Midtown Buzz

For linking communities through mobile tech
Illustration by Studio Muti
Illustration by Studio Muti

As riders roll into the Midtown MARTA station, they can check an app for real-time updates on connections. OneBusAway—which tracks trains, buses, and Tech shuttles—is one of several apps developed through Midtown Buzz, a partnership between the university and the Midtown Alliance business association. The goal of Buzz is to engage residents, businesses, and students in developing community-focused smartphone apps. CycleAtlanta, another Buzz app, records bicycle trips and enables cyclists to share street conditions with city planners.

“We want people who are in Midtown to talk about the things they need,” says Shannon Powell, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Midtown Alliance. “All of this is centered around how do we leverage Georgia Tech as a world-class university and connect the community back to them?”

Laurie Dean Baird, managing director of Midtown Buzz and executive in residence for media and entertainment for Tech’s Institute for People and Technology, says teams host workshops to showcase tools and help participants develop and find resources for grants. One idea being discussed is a “mobile beacon” that provides information on landmarks. You might, for instance, get an alert with an interesting fact about the Margaret Mitchell House as you walk past the structure at the corner of Tenth and Peachtree.

“This is an evolution,” says Baird. “It can be a bigger story than Midtown. But Midtown is our home, and we really wanted to experiment with what it means to be in a city that’s connected.”

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