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CES 2020: The Future of Cities, Transportation and Equity

The 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas features a host of new exhibits and conversations about how smart city design, transportation, security and equity will evolve in the years to come.

A vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) air taxi made by Bell Helicopter is displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show
A full-scale vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) air taxi made by Bell Helicopter is displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Jan. 7.
Lucas Ropek/Government Technology
LAS VEGAS — Making smart city design citizen centric — with an eye toward security and inclusion — has been a big theme at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. 

The annual electronics conference gives corporate and government insiders a chance to look at future trends in tech, but also to discuss how it can be paired with policy to improve citizens' lives.  

A number of events at CES this year highlighted the importance of transportation, not the least of which was the keynote given Wednesday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who unveiled a new set of federal guidelines designed to pave the way for safe and efficient private development of autonomous vehicles.

Paired with Chao's announcement were AV models from Audi, Honda, Bertrand and many other car makers, while Toyota also announced its ambitious Woven City project — a future city concept to be constructed in Japan that will allow engineers to test self-driving vehicles, smart tech and robotics in a real-life environment.

The transportation options of the future won't just involve driving cars, however, but also flying ones. 

This year, Hyundai showcased its partnership with Uber to create the "flying taxi,” or the S-A1, a move that follows the ride-share company’s plan to create a fleet of air taxis and an accompanying aerial ride-share network. Bell, meanwhile, made a similar move in showing off its new Nexus 4EX, a flying car that is also a partial hybrid vehicle. 

Also on display at CES was the power of big data to transform and augment Smart City design. Some companies have showcased how data is being used to optimize service delivery, while others show its potential to enhance security. 

EnelX, for example, exhibited its City Analytics service product that allows public administrations to leverage data collection on pedestrian and traffic flows to analyze a community’s busiest areas; meanwhile Hitachi’s Lumada Video Insights uses artificial intelligence, analytics and IoT to create comprehensive urban surveillance systems.

Cybersecurity was also omnipresent at CES this year. As if to highlight its importance, the city of Las Vegas was actually hit with a cyberattack on the conference's first day. This didn't stop the multitude of sessions and vendors from showing off the newest developments in security for smart city design. 

Finally, speakers throughout the conference talked about the need to couch technological advances within an inclusive vision for social policy, one that doesn't leave behind society's marginalized and most vulnerable individuals. That means seeking out routes to diversity in the tech industry, while also designing products and services within an equity paradigm. 

Consumer privacy, and the need to respect it, was also a central sub-theme of this year's conference.

Facebook, which has been wracked by various data scandals over the past few years, used this week's conference to announce an update to its "privacy checkup" tool, which gives users broader discretion over personal information. 

Amazon Ring, too, claimed it would soon be adding privacy features to its products. 

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.