tech-savvy cities, such as my hometown of Austin, should consider adopting.
Peachtree Corners is also eliminating the often-tedious process of permitting test cases by establishing a dedicated “road track” close to the lab. I had the chance to take a tour on an autonomous shuttle (more to share about that experience soon), and found the 5G and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) infrastructure lining the entire route to be quite impressive.
All of these efforts have enabled Peachtree Corners to attract unique partnerships, including one with the French American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) and another with La French Tech almost one year ago. If interested, you can learn more about these partnerships here.
An ecosystem driving compelling outcomes
During my time at the lab, I spoke with four Peachtree Corners partners. Florida-based Beep powers the all-electric, autonomous shuttle that operates within the Peachtree Corners lab campus. According to Beep CEO Joe Moye, Peachtree Corners is just one of several installations across the country; other locations include the Mayo Clinic, Yellowstone National Park and Lake Nona, Florida. The company claims that its “Move Nona” program is the country’s largest and longest-running autonomous vehicle network spanning seventeen square miles, and I imagine it has been a tremendous learning experience. As we all have seen with Tesla’s early stumbles, autonomous mobility is fraught with challenges. It’s necessary to have the proper infrastructure to support telemetry, and Beep’s mobility-as-a-service offers a turnkey solution to municipalities.
You may know the next partner Bosch, for its incredibly quiet dishwashers (I’ve owned several), but it is also an innovator in the IoT space. The Bosch IoT Suite aims to simplify the deployment and management of connected devices while providing the highest levels of security. Lewis Stallworth, Bosch’s lead at Peachtree Corners, is working to enable several smart city solutions with the company’s platform, including parking garage management, autonomy and the monitoring of traffic flow. For the latter, Bosch’s Traffic Detector combines smart cameras, video analytics, and deep neural networking to improve mobility, safety and roadway usage. Traffic Detector can detect presence and volume, classify vehicles by type and color and predict potential traffic jams. Seeing this in action from the lab’s command center was compelling – it has the potential to make daily commutes in dense traffic areas much easier.
The mission of another Peachtree Corners partner, Israeli-based Juganu, is the digital transformation of public spaces. I spoke with Michael Soganich, the company’s General Manager for North America, on its efforts. Juganu currently offers two solutions tailored to smart cities and retail. What I find compelling about its smart city offering is an all-in-one device that replaces a typical streetlamp providing brighter LED lighting, an LTE or 5G small cell, a Wi-Fi access point, IoT sensors, and CCTV capability. The company claims that its AI-powered applications can also help municipalities deploy connectivity safer, smarter and less power-hungry in a matter of days versus weeks and months. I like the company’s “Swiss army knife” approach and believe it could be especially compelling and economical in rural areas underserved by traditional network deployments.
The fourth of these partners, Ouster, markets an extremely compact, power-efficient, and highly accurate LIDAR solution. For the unfamiliar, LIDAR, also known as Light Detection and Ranging, uses lasers to measure the distance, shape, and orientation of 3D objects. Before my discussion with Itai Dadon, who leads smart infrastructure for the company in San Francisco, I only thought of LIDAR in the context of autonomous vehicle operations. I quickly learned that its potential is far more significant, spanning robotics, industrial machines and more.
Ouster offers three different versions of its LIDAR solution based on the range of distance, packaged in a beautiful industrial design incorporating its heat sink fins. I also like that Ouster offers an American-made version, given recent federal government mandates to domesticate the supply chain tied to 5G deployments and associated use cases.
T-Mobile can trace its involvement with the Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners back to the lab’s inception in 2019. To learn more, I recently spoke with Mishka Dehghan, Senior Vice President for strategy, product, and solution engineering for T-Mobile for Business. T-Mobile plays an instrumental role at Peachtree Corners in providing a 5G network that incorporates a broad-spectrum footprint to power the living lab. Use cases can often be very diverse and require low band for coverage, mid-band for a balance of propagation, throughput, and latency, and high band for the absolute best performance. One size does not fit all, and T-Mobile’s superpower lies in its “layer cake” deployment of all three. From my perspective, the company’s recent “T-IoT” initiative should benefit tremendously from its involvement in Peachtree Corners. T-Mobile is still on its path to building an enterprise services portfolio, and I expect the operator will monetize many of the highest potential investigations that arise at Peachtree Corners.
The Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners is a model for discovering and birthing smart city applications. Smart city is often a broadly defined term, and further complicating matters is where to begin that journey. The city of Peachtree Corners admits to its investigations as being an organic process requiring consultants and partners to architect the necessary plans to achieve the most impactful outcomes for its citizens. I believe that the lab has accomplished a lot in its short three years of operation in partnership with T-Mobile and a host of innovative partners. It will be exciting to see what the next three years will deliver.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.
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Moor Insights & Strategy founder, CEO, and Chief Analyst Patrick Moorhead is an investor in dMY Technology Group Inc. VI, Dreamium Labs, Groq, Luminar Technologies, MemryX, and Movand