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VIDEO: 'Smart parks' – Las Vegas' green spaces are getting a tech reboot

In partnership with SmartCitiesWorld, Diana Blass, Kurrant Insights, talks to Michael Lee Sherwood, Director of Technology & Innovation, City of Las Vegas, about smart parks, cybersecurity, how technology projects are funded and more.


Every January, techies gather in Las Vegas for the CES trade show but away from the glitz of the strip, the city is deploying smart city technologies elsewhere too. Michael Lee Sherwood, Director of Technology & Innovation, City of Las Vegas, outlines some of the key projects.



Smart parks


One of Vegas’ latest initiatives is around ‘smart parks’.


“We have sensors in parks that manage safety,” Sherwood said. “So if a park closes at 9pm and someone goes into the park after that, we have automated sensors that use AI [artificial intelligence] and basically play a very nice greeting, saying, ‘Thank you for coming, but our park is closed’.


A second message will play if they don’t leave, before alerting law enforcement.


He said there could also be instances where someone in the park has a medical issue and collapses, and may not be found until the next morning.


“With our system, we’re able to monitor [when] individuals are in the park after closing,” Sherwood commented. A member of staff can then go and check in on the situation.


The parks are set for a further “tech reboot” too.


Sherwood explained: “We’re looking at how we can take that asset of a park and still keep it as a park that’s enjoyable for people, but can we add electric charging stations to it? Can we add signage that if you have a birthday party there, you can put up photos on a digital sign?”




To date, Sherwood says Las Vegas has spent almost none of its own capital on smart city projects.


“We’ve had a lot of great partnerships with private entities. To date, we’ve received probably around $15 million in in-kind donations from these pilot projects,” he said, adding “We’ve been very lucky by being so aggressive and willing to pilot solutions in our innovation district. We’ve been really able to learn from these experiences and not have to expend money on the technology.”


Security and privacy


An ongoing hot topic in smart cities is cybersecurity, with several US cities falling victim to ransomware attacks recently.


At the beginning of this year, Las Vegas was hit by a cyber-attack but Sherwood played it down, saying: “We were not hacked.”


To date, Sherwood says Las Vegas has spent almost none of its own capital on smart city projects.


He called the situation a “minor cyber incident” which was mitigated within hours, due to being detected early.


“The systems are part of our smart portfolio of technology and that’s ensuring that these systems maintain a level of safety, not just our operational IT networks, but our IoT networks as well,” he said.


On privacy concerns around smart cities, Sherwood said: “In a lot of the systems we use, we specifically don’t take any facial features. We use infrared cameras, heat-sensing cameras and systems so we’re not grabbing facial features.”


What’s next?


Future innovations include the deployment of autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas’ Medical District over the next two years, following a grant.


Las Vegas is also planning to deploy a private 5G network using unlicensed spectrum, with pilot projects scheduled to begin soon.


Sherwood said: “We’re very excited about the capabilities of being able to deploy sensors faster throughout the community and also using that to break the digital divide.”


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