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Traffic Signals in Vegas Could Soon Have a Mind of Their Own

Smart city leaders gathered virtually for the Dell Technologies World conference this week to discuss new projects and initiatives. Officials from Las Vegas and Phoenix shared upcoming projects and regional goals.

traffic on the Las Vegas strip
Shutterstock/Virrage Images
Officials are already able to virtually monitor activity in Las Vegas parks in real time, freeing up staff to handle other needs, but in the future, traffic signals in Sin City could have a mind of their own, predicting when auto volumes will increase and adjusting accordingly. 

These were some of the smart city initiatives laid out by Michael Sherwood, chief innovation officer for Las Vegas, during a virtual public-sector panel discussion Wednesday at the Dell Technologies World conference.  

The Smart Parks Initiative is an effort to use technology — in the form of cameras, sensors and communications devices — to glean how parks are being used and when. 

The project allows the city to “make better decisions driven off of data,” said Sherwood. 

In areas like transportation, Las Vegas has been on the cutting edge of deploying technology to support connected vehicles and intelligent traffic management. The city is exploring future iterations of traffic management where signal controls are directed by large caches of data related to traffic volume so that the signals could make real-time predictions and modify accordingly to create smoother traffic flows and less congestion. 

“Truly allowing traffic to flow freely, without having congestion pockets, and … based on historic trends, many [signals] will predict when traffic will happen, and then [change] the lighting time accordingly,” Sherwood remarked during the session “Digital Communities: Moving from Technology Experiments to Real Outcomes.”

To the south in Maricopa County, Ariz., home to the Phoenix metro area, smart city projects have not quite reached the level seen in Las Vegas, officials said, but the foundation has been laid with the Greater Phoenix Smart Region Initiative to leverage the region’s size as a place to scale smart city systems, said Dominic Papa, vice president, Smart State Initiatives at the Arizona Commerce Authority. 

Maricopa County, with 22 cities, is the fourth most populous in the nation, and has been the fastest growing for several years. It is also home to Arizona State University, one of the largest public research institutions in the nation.

Leaders realized one of the key characteristics they could offer was the scale of the region, and the ability to work across a wide area, and a number of stakeholders, launching the Smart Region Initiative two years ago.

“Since then, it’s been a great economic tool for us. We’ve seen companies start to move in and be part of the ecosystem. We’ve seen local companies start to expand their innovation investment. And we’re starting to see a real pipeline of workforce, the future of workforce, being developed. So all things we wanted and hoped for, in this idea of collaborating across industries and across sectors,” said Papa. 

The initiative has been involved with growing collaboration among a number of city, county and other stakeholders in the Phoenix region. 

“We’ve been largely focused on developing the sustainable operational infrastructure and framework that’s going to enable all these stakeholders to drive that continuous innovation,” said Papa.  

The initiative will soon deploy an internal innovation platform which will allow all cities to utilize the same platform.

“That will allow them to put their own initiatives in, so that the cities can be able to talk and share best practices… It’s also going to enable engagement for industry partners,” he explained.

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 Yreka, Calif.