Atlanta teams up with AT&T to plan the internet takeover

Asking your car what’s for dinner may sound far-fetched, but Atlanta’s recent partnership with AT&T promises gadget communication like never before, so your car and fridge could no longer be strangers.

In a Jan. 5 press release, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced that the city has partnered with AT&T as part of a Smart Cities framework, which will later include Chicago and Dallas.

The framework is a process of technological innovations within the cities, in an effort to improve areas of public safety, transportation, citizen involvement and infrastructure.

These innovations are inspired by the up-and-coming Internet of Things (IoT), an effort to enable all technological devices to communicate with each other through the internet.

“We’re using Internet of Things (IoT) innovations to create impactful solutions for cities and forming alliances with technology leaders and industry organizations,” Lance Skelly, AT&T’s communications representative, said in a news release.

The purpose behind IoT is to facilitate faster, more efficient information transmission between devices and everyday objects, such as refrigerators and cars.

Skelly said the company is already targeting cities’ sustainability problems by connecting things like utility meters, street lights and water systems, according to the release.

However, more things online means more things need protection from internet malice. Concerns have arisen regarding the idea that, with more objects online, hackers could have a better chance of intercepting some of the data.

Atlanta’s Chief Information Officer Samir Saini said the city will use encryption keys and implement hardware solutions to approach the issue of security and to guarantee the citizens’ privacy.

The Smart Cities framework is addressing citizen engagement, public safety, transportation and infrastructure in Atlanta. Saini said the city is still in negotiations with AT&T on specifics. Some of the installments in the city include smart cameras to measure traffic flow and sensors attach to street poles to measure air quality.

Saini also said while the sensors may not offer a direct solution to pollution, they will collect data, which the city and its partners, one of them GE Philips, will analyse and use for future advances.

“Atlanta has one of the highest and fastest growths in the country, and experiencing urbanization at a very fast pace,” he said. “More people means more challenges around pollution, transportation and safety, and the goal of this project is to help us collect data and control as much of that as we can.”

The majority of the costs will be covered by AT&T’s partners, which include Cicsco, Ericsson, IBM, Intel and Qualcomm Technologies, according to a company’s news release.

The goal is to not burden the city’s residents with any extra costs, Saini said. A majority of the research will be performed by the Georgia Institute of Technology, the partnership’s third member.

As for safety, the partnership will incorporate ShotSpotter, a technology which communicates to a police officer when a gun is fired, where it was fired and what kind of gun it is, according to the Spot Shotter Technology.

Georgia State has also upgraded its safety system by installing more than 1,000 digital security cameras across campus linked to the Atlanta Police Department, said Chief Innovation Officer of Georgia State Phil Ventimiglia.

“As students begin bringing more devices to campus that connect to the Internet, the university is tracking down the kinds of changes to our infrastructure that will be needed to accommodate this growth in network activity,” Ventimiglia said.

To keep its students up-to-date with the latest digital skills, the university is also sponsoring multiple development events, where technological expertise will be shared among students.