Las Vegas isn’t Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s favorite place. But when the world’s largest tech trade show plugs into the desert oasis, the champion of compassion heads west to Sin City.
The Consumer Technology Association hosts an annual gathering of the world’s most innovative companies and entrepreneurs to showcase the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos.
This year, some 3,800 vendors are setting up booths in Las Vegas, where they’ll display their inventions to more than 200,000 people from across the world. Highlights include a pocket-sized drone that can ease the burden of snapping selfies, a super high definition transparent television and a heap of robotics and virtual reality devices.
These things, though, aren’t necessarily what attracted Fischer to the show. Rather, he went to tout what’s happening in Louisville, where he said the push for open data is setting the city up to be a leader in “smart city” technology.
“What we’re doing is highlighting Louisville as a city that’s thinking way of ahead of other cities in this type of work,” he said in a phone interview Friday morning.
The concept of “smart cities” is one rooted in access to and integration of data with everyday devices and tools people use to navigate their lives.
There is a thirst for such technology, Fischer said, but there’s no protocol for a standard smart city model. But Louisville is carving a path that’s getting noticed, he said.
The city’s open data initiative makes available the data that’s key in ensuring phones, homes and other tools can connect in a useful way.
“Nobody is really doing that,” Fischer said.
And late last year, the city opened the door to their LouieLab, which is a space on Main Street in downtown Louisville that houses the city’s performance improvement staff, along with a space for civic collaboration and a smart apartment built by CNET, a technology review website.
That space is seen as a proving ground for technology and programs that could pave the way for “smart city” innovation, Fischer said.
For instance, progress is already being made on a program that could allow a resident to sync a smart home tool like Amazon’s Echo with the city’s open data portal to get updates on weather and commute times. Furthermore, the city is working to develop a light bulb that detects the quality of outside air and if the air quality is poor, the light changes colors, Fischer said.
While that may not seem that innovative to a casual observer, perhaps, it’s a really good start, he said.
Grace Simrall, the city’s chief innovation officer, said in an earlier interview that the aim of “smart city” development is getting more information to more people more quickly than ever before.
“When we look at programs like If This Then That, can we build really super simple triggers for people to use, recipes,” she said.
So, while city leaders aim high to be a leader in this emerging technology, Fischer is spending a few days in Las Vegas telling companies and consumers, alike, that Louisville is open for innovation.