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CES 2019: Latest in Muni Smart Lighting, Earthquake Warning, 5G

Officials from Las Vegas and Los Angeles discussed recent partnerships with tech firms that will take advantage of new technologies to boost public safety, reduce energy costs and expand urban communications.

LAS VEGAS — Collaboration between two major cities and their telecommunications partners is generating significant public response and should increase safety, reduce energy consumption and yield operational savings, officials told Government Technology.

Technology and public safety officials from Las Vegas and Los Angeles joined executives from AT&T and Ubicquia, a smart city platform provider, on Jan. 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to discuss how new and ongoing partnerships in smart lighting, 5G deployment and earthquake warning should save lives and help the municipalities efficiently provide enhanced services.

Major IoT Pilot in Vegas

Michael Sherwood, Las Vegas' director of innovation and technology, announced during an afternoon roundtable that the city is partnering with AT&T and Ubicquia on a smart lighting solution in its downtown Innovation District. In the six-month pilot, which is already live, AT&T has replaced existing photocells with Ubicell streetlight routers from Ubicquia and integrated them with its existing LTE network to run a smart lighting system capable of monitoring energy use and outages.

The pilot, which will impact locations on Main Street, Las Vegas Boulevard, in residential areas and near the University Medical Center, is expected to improve safety and efficiency in one of Las Vegas’ signature areas. During his roundtable remarks, Sherwood said the project will enhance the city’s situational awareness by providing real-time information to staffers; and will give it better information on temperature, ozone and particulate levels and letting staff manage its lighting without citizen input.

“The cost of investing in IoT at the beginning may cost the same as an officer. But over year after year, while labor costs increase, IoT costs will actually be level or dwindle down,” Sherwood said. In an interview with GT, he said piloting the Ubicquia platform in the Innovation District could be just the first step in a widening deployment.

"We’re looking at expanding it out to our medical district as well as into other parts of the city. We’re also looking at using these Ubicquia cells, again, not just to manage lighting but to also manage cameras and other sensor infrastructure that can actually attach to the system," said Sherwood. "Over the next three to four months we’ll look at probably several pilots from this system rolling out throughout the city from our Innovation District, which is mainly centered around our downtown."

Mike Zeto, AT&T vice president and general manager of smart cities, highlighted video provision as a 2019 trend for cities, calling it “the pervasive center,” and praised the Las Vegas pilot as rolling out foundational “digital infrastructure.”

L.A.'s Earthquake App Is a Hit

Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell, whose areas of focus include homeland security and public safety, and the city’s Chief Information Officer Ted Ross discussed the enthusiastic response to the official Jan. 3 launch of the new ShakeAlertLA early earthquake warning app, which has made Apple’s Top 10 downloads list and become the most-downloaded app to Android devices during its first week of availability. Both men also praised the tenacity of Mayor Eric Garcetti and city government in securing resources and funding to deploy 250 sensors across the sprawling municipality — keeping the project moving with United States Geological Survey funding — and AT&T for building an app in a timely fashion.

Gorell told GT he’s had interest in the app from as far away as Costa Rica; and in coming weeks, officials plan to meet with leaders in neighboring Orange and Ventura counties to expand interest in the potentially life-saving technology. He called it “the prudent and responsible thing to do, to get them on board and coordinated so they know that it’s going on.” CIO Ted Ross compared the endeavor to projects by Amazon, Google, Apple and others for its timely delivery.

“I think this mayor’s office has done a really good job of saying, ‘Let’s not make perfect the enemy of good. Let’s get out there and let’s deliver something that’s responsible, secure, safe and effective and let’s get out there now,’” Ross said.

AT&T Announces Mobile 5G Rollout

The officials also discussed the ongoing availability of 5G across their networks and cities. On Dec. 21, AT&T became what’s believed to be the first U.S. company to offer a mobile 5G device with a “standards-based mobile network” live in areas of 12 cities. Zeto confirmed that AT&T plans to deploy mobile 5G during the first half of 2019 in parts of another seven cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

“I think it’s significant because if you look at an L.A. and you look at a Las Vegas, they’re doing a lot of work in the smart city arena," said Zeto. "And when you get to use cases around public safety, around video analytics used for public safety or traffic, modernization, there’s a real opportunity for 5G. They’re doing the pilots and trials already with 4G LTE, so imagine when they get the decreased latency, the speeds, the through-put and coverage of 5G, they’ll really be able to innovate on top of that."

Ross pointed out Los Angeles was one of the first large 5G cities last year, and so it fully expects all major carriers to start deploying their 5G options.

“In the next year, year and a half, we’re really going to start to see 5G really taking off. And we’re of course going to have devices catching up to some connectivity that’s out there," he said. "Early 5G is like a set top box. It’s static, it’s fixed. While it’s cool, it’s wireless, it’s still not moving anywhere and so we need to get it mobile and we need to get delivering the types of speeds that people are describing and that requires a good number of access points."

Sherwood said Las Vegas considers 5G and its Ubicquia solution as avenues to “really start providing quality of life to the citizenry.”

“And that’s really the goal of technology. It’s not just to have the technology, it’s to provide those amenities that gravitate people to live here, work here and play here,” he said.

Theo Douglas is assistant managing editor for, and before that was a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.