CES 2019: Las Vegas ‘flirts’ with Blockchain technology

Las Vegas is reviewing the potential implementation of Blockchain, a database technology in which information is decentralized and communally maintained.

Michael Lee Sherwood, the city’s director of innovation and technology, said the city is “examining with partners to harness the best application uses which will increase productivity and service delivery to our community.”

“Look for more to come on Las Vegas and Blockchain in 2019,” he said this week.

Las Vegas is one of an increasing number of “cities flirting with Blockchain,” which was also the title of an hourlong panel Thursday at CES, where experts in the emerging technology urged attendees to focus less on how it works and more on what it will mean.

It’s “a bright, shiny thing,” said Jason Kelley, general manager of Blockchain Services for IBM, describing it simply as identifying all the nodes of a data supply chain to increase efficiency, verification and transparency.

“Smart cities of the future, the smart governments of the future, will have to go ahead and have the Blockchain as part of their leadership,” said Natalia Olson-Urtecho, who co-founded the consulting firm, The Disruptive Factory, where she is head of strategy and innovation.

Blockchain was presented as an element of the broader smart-city innovation, where municipalities implement technology into existing infrastructure to improve the day-to-day experience for residents, whether it be for mobility, environmental or other outcomes.

During three separate panels Wednesday and Thursday, experts in the smart-city field expanded upon the movement’s benefits and hurdles, yet concluded that digitizing the urban space was a must-do in the 21st century.

Las Vegas has entered the fray with its innovation district, spanning a large swath of downtown and offered as a test environment for public-private partnerships. Earlier this week, it was announced that a six-month pilot program with AT&T and technology company Ubicquia will create a smart lighting network and reduce energy use within the district.

Experts said that access to infrastructure appeals to the private sector and that smart-city adoption would require participation from private stakeholders to make it financially viable. Municipalities also must not ignore traditional infrastructure upgrades as they typically act as the framework of technological tie-ins.

Ultimately those who act first will save the most money and “differentiate themselves” in the market, according to Jay Collins, vice chairman of corporate and investment banking at Citi.

Sherwood said the city sought to be a leader in new civic technologies as it “fits with the spirit of the community.”

Contact Shea Johnson at [email protected] or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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