Las Vegas announces smart city plans with Cisco

The City of Las Vegas will use Cisco's solutions to collect and analyse data across environment, traffic, water, crowd control, transit, lighting, waste management, security, and parking in its bid to become a smart city.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The City of Las Vegas has unveiled a partnership with networking giant Cisco to become a smart city.

Announced by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Cisco SVP of IoT and Applications Rowan Trollope during Cisco Live Las Vegas, the partnership will involve using Cisco's connected cameras, sensors, and platforms to collect and analyse data across environment, traffic, water, crowd control, transit, lighting, waste management, security, and parking.

According to Michael Sherwood, CIO for the City of Las Vegas, creating a smart city is all about improving the experience and lifestyle of the 42 million yearly visitors, 650,000 city residents, and 2.2 million Las Vegas valley citizens.

With Cisco already providing the government's phone and networking systems, Sherwood said it was about simply extending this partnership into the city itself.

"Having a partner like Cisco that was able to help us with sensor technology, help us understand dynamics operation and how we could find new ways of efficiency, made it an ideal partnership," he explained.

Cisco's smart city solutions are being trialled in Las Vegas' innovation district, also known as the "digital playground", which was itself launched in March last year as a starting point for digitising the city.

"Instead of going out and doing what others might do, which is go ahead and buy one system and just plonk that into their entire city, we test it in a small pilot area, we get reactions from the community, we get reactions from the government leaders, and see how that technology works," Sherwood said.

"We're able to work with them in that playground and sort of refine it, hone it, and test it out, and then, once it's good, we can expand it out throughout the community."

One of the primary aims of creating a smart Las Vegas is to improve congestion at major intersections for vehicles, pedestrians, and bicycles, Sherwood said, which will involve using the data collected to reroute vehicles, improve the efficiency of traffic lights, and increase public safety.

"Using IoT technology now, we're able to look at the intersection in ways we've never looked at it before, using assets we already own. We own streetlights, we own these signal interchanges," he said.

"We're able to look at intersections now and count the number of vehicles that go through an intersection. Not only count the number of vehicles, [but also] the number of bicyclists, and the number of pedestrians ... with this intelligent architecture, we're able to see how people use the street.

"We're actually able to use the analytics now to look at the intersection at night and see that you're the only car there, so instead of the timer-basis that we use today -- that's just a timer, which is why you experience that 1-in-the-morning [red light] when you're there for what feels like years -- now the camera technology can look at that and make changes."

Sherwood said the city could also use that data to prepare for autonomous vehicles, including for choosing trucking routes in and out of the city, with the traffic cameras to also be used to improve safety.

"The same traffic and analytic cameras also allows us to look at the intersections and see if someone leaves a backpack behind, something that's out of character. It gives us the ability to be forward thinking instead of reactionary ... those type of analytics change dynamics of how cities operate, and how we can become more efficient as a government."

In terms of security, Sherwood explained that the primary reason for undertaking the pilot within the innovation district is to ensure the security of the systems before deploying them across the entire city.

"That's why we created the innovation district, where we can test these technologies out in a smaller but real-life environment, and it gives us an opportunity to see the security concerns we might have, how we can guard against those threats before we scale it out to the community," he said.

"Security is definitely a number one priority."

Sherwood confirmed that the city is looking into deploying blockchain in future, with an announcement expected by the end of 2017 on this.

"We are looking at a seamless payment transaction system, so it's something on the horizon. Again, we're very forward thinking, very aggressive in all the technology we're looking at deploying."

The smart city initiative is also a good opportunity to publish additional open data, with Sherwood saying Las Vegas is the number one city in the United States on providing open data under an effort to improve transparency and boost economic outcomes.

"We're able to publish that data openly," Sherwood said, adding that Cisco's platform will allow it to push more data out into the community.

The City of Las Vegas will be soft launching a smart city tie-in app called Go Vegas in August to provide mapping, weather, parking, and traffic information to residents. The city will also gather information from the app's users to analyse how it can be improved and individualised.

"It will actually have mapping components, the air temperature at the park, so you'll be able to get an idea of what the park conditions are like, you'll be able to see the number of parking spots or the availability, whether it's 10 percent availability, 50 percent, or completely available," the CIO explained.

"We'll start building profiles on individuals, so if we know you use a certain parking lot every week, and that lot is going to be resurfaced or closed for a special event, we'll be able to send you a push notification letting you know about another lot that's available."

Trollope added that Cisco will additionally be providing funding for startups and companies to expand operations into Las Vegas' innovation district.

Cisco has been focused on creating smart cities worldwide, with its Smart+Connected digital platform -- which consolidates data from sensors and information systems to provide an overarching view of a city -- already having been deployed in Kansas City, Copenhagen, Paris, Adelaide , Bucharest, Hungary, Dubrovnik, and Bengaluru.

Its smart cities program has seen it work with Adelaide, South Australia, on transforming the region into a smart city, after signing a memorandum of understanding for an IoT innovation hub designed to leverage Adelaide's free Wi-Fi network as a test bed for new applications and projects back in 2015.

The networking giant similarly announced plans to deploy a smart city framework throughout Kansas City, Missouri, in partnership with telecommunications carrier Sprint two years ago. Kansas City initially used a 2-mile Wi-Fi network and 93,000 sensors to begin improving efficiency for parking, traffic, lighting, water, and waste management.

Cisco also signed a "country digitisation" agreement with the French government in February 2015, committing to help accelerate the digital transformation of France through investments in smart cities, education, startups, national infrastructure, and cybersecurity.

An investment of $100 million followed, along with Cisco's partnership with French startup accelerator NUMA on the DataCity project in Paris; an open innovation project for future smart cities with NUMA; the opening of a new Innovation and Research Center at Cisco's HQ in Paris; and a further $100 million investment that October.

In March last year, Cisco similarly outlined plans with Berlin's Senate Department of Economics, Technology, and Research to transform Berlin into a smart city as part of the $500 million "Deutschland Digital" initiative that aims to digitise all of Germany, with telemedicine, public safety, security, and network infrastructure improvements the main areas of focus.

Cisco last month also formed a smart cities "alliance" with KPMG Australia to meld its technology and solutions with KPMG's IoT capabilities and provide an end-to-end open framework including the provision of advisory, technology, platform, support, and operations services.

The focal points of the smart city alliance will be developing tools for such services as smart city architecture; cybersecurity; data and analytics; change management; master service integration; design thinking; solution design and implementation; optimisation and operational services; and financial and business case modelling.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Las Vegas as a guest of Cisco

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