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Georgia Tech “Smart Cities” Event Could Help Chart Midtown’s Future

Experts say Midtown could be a living laboratory for smart cities technologies.

Published 04/22/19

Georgia Tech is gearing up to host an event next month centered around “smart cities,” a concept that could help build the Midtown of the future.The university will host a Smart Cities Dialogue at its Global Learning Center on Spring Street from May 7 - 8.

Georgia Tech is gearing up to host an event next month centered around “smart cities,” a concept that could help build the Midtown of the future.

The university will host a Smart Cities Dialogue at its Global Learning Center on Spring Street from May 7 - 8.

How Georgia Tech Defines Smart Cities

Smart cities are networked urban environments where infrastructure such as transportation systems, buildings, energy systems, water networks, municipal services and more are connected by a computer network and managed in order to maximize efficiency. The goals are to optimize allocation of resources, reduce waste and improve quality of life.

“Midtown has seen enormous benefits from this type of planning,” said Joe Bankoff, former Midtown Alliance board chair, past Woodruff Arts Center CEO and outgoing chair of Georgia Tech’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. “The 299-foot bridge across 5th Street reinvented Midtown from 5th Street to 10th Street, helping give rise to 17,000 jobs and thousands of new residential units in the past few years.”

But according to Georgia Tech, no city can claim to have perfected the smart cities approach yet. This event aims to determine how to begin to overcome the movement’s biggest challenges, including the disconnect between smart cities technologies and the residents of the communities these technologies are intended to serve.

Updating New Infrastructure Key to Future of Cities

Bankoff said another issue districts like Midtown face is aging infrastructure.

“The growth of Midtown is a result of conscientious planning… but we also have a series of opportunities and frankly a crisis in aging infrastructure in this country,” he said. “It’s a real issue — how will we deal with this and where will we look at revolutions in technology that go into new forms of infrastructure to support it?”

Bankoff added that university is a great place to host a smart cities event because it already has expertise in both technology and policy-making.

“Georgia Tech lives and breathes Midtown, and this is a concerted effort to share innovation and research with the broader community and see how it can help,” said Debra Lam, managing director of Smart Cities and Inclusive Innovation for Georgia Tech and Midtown Alliance board member. “It’s a chance for Midtown to meet larger smart cities that they might not normally come across and hopefully see what kind of partnerships and great ideas we can bring back.”

Midtown Atlanta: Living Lab for Innovation and Tech

Georgia Tech hosts dialogue events bi-annually, and in the pasts topics have included driverless cars, global warming in urban areas, and air travel as a possible alternative to car travel. Bankoff said the suggestion to start the dialogues was made by another former Midtown Alliance Board Chair, Dennis Lockhart, who was CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta before becoming a professor of practice at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs.

“After [Lockhart’s] first infrastructure dialogue he put out, audience surveys indicated they wanted to do something on smart cities,” Lam said. “Midtown could be a testing ground or living laboratory of innovation or technology. It’s just prime with its level of development.”

The event includes discussions and panels featuring smart city experts including Andy Berke, mayor of Chattanooga; Adam Beck, executive director of the Australian/New Zealand Smart City Council; David Olatuniji, president of the African Smart Cities Innovation Foundation; and Moucha Heller, lead of Integrated Mobility at the World Economic Forum.

Conference Built Around Interactive Participation

Smart Cities Dialogue also offers participants the opportunity to witness Georgia Tech’s multidisciplinary approach to research and development by touring parts of the university, including Tech Square and Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design.

It’s not your average conference, cautions Bankoff.

“This is not a set of lectures, we encourage engagement,” he said. “I drag people out of the audience. It is more of a town hall. It has proven to be a successful format.”

For more information or to register for Georgia Tech’s Smart City Dialogue, click here.

 

 

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INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY