Pepper the Robot charmed guests at the September 11 Curiosity Lab grand opening in Peachtree Corners

City welcomes world to test technology in Gwinnett smart city

On a sunny Wednesday morning in September, Peachtree Corners city leaders, partners and more than 400 invited guests attended the unveiling of the city's Curiosity Lab, an autonomous vehicle test track that welcomes the world to put its smart city technology through the paces. Onlookers were wowed by displays of the latest 5G and IoT technology, along the 1.5-mile testbed.

Distinguished guests included Georgia's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Georgia Department of Transportation Chair Ann Purcell. Curiosity Lab partners Sprint Business and Georgia Power (represented by president Jan Geldmacher and president Paul Bowers, respectively) were also on hand to debut the cutting-edge technology exhibited at the Grand Opening. The city's mayor and council, state insurance commissioner John King, city manager Brian Johnson and Curiosity Lab board member Wayne Hodges were also present, proudly displaying the first living lab of its kind.

"We invite businesses and startups alike to use Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners to test their intelligent mobility and smart city technologies," said Mayor Mike Mason.

Reminiscent of the Technology Park of the 1970s, a technological mecca raised out of the raw red clay of western Gwinnett County by visionary Paul Duke, Peachtree Corners' Curiosity Lab is destined to once again place Georgia at the center of technological innovation in the United States and even the world.

Guests at the grand opening event got a chance to ride Olli, a Local Motors 10-seat autonomous shuttle  Guests at the grand opening event got a chance to ride Olli, a Local Motors 10-seat autonomous shuttle As is true of many great notions, this one evolved from a big idea to a grand one, to one of magnificence and pure invention. The Sprint 5G-enabled autonomous vehicle test track, which runs along Technology Parkway in front of City Hall, has been designed to give entrepreneurs, corporations, even countries a place to test their smart city technology in a real-world setting.

The Curiosity Lab Grand Opening event also kicked off the opening of the Smart City Expo in Atlanta, the world's leading conference and expo on smart cities and smart urban solutions. The Expo is usually held in Barcelona, Spain, but organizers selected Atlanta this year as the only U.S. edition of the Smart City Expo World Congress.

This bold new creation in Peachtree Corners, according to Duncan, is an invitation to the world to bring their brightest engineers and their best technology to Gwinnett County to be tested.

According to Mayor Mike Mason, the Curiosity Lab, originally a simple test track for other entities to test their own technology, grew in scope once the world began to weigh in regarding its needs. Referring to Sprint and to the nation of Israel (just two giants whose interest was garnered by the Curiosity Lab), "They already had their own vehicles. We had what they needed – a city, because a city has infrastructure," Mason remarked.

Tortoise's tele-operated e-scooter demonstrated its hands-off skills during the September 11 eventTortoise's tele-operated e-scooter demonstrated its hands-off skills during the September 11 eventParticipants at the Grand Opening ceremony got a chance to ride Olli, a Local Motors 10-seat fully automated shuttle that will begin testing on the Peachtree Corners track in October. A Valqari drone-delivered food using pre-set GPS coordinates, and Tortoise's e-scooter tooled around the area, driven remotely by a person in Mexico City. CloudMinds' Pepper the Robot was on hand for the festivities, shaking hands, dancing, chatting, and waving at people as he took selfies with some. Automotive companies, mobile kitchen solutions, and even an autonomous lawnmower flexed their high-tech muscles at the event.

In true innovative style, students from nearby Paul Duke STEM High School flew in the ribbon for the cutting, using a couple of drones.

Technology Park is again leading the way into the future of technology, with the help, the dreams and the vision of giants like yesterday's Paul Duke, and today's leaders of Peachtree Corners.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Phillips