Tech Company Taking on Larger Role in Smart Columbus Projects
Pillar Technology, a growing Columbus-based company that has been active in the autonomous vehicle field for years, is now also playing a significant role in the Smart Columbus initiative.
A group of Pillar employees were among the first occupants of the recently-opened Smart Columbus Experience Center. The focus of their work in the new space will be the continued development of the Smart Columbus Operating System, a project that was pitched as the key element of a reorganization of the Smart Columbus portfolio at the end of last year.
Bob Myers, Pillar’s CEO, is a Columbus native who has overseen the company’s growth from a small outpost in Michigan (founded by partner Gary Gentry), into a company that is nearing 400 employees and opening offices all over the country.
The new operating system will “collect all of the data from any device that is putting out smart data,” Myers said, which will include information about public transit and the movement of traffic, but also could include data about a wider range of topics, such as food pantries and the availability of fresh food.
Pillar’s involvement in Smart Columbus is coming at a time when the project, now nearing the end of its second year, is on the cusp of fulfilling its potential, according to Myers.
“Most of our clients hire us because we’re really good at taking an idea and making it reality,” he said. “Like any project, [Smart Columbus] has struggled a little but to get started, but that’s all changed now…we’re going to power through this.”
“If they connect everything into this that they are planning on connecting into it,” Myers added, “Columbus will be viewed very differently in the world, it’ll be [viewed as] a very progressive city.”
Pillar is also involved in a second project that overlaps with the Smart Columbus mission – an autonomous vehicle research center that recently received a $2 million JobsOhio grant.
The research center, which will be located in Columbus, will be used to develop and test technology that enables vehicles to communicate with each other and with surrounding infrastructure.
Pillar has a history of working on similar technology, going all the way back to the early days of OnStar. More recent projects include the development of fully autonomous systems for John Deere farm equipment and a collaboration with a major auto manufacturer to incorporate artificial intelligence into the next generation of its cars.
“The [DriveOhio] grant is basically accelerating that research and development here in Ohio,” said Myers, adding that a recent executive order on autonomous vehicle testing signed by Governor John Kasich will also help to encourage the industry.
For more information, visit pillartechnology.com.