Oct 20 2017

Las Vegas Taps Smart City Initiatives to Improve Mobility, Quality-of-Life

Aggressive connected tech rollouts are building a more mobile, secure and future-ready city.

Las Vegas is famous for gambling, but the city’s director of technology and innovation, Michael Sherwood, is convinced that its $500 million investment in smart city tech is a safe bet.

Earlier this year, the city announced a partnership with Cisco Systems that would build on and expand its existing connectivity infrastructure in its downtown Innovation District with the aim to improve mobility, sustainability and provide insight into a host of city issues. Ultimately, the city is aiming to become a well-developed smart city by 2025.

It’s really about reinventing the streets, how we communicate with our community and, since we’re a tourist destination, how we communicate with individuals coming into our city on a constant basis,” says Sherwood of the partnership and plans to grow connected infrastructure downtown.

Capitalizing on Real-Time Data to Improve City Operations

Las Vegas is home to more than 600,000 citizens and hosted 42 million visitors in 2016. To improve urban life for visitors and residents, the city has laid the groundwork for city-wide connectivity and is piloting tech in its downtown that can ease frustrations, such as traffic.

Sherwood and his team are hoping to leverage sensor technology to detect traffic patterns, changing the pace of streetlights accordingly to keep traffic moving. This would not only make it easier to travel downtown, but it would cut back on CO2 emissions from cars that may otherwise be idling at stoplights.

Intersection sensors also are being deployed downtown to keep residents safe from potential traffic accidents. They are already active at 18 intersections downtown and, when piloting has completed in these areas, will roll out on a much larger scale to the rest of the city.

“Excitingly, we are currently testing our pedestrian safety technology, and using LIDAR remote sensing in the intersections to detect a wrong-way driver or a pedestrian that steps onto the crosswalk at the wrong time. We’re able to change the light from green to red so oncoming cars will stop,” says Sherwood. LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a type of radar that uses pulses of light to detect an object’s movement and distance.

Moreover, the city is testing out sensors that can detect when trash cans are full, which will allow city workers to collect trash on more efficient routes, and smart streetlight tech that can alert city workers to streetlights that have gone out.

“When a streetlight burns out today, either a city employee or resident will call us to let us know,” says Sherwood, adding that, while it seems small, an out streetlight can have real consequences when it comes to crime and/or accidents in the area. But by using Cisco’s Smart+Connected Digital Platform to collect and analyze real-time information on city property, maintenance teams can detect and repair streetlights on much shorter timelines.

“For now, there’s no way of knowing when these things occur,” Sherwood said of broken streetlights. “But, when you have a smart infrastructure with a platform that collects and visualizes that kind of data and automates the information to the necessary stakeholder, the right person knows right away that the light has a problem and that a crew needs to be dispatched to replace it. In the future, the crew could even be dispatched automatically.”

Matching the Future of Tech with the Next-Generation Workforce

This type of instantaneous feedback is proving immensely useful for city workers where it has been deployed.

“For the departments that use the technology, it’s a huge benefit to them because they’re able to get more timely information and are able to have people respond quickly to issues that are brought to their attention,” says Sherwood.

From an operational perspective, it is also helping to maximize the time of city workers. With technology that can make trash routes more efficient, for example, workers can spend hours in the day normally spent at empty trash bins, removing graffiti or bringing the truck back to the garage for service.

The technology really helps embrace a more efficient operation,” Sherwood says.

And as technology changes the workflow, it is also shaping Las Vegas’s hiring and training tactics.

“The role of the IT workforce is changing and evolving from just being hardware installers and maintenance components to business operators and analysts,” says Sherwood. “You have to understand how business is conducted as you start putting the sensors out into the environment and you start getting data back.”

Connected Tech Brings Las Vegas into the Next Century

Las Vegas is rolling out a fiber network downtown on which to build out its smart city tech. Ultimately, the city will use that connectivity to deploy sensors, Wi-Fi and connected tech to gather insights into city operations and make them more efficient for residents.

“The connected ecosystem in general really provides us with the insights to achieve our goals of having a safer, more sustainable, more mobile city and we hope that all of that breeds economic development and brings businesses to our city,” says Sherwood. “That’s what trying to build a smart city is all about.”

And he is hoping that these quality-of-life and safety improvements will also work to attract more economic development to the area.

Part of the reason for our smart city efforts is to redefine our city as not just a mecca for entertainment but as an area to do business and a city that is serious about the future,” he says.

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