If CIO Michael Sherwood has his way, what happens in Vegas could very well spill over into the streets of every city in the United States — maybe even the world. He wants new technologies and the companies behind them to flourish in the glitzy jurisdiction.
The idea behind the city’s tech tack is simple: create a place to innovate and give citizens new tools to make their lives easier. In one area of the city, an innovation district promises to be a proving ground for autonomous vehicle technology, and a new identity management system could help lay the groundwork for more efficient government. As Sherwood tells it, officials are committed to making Vegas more than just a tourist destination — they want stake in the future as well.
1. What are some of the major initiatives you are working on?
We’re working on creating partnerships with private entities and other public agencies, and developing a truly innovative downtown area. We have an innovation corridor in our downtown area, so we’re looking at autonomous vehicle loops where we would have autonomous vehicles running. We’re partnering with several regional as well as national companies that specialize in that field. We’re looking at doing an Internet of Things-based deployment downtown as well — temperature sensors and other types — which is consistent with what others are doing, but we’re looking at how we can interact that with the community at large, including business partners.
2. How do you see the innovation district developing in the next couple years?
It’s almost limitless. There are so many ways we can engage our citizenry better, provide better transportation, provide better medical service and provide an overall better experience for the people within our city.
I think this state is all-in on technology. It comes from leadership from all over — from local government to the governor’s office. I think this entire state is energized toward really using technology to its fullest extent. On the local level, our mayor, our City Council and city manager, we’re out there, we’re ready to go and take on projects. We’re not afraid of risks, and we’re willing to do things we believe will have a high possible yield. If they don’t work out, we regroup and we go back at it.
In one highly publicized advancement, the city installed kinetic sidewalks that help store electricity to power city lighting. Sherwood said new technologies like this could one day help to better manage roadways and connect with people on the street.
3. How is Las Vegas focusing on becoming more customer-centric?
What we are doing now is building an identity management system where you log in, we know who you are based on your identity and we will be able to start tailoring the delivery of services to you based on trends. So if you have purchased soccer camps for your children, we will be able to tell you about upcoming classes or soccer camps. Then when new soccer programs come up, if you opt in, we would alert you to those types of the events. It’s kind of the single pane of glass.
4. How is the Amazon Echo playing into Las Vegas’ strategy?
There is more to it than just that customer interaction experience; it’s about how we reach as many different layers of the citizenry as we can. So there are mobile applications, and we just see this as another form of transparency where we can provide services to people in a way that is much more convenient. When you look at technology as a whole, running out to your phone, grabbing it, opening an app and then trying to interact with government is one way of doing it, but there are other ways that are more efficient and can provide instantaneous feedback.
We’re trying to take it to the next level. Right now you can ask [Alexa] when the next council meeting is, when the next planning commission meeting is, you can ask which ward you are in … but we are looking at taking our open data initiative and incorporating it into Alexa. We’re hoping this will cut down on public records requests. If we can have this information available, maybe that will help us become more efficient internally.