The city of Atlanta was General Land Corp.'s first client. Why did Atlanta hire you? They were pouring raw sewage into the drinking-water facilities. The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] handed the city of Atlanta consent decrees. It was going to cost them billions to satisfy the EPA. Then Public Law 107 -- a piece of the Patriot Act -- basically said that you should upgrade your city in a lot of ways. So Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said, "Well, since we have to do both these things, let's do them together." We took dual-use technologies that created a foundation layer for all projects.
Atlanta has a wireless "cloud." What's its dual purpose? We got the money from Homeland Security to roll out the wireless cloud. This is not wireless like public Wi-Fi access. It is a wireless network for emergency services. It also meant that we could roll out wireless water meters to an area that wasn't tracked previously. Now Atlanta can recoup $2 million in water-usage fees.
You talk about "smart" buildings. But you and I both know CIOs aren't sitting around looking at elevator reports. That's changing. I'm working with Sony right now. And they are realizing that all these buildings they own have become critical to liability. I would say that's where the CIO role is changing rapidly. You have to talk about the physical environment. That's new to a lot of CIOs.
This was first published in September 2005