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In Atlanta, Data Helps Drive A Smart City Revolution


Amazon announced Atlanta as one of 20 finalists for its HQ2 last month. The Georgia capital is joined by a number of major U.S. cities, but it is not just another name on a list. As it turns out, the city has much more to be proud of. Over the last few years, Atlanta has made strides to become a smart city.

The term “smart city” has generated some major buzz over the last few years as metro areas across the globe leverage technology in an effort to become more efficient, sustainable and accessible places to live and work. Atlanta is one of the cities leading the trend. The greater Atlanta region is investing in several initiatives to become smarter. The city has proposed solutions that expand mobility options, improve business and commerce, increase environmental sustainability and promote safety.

“The city of Atlanta has embarked on a journey of resurgence to improve the look, feel and experience of the city for its citizens, visitors and businesses,” Renew Atlanta General Manager Faye DiMassimo said to GovTech. “The city’s SMARTAtl program enables the city, its citizens and its businesses to improve the livability and foster economic growth by leveraging the Internet of Things and big data analytics.” 

At the center of this smart city revolution is data. Atlanta plans to open a Smart City Command Center at Georgia Tech’s High Performance Computing center. This center will analyze and monitor information across the city by storing big data and providing direct, high-power computational access to the city. Atlanta will also partner with Google Fiber to link LED streetlights and sensors to its existing network. These advanced traffic control and monitoring systems and high-resolution security cameras will promote transportation safety across the city. Atlanta has also invested in web and mobile applications to better connect residents to their public transportation systems, making more of the city accessible. 

A MARTA train in Atlanta

Data centers in Atlanta are fundamental to successful execution of these smart city initiatives. Atlanta’s plans for growth and improvement require speed and connectivity. This investment in technology means a greater need for data storage space.

For data center real estate investment company Carter Validus, this demand positioned Atlanta as a natural fit for success and expansion. In January 2012, the company purchased 180 Peachtree St. NW, a data center space in the heart of downtown Atlanta where tenants include Equinix, Verizon and Level 3. Since 2012, Carter Validus has purchased five additional data centers in the Atlanta market. 

“The greater Atlanta market is a fiber hub and home to a vibrant corporate community,” Carter Validus CEO Michael Seton said. “It is a gateway to the entire Southeast region and there is a lot of opportunity for growth.”

This opportunity for growth and a culture of urban innovation in Atlanta drove the company’s decision to build and grow opportunities in 250 Williams St. NW, another data center space in Downtown Atlanta. 

At nearly 1M SF, 250 Williams is a mixed-use property with office and data center space. The building, former wholesale trade center AmericasMart, was designed by neofuturistic architect John Portman in the 1980s. Its size and prior use makes it a prime hotspot for power and connectivity. 

As Atlanta starts to implement smart city initiatives, it is also beginning to get smart about security. With access to more information than ever before, data centers need to ensure they are meeting compliance standards to keep data secure. 

The people who have access to this data have a responsibility to protect data using physical and digital infrastructure. 250 Williams provides physical security for its tenants. This includes high barrier walls and advanced lock systems. 

These new developments and initiatives are proof that Atlanta’s economy is changing. New demands have shaped how and where businesses invest capital, and Atlanta is still in the beginning stages of innovation.

“The need for data is growing and metro Atlanta still has a lot of expanding to do,” Carter Validus Vice President of Asset Management Karlton Holston said. “Atlanta is on the cusp of exponential growth.”

As the smart city revolution in Atlanta and across the globe picks up speed, demand for secure and reliable data is increasing. Big data is growing larger, and it is up to data centers to host and effectively manage this information. As smart cities continue to evolve, data centers need to be one step ahead of the curve. 

Seton will be speaking at the Data Center Investment Conference & Expo Southeast in Atlanta at 250 Williams. Find out more here. 

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