Tech Innovations in Vegas: What Are They?

Oct 16

Las Vegas Director of Technology and Innovation Michael Sherwood has big plans for new technologies to flourish in their glitzy jurisdiction, along with the companies behind these technologies. And if he had his way, what is about to happen in Las Vegas could very well be brought into the streets of other cities across the United States, and maybe even the world.

The idea behind Las Vegas’ technology tactic is quite simple. They want to create a place to innovate and provide citizens with new tools meant to make their lives easier. According to Sherwood, officials are committed to making Las Vegas more than just a simple tourist destination. They want the city to have a stake in the future as well.

The Rise of the Innovation District

In an area which encompasses the Arts district and most of downtown Las Vegas, an innovation district was developed to become a platform for testing new smart city technologies. This area promises to be the place where autonomous vehicle technology will prove its worth. Additionally, a new identity management system is set to lay the groundwork for a more efficient government.

The Las Vegas Innovation District was conceptualized in 2017 and since then, it has already provided proof-of-concept for a number of projects that bring the public and private sectors together. Leading up to CES 2017, for example, Audi tested its Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) technology in the district. The company worked with the City of Las Vegas to configure both the automotive and urban tech platforms. They then measured how these platforms worked in real-life scenarios.

The test provided significant data for various metrics that show how the city can improve mobility for local residents while supporting commercial opportunities for corporate partners at the same time. Don Jacobson, IT Business Partner for Innovation with the City of Las Vegas, says that is exactly the kind of collaboration Las Vegas can provide companies that are active in advanced industries.

“We’re re-inventing our streets and mobility among them with smart city technology so that streets are connecting blocks and connecting people, rather than separating them,” Jacobson explained. “In other words, we want to connect the city not only digitally, but we want to connect the city physically. And we’re doing that with all the data that we collect with our sensors, and also the data that we collect from the public and our partners.”

Major Initiatives

Perhaps the most auspicious development in the innovation district from the perspective of the public has been the launch of the autonomous shuttle. Built by a Paris-based driverless vehicle manufacturer, the all-electric minibus was the first of its kind to be launched in the United States. The launch was the result of a successful collaboration between the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC), the Keolis Transportation Management Company, and the City of Las Vegas.

According to Sherwood, autonomous vehicles have been part of the plan from the beginning. They are looking forward to having a number of autonomous vehicles loops with several vehicles running. And they’re looking at partnerships with regional and national companies to bring this part of the plan into fruition.

Other than the autonomous vehicle system, they are also planning to create an Internet of Things-based deployment in the downtown area. They are currently looking at how they can interact the temperature sensors and other technology with the community at large, including their business partners.

The Future of the Innovation District

Sherwood sees an almost limitless potential for development where the Las Vegas Innovation District is concerned. He believes the district provides so many ways for them to better engage their citizens, offer better transportation options, provide better medical care services, and provide a better overall experience for the people in Las Vegas.

“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,” Sherwood said. “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 a highly-publicized development, the city put kinetic sidewalks in place. These sidewalks help store electricity that can be used to power city lighting. Sherwood believes that new technologies such as this could be what helps the city manage roadways better and connect with people on the street.

A Focus on Customers

Sherwood explained that they are currently building an identity management system where people log in, and they are identified based on the corresponding data in the system. This is meant to make it easier to tailor the delivery of services to individuals based on data trends. For example, if an individual purchases summer camps for his or her children, the system will be able to tell that person about upcoming classes or soccer camps.

He emphasizes, however, that there’s more to the system than just the customer interaction experience. He says the system is about how they can reach as many layers of the citizens as they can. It is for this reason that they are putting in place mobile applications, which they feel is another form of transparency where they will be able to provide more convenient services to people. But their plans don’t end with mobile applications.

“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,” Sherwood said.

“We’re trying to take it to the next level. Right now you can ask 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 record requests. If we can have this information available, maybe that will help us become more efficient internally.”

The CES 2019

Every January, the city of Las Vegas plays host to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). This event is a venue for developers to showcase their new technological and electronic innovations. This event is so huge that this year, it was spread out across three city blocks and divided into three categories: Tech East, Tech West, and Tech South. Tech East was held in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Westgate Hotel, and Renaissance Hotel. Tech West had activities in the Sands Expo, the Venetian, the Palazzo, the Wynn, and Encore hotels. Tech South went on at the Aria, Park MGM, and Vdara.

