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July 21, 2020

Building the 5G Economy: Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, GA .

Building the 5G Economy: Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, GA

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With 5G live in communities across the nation, there’s never been a better time for municipalities to leverage smart city technology. In Peachtree Corners, Georgia, a city-owned “smart city laboratory” is showing America what’s possible when innovative ideas come to life over next-generation wireless networks. CTIA sat down with Betsy Plattenburg, Executive Director of Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners, to find out more about how the seven-year-old Atlanta suburb is reimagining the future of 5G-connected smart cities.

5G ‘Driving’ Economic Growth

Curiosity Lab was designed to attract new businesses and jobs to Peachtree Corners. The technology park in the heart of the city’s central business district had a decades-long history of producing cutting-edge innovations, but it was missing a unique offering that would make businesses of the future excited to come to Georgia from an economic development perspective, Plattenburg explained.

A 1.5-mile, 5G-enabled autonomous vehicle test track became that solution to attract innovative companies to the area. Using the existing two-lane road that runs through the technology park, the city designated the outside lanes for autonomous vehicle testing while the inside lanes remain open for daily commuters and visitor traffic. 5G connectivity launched the test track into the future of smart city innovation, enabling vehicles to communicate with other traffic, traffic signals, street lights and everything else on the track.

We tend to get stuck in what we know. 5G challenges us to think how [our future] can be different.
Betsy Plattenburg, Executive Director of Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners

Innovation Made Possible With 5G

Plattenburg sees firsthand how 5G’s high bandwidth, low latency and ability to connect 100-times more devices is not only what makes Peachtree Corners a compelling place for startups to test their technology, it’s what will eventually make every vehicle autonomous.

Curiosity Lab is unique for testing autonomous vehicles on 5G networks, she tells CTIA, because of “the big sweeping curves, tall shade trees, 13% incline of the road and pedestrian traffic that crosses the track more than 30 times per day.” These real-world conditions are only navigable when vehicles can connect with the world around them and have the ability to make split-second decisions. That is where 5G plays a critical role by enabling vehicle-to-everything communication on the shared road space at Peachtree Corners—and ultimately beyond.

Off the road at Curiosity Lab, companies are testing smart city applications over 5G connections, using drones, robots and other machines—including scooters. Micromobility startups GoX and Tortoise tested and deployed the world’s first fleet of teleoperated scooters in Peachtree Corners. With 5G, the scooters can autonomously move to a rider’s location after being summoned through an app, and then can be remotely stood up and moved out of the right-of-ways once the ride is completed to keep the sidewalks and streets clear.

Imagining Our 5G-Connected Future

5G deployed early at Curiosity Lab, challenging the businesses testing there to think beyond what they know to solve real-world challenges using next-generation wireless networks.  In that regard, Plattenburg likes to think of Curiosity Lab as a matchmaker for 5G technology—bringing together innovators and industries who want to make their imagined ideas come to life over 5G networks.

“It’s fun to see 5G in use rather than just talking about it,” she said. “It helps you reimagine the future in different ways.”

From her perspective, 5G will transform how municipalities and companies alike think about smart city innovation in the future by:

  • Introducing autonomous vehicles to everyone;
  • Making AI systems smarter and scalable;
  • And enabling ways that autonomous technology can be used beyond the roads, such as at airports, for deliveries and more.

When we look at the technology being tested at Curiosity Lab, it is easy to imagine how 5G will make our lives better, our communities safer, our economy stronger and our surroundings smarter by revolutionizing what it means to be connected. In the heart of Peachtree Corners, Georgia, the 5G economy being built today will transform tomorrow’s smart cities.

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