The Foundry: AT&T, Tech, Cisco team up for research

The Midtown center is intended to spur wireless and mobile technology innovation
Carlton Hill

AT&T is joining forces with Georgia Tech and Cisco for some serious tech power, opening a research hub for wireless innovation at Technology Square. At the un-tech-sounding Foundry, AT&T employees will work with entrepreneurs and Tech researchers to develop mobile products. Carlton Hill, vice president of devices and developer services at AT&T, explains what’s going on.

Exactly what is the Foundry? It’s a program we started about two years ago to have a destination where we could really mix with the innovation community. We try to use the Foundry to provide access to our network and collaborate with developers. A lot of what comes out of that is new products and applications. We’re focusing on digital life, connected cars—is access to the connected world through your car?—and new mobile business. That can be pretty much anything, like caps on pill bottles that monitor how often you take your pills.

You have hubs in California, Texas, and Israel. Why Atlanta? AT&T has some of our most innovative and newest businesses here. We also have a long-standing relationship with Tech. They turn out some of the finest engineers in the country, and we wanted to have a closer relationship with those talented young people. Plus, Atlanta has a dynamic economy and keeps growing.

What will regular Atlantans see coming out of this? Innovation will start immediately. Products will start coming out of there in six months. Part of it is about speed. We want them to deliver as fast as they can.

Give an example. Georgia Tech is working on an augmented reality platform that we hope to be a part of. It’s when you use a device to look through a smartphone, and it will show you what you’re looking at with an information overlay. So if you’re an HVAC guy, for example, you can hold your phone up to the inside of an air-conditioning unit you haven’t seen before, and the app tells you what might be broken.

Will it bring jobs? We brought a few right off the bat. We’ll move about nine people in, and Cisco will move two or three people in. There will also be an apprenticeship program. In addition, a lot of people will be coming to Atlanta to see the Foundry. People from around the world will come to collaborate with us.

Could this research hub launch other spin-offs? It’s a very new approach for us. We’re very clear that collaboration is what we’re after. We want to help people build things, not necessarily just take ownership. In some cases we want to take those things to market ourselves, and in some cases we want to help them take it to market.

Do you plan on more hubs like this to be established around the world? We don’t really have any plans today to branch out. We’re being careful that there’s a reason to be in a good location—that it adds incremental value and perspective to the program. We don’t want to dilute what we have.

This article originally appeared in our October 2013 issue.