CES 2019: Las Vegas and Los Angeles see 5G as a game changer for smart cities

AT&T is working with Los Angeles and Las Vegas on multiple smart cities projects, with the two cities saying 5G will bring even more opportunities.

The impact of 5G on smart cities technology will change the game, those in charge of the deployments across Los Angeles and Las Vegas said at CES 2019.

Speaking at a roundtable, AT&T VP of IoT and GM of Smart Cities Mike Zeto said smart cities deployments are already moving from the original focus on getting infrastructure deployed to now concentrating on more citizen-focused applications.

"We really believe that 5G is fundamental for smart cities in the use cases that drive the value of the citizens, whether it be bridging the digital divide, providing infrastructure for businesses to expand, autonomous vehicles, public safety use cases, emergency preparedness," Zeto said.

"5G is really going to make a difference."

With 5G requiring more small cells, fibre, and towers, it is also important to have partnerships with cities to enable this deployment, Zeto said.

Two of these partnerships are seeing AT&T work with the cities of Los Angeles and Las Vegas on solving specific use cases.

For instance, Las Vegas earlier this week announced that it will be trialling a smart lighting solution with AT&T and Ubicquia, aimed at improving public safety and energy efficiency.

The companies will test the solution for six months in parts of the Las Vegas Innovation District, using existing streetlights kitted out with Ubicquia's Ubicell streetlight routers. AT&T -- which faced criticism earlier this week after branding devices as being 5GE -- will then integrate its LTE and LTE-M networks with Ubicquia's smart lighting platform.

The Las Vegas journey towards a smart city began in March 2016, City of Las Vegas director of innovation and technology Michael Sherwood said, with the AT&T partnership for co-creation established very early on.

Sherwood said the goal of the technology is not just to have technology; it's to have the amenities to bring citizens, businesses, and visitors to Las Vegas.

"There's two things that we're looking at doing within our city: One's called situational awareness, it's providing real-time intelligence, real-time information to key stakeholders," Sherwood explained.

"The other component is force multiplication -- how can IoT technology provide or enhance labor resources we already have."

With the smart streetlights already deployed in the innovation district, Sherwood added that the city is currently working on expanding this in the next three to four months to other areas, and to additional capabilities such as air quality.

"You'll see a rapid expansion of some broad initiatives that cover public safety, sustainability, and environmental, as well as digital inequality," he added.

See also: More CES coverage

ShakeAlertLA, an earthquake warning app launched last week by AT&T and the City of Los Angeles, also "puts value in the hands of citizens", Zeto said.

Jeff Gorell, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety for the City of Los Angeles, said the app began with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) working to build out a system with 250 sensors all over Southern California on fault lines. The organisation was underfunded, so Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti sought out local, state, and federal government funding as well as public-private partnerships to get the sensor system and app up and running before the next big earthquake could hit the area.

The process took a year and a half through development, testing, and launching, including finding the funding, Gorell said, with Los Angeles continuing to work with state and federal governments on smart cities advancements.

There is just 1.88 seconds between the sensors detecting an oncoming earthquake and the app pushing a notification to users, CIO for the City of Los Angeles Ted Ross said.

This provides enough time for risks to be mitigated during an earthquake, Ross explained, including for doctors to put a scalpel down, people to avoid entering elevators, and dangerous machinery to shut itself down.

"These aren't just cool, techy, kind of fun Black Mirror kinds of conversations; these are real conversations that launched [the app] last week," Ross said.

"When you fast forward a little bit ... adding 5G on top of that, now you have a game changer. So we're talking about making things 40 to 50 times faster, having that much less latency, which gives us the ability to deploy sensors and technologies to make ShakeAlertLA look like just a 1.0 type of conversation."

Ross conceded that smart cities is often used as a buzzword, but that what sets apart his city is the use of technology to "effectively change life for the better for its residents, its businesses, and its visitors".

"There's a lot of technology out there in the world, but I think what's really separated Los Angeles and Las Vegas and others -- the real smart cities are the ones that like to deploy technology to really move the needle, and I think that's a different aspect," Ross told ZDNet.

"It's data-driven, customer-focused."

Related Coverage

CES 2019: The Big Trends for Business

It's no wonder that IBM CEO Ginni Rometty is the opening keynote for CES 2019 -- the conference is about business as much as consumer electronics -- as IoT, smart IT, AI and 5G take center stage as the bridge to everything connected.

CES 2019: Can brands be trusted in the data age?

As people wake up to the risks of data collection, some companies at CES are trying to convince consumers they can be responsible stewards of their personal data.

CES 2019: Telstra confirms 5G smartphones by mid-2019

Telstra has announced multiple agreements to offer commercial 5G smartphones to customers in the first half of 2019.

CES 2019: First look at the Samsung 5G smartphone

Samsung is showing off its 5G smartphone prototype at CES 2019, giving users a first taste of what the device will look like.

CES 2019: Cisco talks 6G

While everyone else spent CES 2019 talking about 5G, Cisco is already looking towards a 6G future.

CES 2019: How business professionals can benefit from AI in the enterprise (TechRepublic)

IBM Watson can help with marketing, supply chain, and commerce, particularly as AI is moving from general to broad data.

CES 2019: How IBM Watson uses AI to uncover hidden bias (TechRepublic)

General Manager of IBM Watson business applications Inhi Chosuh discusses how insufficient data, IoT devices, incorrect values, and other factors can influence machine-generated bias within AI.