Las Vegas Wants to Find Problems With Its ‘Smart City’ Systems Faster

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So the city is turning to software that may soon fix issues autonomously.

Residents know when the smart sensors Las Vegas uses to time traffic lights, pinpoint gunshots and monitor trash levels for collection stop working.

And they let the city know, reporting if they can’t request a service or pay a bill.

“Cities like ours are technology dependent, meaning the patience for downtime is extremely low now,” Michael Sherwood, director of information technology for Las Vegas, told Route Fifty.

The challenge for Sherwood’s department is locating where the problem is—whether it’s a networking or application issue—troubleshooting it, and then getting everything back online. So Las Vegas decided to integrate software company FixStream’s Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations, or AIOps, with its Oracle enterprise resource planning, or ERP, system for handling payments and financials.

AIOps examines IT operations’ data, uses algorithms to locate network problems and then auto-generates work orders to the proper personnel upon identifying a problem. In the future, the plan is for the software to repair problems autonomously.

In the typical municipal IT environment, computing, network storage and applications are siloed, so it can take city staff days in some cases to identify the root cause. Las Vegas hopes AIOps will reduce the time city technicians spend on the help desk troubleshooting down to a couple hours after something breaks, Sherwood said.

By running machine-learning algorithms across the entire IT framework, AIOps also tracks error patterns so it can predict future outages.

Recent setup took the city a matter of hours to have a full visualization of its IT environment, said Enzo Signore, chief marketing officer at FixStream.

Within that environment, the situation can change in a matter of minutes; maybe someone brings in a new device that connects to the network. Now Las Vegas has an accurate inventory of who is connected to the city’s system and can display each device’s location on Google Maps.

“Now the agent on the service management problem has an accurate representation of what they have,” Signore said.

Municipal operations rely heavily on sensor data in Las Vegas, and the city doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on troubleshooting. While AIOps is only being paired with the ERP and smart city systems to start, if it is successful the city plans to expand to eight or nine other systems, including human resources and parks and recreation processes, Sherwood said.

The first phase will cost the city under $100,000, though that amount will rise with the total number of devices and processes on the architecture. Las Vegas wants to take AIOps full scale across all platforms eventually, and while that price hasn’t been calculated, it will be less than the cost of hiring the necessary staff to do the work of the software, Sherwood said.

“We’re adding those systems in slowly,” he said. “So we’ll know when sensors stop providing data, which has a snowball effect.”

There haven’t been many outages so far, but the software will pay for itself after one or two failure points, he added. Exactly when the city will take the next step of having the software execute fixes on its own isn’t completely nailed down.

“We’re hoping by the end of this year, early next year we’ll be able to do some rudimentary testing on that kind of operation,” Sherwood said. “It’s really a game changer.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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