Las Vegas ‘Innovation District’ is a testbed for smart city tech

Last year, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman officially unveiled the Innovation District, a segment of the city that Goodman hoped would become a “digital playground” for technology vendors and service providers to test out and show off their smart city solutions.

The city invested $500 million into the project, dedicated to helping develop emerging technologies. The goal is to “create a place where intelligent transportation systems and smart technology operate seamlessly to provide services efficiently to residents and visitors,” according to city’s Innovation District Website.

One year later, and the district has been a wild success, attracting a who’s who list of IoT and smart city focused companies, and has become a testbed for smart city and IoT technologies. It’s also been a boon to Las Vegas’ own goals of becoming a smart city by 2025.

Earlier this week, T-Mobile completed what it claims to be North America’s first live tests of Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) LTE technology across multiple sites in Las Vegas, along with vendors Qualcomm and Ericsson.

The tests are part of a new partnership T-Mobile has announced with the city of Las Vegas to pilot a handful of smart city technologies using T-Mobile’s NB-IoT network. The project includes a flood abatement program that uses sensors placed in storm drainage areas to provide early warnings of floods and fault detection; an environment monitoring project that uses sensors installed on light poles to monitor temperature, humidity and environmental gasses; and a street lighting application that will enable officials to manage the city’s LED street lights.

“The Las Vegas Innovation District was created to bring the most exciting emerging technologies right to our doorstep,” said Michael Sherwood, director of technology for the city. “We are excited about partnering with T-Mobile to bring these technologies to the core of our city in a way that will benefit residents and tourists.”

Las Vegas making big bets on IoT

As a pioneer in the smart city space, Las Vegas has had a few advantages that’s helped the city realize its goals. First of all, the city is home to an extensive fiber optic broadband network, thanks to a statewide initiative, powered by data center giant Switch, to boost connectivity throughout the state of Nevada. That fiber backbone is a crucial enabling technology for virtually all smart city applications.

It also has the distinction of being the home of the world’s largest technology conference, CES, which is held every year at the Las Vegas Convention Center. And we should note that sectors such as smart city solutions, renewable energy products and autonomous vehicles have become a growing presence at CES over the past two years.

The city initially began exploring IoT for improving traffic and public safety in some of its busiest sectors. The city sees over 40 million tourists each year.

It now has partnerships with Delphi Automotive and Acyclica for solutions that monitor and ease traffic congestion, as well as solutions that enable connected and autonomous cars to communicate with traffic lights and receive traffic information in real time. The city is now well on its way to becoming a hub for autonomous vehicle testing and development.

But the city has since expanded its ambitions around building up its smart infrastructure. Over the last year, the city has announced a slew of smart city projects, trials and partnerships, all taking place at the Innovation District.

Cisco is trialing some of its Smart+Connected digital platform solutions in the city’s Innovation District for managing and analyzing data on traffic, pedestrian traffic, water usage, waste management and street lighting in real time. Cisco just hosted its Live Las Vegas conference there last month.

Other vendors playing in Las Vegas’ digital playground include IoT network provider Ingenu, data specialist Numina and technology company Motionloft, Hitachi, France-based Navya, Switch, predictive analytics firm WayCare, Oracle and others.

“Las Vegas is becoming known for its efforts to provide safe, reliable and efficient civic technology,” Goodman said. “We plan to deploy solutions that will enhance mobility, reduce congestion, improve resident safety, reduce our carbon footprint, and stimulate economic growth and diversity.”

Featured Image:Las Vegas; (CC BY 2.0) by Michael Rehfeldt

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