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Future of 5G Is Under the Microscope at Georgia Incubator

The Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners, Ga., is looking at the future of connectivity through its new 5G incubator — a partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the city and telecommunications giant T-Mobile.

Curiosity Lab - Test Track Photo Rendering
A photo rendering showing the autonomous vehicle technologies test track at the Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners, Ga. The lab has opened its 5G Connected Future incubator.
Image Courtesy of Curiosity Lab
Entrepreneurs needing — or wanting — a 5G testing environment can now start their search in the metro Atlanta area. Peachtree Corners, a small town firmly rooted in technology growth, has launched a new incubator with a focus on the next-gen Internet innovation.

The initiative is a collaboration among the Georgia Institute of Technology, the city of Peachtree Corners and T-Mobile. The 5G Connected Future incubator is based out of the $6 million Curiosity Lab, a city-owned 500-acre smart city technology park, outfitted with an autonomous vehicle test track and other advancements.

“This is kind of a unique model. I’m not sure that I’ve seen one that’s exactly like it,” remarked John Avery, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a startup incubator. ATDC is providing the program management, startup educational and event planning and other services which go along with helping startups become successful.

“It’s very unique to have a public entity — the city of Peachtree Corners, an academic institution like Georgia Tech — and then a commercial provider, T-Mobile, come together, with overlapping interests, and decide to work together to help not only figure out some of the innovation about what 5G will bring us in the future, but to together, help whoever it is that’s coming up with this technology to get from Point A to Point B,” said Betsy Plattenburg, executive director of Curiosity Lab.

T-Mobile will function as the corporate sponsor, providing 5G staff expertise.

“So if you have a concept, but you don’t know much about 5G, we actually have the expertise to help you literally and figuratively connect to it, and figure out how it works, and how it might advance your technology,” said Plattenburg.

Peachtree Corners deployed 5G in the fall of 2019. However, the Curiosity Lab’s enhanced focus in this area positions it to become a leader in developing out technologies around goods movement, supply chain or last-mile delivery using autonomous or drone technology — all areas getting new interest since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"So it’s way more than just an autonomous car focus. It’s sort of a next-generation last-mile supply-chain researching, I think, is going to be going on there,” said Avery.

In just a few years, the Curiosity Lab has been a leader in developing numerous next-gen transportation and transit technologies. It’s proving out the use of solar panels placed in roadways, the testing of AV shuttles and remote-operated scooters that can be moved and parked by a distant off-site operator. The lab also features high-quality outdoor displays where traffic updates can be shared. The units also include sensing technology to monitor air pollution and traffic data.

The range of experimentation at the Curiosity Lab reaches across the connected vehicle spectrum ranging from vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-building, as well as entertainment and more. 

“Pretty much anything you can imagine, there’s somebody out there working on it,” said Plattenburg. “And we think this initiative will identify a lot more early stage companies who aren’t on our radar today, but we think we’ll basically be able to discover them, and help to dramatically accelerate their growth.”  

What the Curiosity Lab offers, said Plattenburg, “is not just the theoretical. It’s take this out on the track, and try it out. Put it on the 5G network. Does it work the way you think it does?” 

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.
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