Officials in Henderson, Nev., plan to explore how drones, with their birds-eye view of emergency situations, can be used by the city’s fire department. It’s one of the reasons why Henderson wants to issue an RFP to look into how the aerial devices can become part of its buffet of smart city technological advancements.
“The drone can safely navigate around a burning structure and provide visual angles that the firemen cannot see easily on their own,” said Laura Fucci, Henderson’s chief information officer. “This can greatly assist the firemen with their strategy to quickly douse the blaze.”
Drones could also be effective in other emergency situations such as locating lost hikers. Henderson’s trails system is extensive, exceeding 180 miles.
“Sometimes, people get lost or hurt on these trails,” said Fucci. “In some situations, drones can locate individuals in need, assess their situation, and get needed medical equipment or water to them quicker than our emergency responders. It does get to 120 [degrees] in the desert here.”
The RFP, which has not yet been issued, follows the city’s newly adopted Smart City Strategy, which includes three focus areas: public safety, education and transportation. The new strategy is the result of a “Smart City Working Group,” formed in fall 2017, and made up of city staff along with Gartner Consulting. The group gathered insights from outside organizations like the Governor’s Office, the Clark County School District and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Henderson is located just south of Las Vegas. It’s a city of about 300,000 residents, and is expected to grow to 400,000 by 2036. The objective for developing the city’s smart cities strategic plan was to understand Henderson’s own unique sense of place, and draft a strategy that initiates smart city projects that make sense for Henderson, said Fucci.
“We are a very different city from Las Vegas, and have different problems to solve,” she explained. “For example, parking is a big issue for Las Vegas, while in Henderson, we do not have a single paid parking spot.”
Henderson is also one of the safest communities in the country, according to Fucci, so the city wouldn’t prioritize gunshot sensors, which are more likely to be found in Las Vegas or Clark County, home of the Las Vegas Strip.
However, there will likely be areas where Henderson and Las Vegas can collaborate. Las Vegas has been a leader in the smart city and autonomous vehicles space with its downtown Innovation District, testing light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors. The city has also been at the forefront of testing small autonomous shuttles.
“Michael is doing some wonderful things in Vegas,” said Fucci, referring to Las Vegas CIO Michael Sherwood. “We collaborate weekly throughout the Las Vegas valley on ‘Smart Community’ efforts. Michael and his team participate in many of those discussions. Transportation continues to drive — no pun intended — much of our collaborative discussions, but that is beginning to expand as we all discover some common areas of interest,” she added.
Another area of technology Henderson will explore, via the issuance of an RFP, is language translations.
“The concept of the translator is to integrate this technology at our business counters,” said Fucci, noting that areas of city hall, such as permitting, or the processing of business licenses or passports, can benefit from multi-language translations.
“Southern Nevada has a rich pool of [foreign] language-speaking individuals, and we are seeking technology to help us embrace our diversity and provide better interactions between these multi-language communities,” explained Fucci, via email.
It’s not yet clear if the translating will employ artificial intelligence or other technologies, or come in the form of access to live individuals.
“The focus of our RFPs are to describe the problem and let the vendor community propose possible solutions,” said Fucci.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.