The 2019 CES was a very busy event, loaded with shiny new gadgets, innovative technologies, and major announcements from the world’s top hardware manufacturers. Laptops, which were once believed to be on the way to extinction, became interesting again. Virtual reality (VR) also saw a much-needed revival. But it was 8K TVs that dominated the show floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Of course, most of the innovations and new technologies presented at the CES is conceptual, and many of them may never even see commercial release. But that is not what matters in the long run. What matters is that innovations are continually being pushed forward and the tech world never runs out of forward-looking ideas. Here are some of the new technologies presented at the 2019 CES that just might catch your fancy:

1. Samsung 75-inch Micro LED 4K TV

As mentioned above, 8K TVs dominated the event, as almost every tech company that was there seemed to have an 8K TV up their sleeve. Samsung has a few, but this is by far the most interesting because it is modular. This means you can make this Micro LED TV larger simply by adding modular LED panels. This may be a pricey design, but it does give you the ability to create a TV of just about any size, resolution, and aspect ratio. For some people, that kind of freedom is well worth the price.

2. Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition

This laptop is hands-down one of the least obnoxious gaming laptops presented at the CES 2019. It is also one of the most powerful laptops of its kind at the event. Compared to the standard version of the Blade 15, this has a number of significant upgrades, including the ridiculously powerful NVIDIA RTX 2060, 2070, or 2080 discrete graphics.

It also has support for as much as 64GB of storage, much better speakers, and a webcam that is compatible with Windows Hello sign-in support. It may seem impossible to pack so much power into such a compact clamshell, but Razer somehow found a way.

3. Honor View 20

There isn’t that many smartphones presented at the CES because most phone brands typically prefer to unveil new models at the Mobile World Congress. This is why less-known brands grab this opportunity to catch the world’s attention at the CES. Huawei-owned phone brand Honor, for one, established itself as a force to reckon with. Its View20 was easily the best phone presented at the event, thanks in large part to its ‘hole punch’ display, a powerful Kirin 980 chip, triple camera setup, and a very attractive rear design that reflects light in a stylishly flashy way.

4. Withing’s ECG Move

Apple was able to convince people to become more concerned about their health when they launched the Apple Watch Series 4, along with its ECG app. But some people just want to get an ECG without having to get an Apple watch. This is where Withing’s ECG move comes into play. This analog smartwatch provides you with an ECG readout at a fraction of the price of an Apple watch.

Of course, it does not have a touchscreen and it doesn’t send notifications in any way, but it does allow you to keep better tabs on your health without having to shell out a lot of money. This is a perfect example of less being more.

5. Oculus Quest

The third VR headset in the Oculus series owned by Facebook, the Quest had a spring launch and promises to offer consumers an almost Oculus Rift-like experience without the bulkiness and wires of a gaming PC. The Quest has a sleek all-in-one design as well as hand-tracking controller technology. This just might be the VR headset people have long been waiting for. And at less than $400, it’s not unreasonably priced.

6. Valeo Voyage

Do you want to experience riding in the backseat of a car without having to actually be in the vehicle? That is exactly the kind of experience offered by the Valeo Voyage. The concept is to let the vehicle’s driver talk and ‘see’ a passenger who’s actually in a remote location, connected through a VR headset. The headset practically teleports the passenger into the car. This is meant to be a new way for people to stay connected even when they cannot be physically together.

7. Heatworks Tetra

This tabletop dishwasher was already presented at the CES 2018. Unfortunately, it failed to launch that year. It returned for the 2019 CES, and people are hoping it will finally get launched this year. The same size as a standard microwave, this internet-connected dishwasher is perfect for small apartments and can easily be controlled via an app. And what truly sets it apart is its innovative transparent design.

8. Ledger Nano X

Cryptocurrency geeks are sure to rejoice when they see this new gadget. Developed by the same team that gave us the popular Ledger Nano S cryptocurrency wallet, this upgraded version is just the size of a flash drive and has bluetooth connectivity, which allows users to wirelessly connect it to their computers and phones so they can send and receive cryptocurrency on the go. If you’re still in the Bitcoin game, this little guy just might be the toy you’re looking for.

The CES 2019 certainly wasn’t dull, and neither is the overall technological innovation scene in Las Vegas. Keolis VP of New Mobility, Communications, and Marketing Christopher Barker said: “The City of Las Vegas has been very proactive about embracing new technology.” It certainly looks like there’s a lot for the world to look forward to in terms of tech innovations in this glitzy city.