Nevada: Silver State to Tech Center

April 24, 2015
By: Doug Mohney

Silver was the primary mineral mined in Nevada when it was admitted to the union in 1864, earning it the slogan of "The Silver State."  Times changed, with the gaming and convention industries gaining prominence over the past 30 years.  But the state is shifting character again, with technology being its big bet for the future. 

One could argue that the seed for Nevada's technology reboot might be found in Las Vegas, host to the largest and most prominent technology conferences of the day, including the now-gone COMDEX and still running International Computer Electronics Show (CES), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Black Hat/DEFCON security conferences and whatever the CTIA (News - Alert) wireless show is called this year (I'm kidding, Super Mobility 2015 is on my calendar already).

There's always been a technology hum in the Silver State, albeit one spoken quietly. You don't support atomic testing and Area 51 with abacuses or count the stacks of money in the casinos by hand.  Big data and biometrics are key tools of today's gaming industry, as is being able to sift through large numbers in order to make sure "The House" continues to generate profits for Wall Street.

But the last five years have put the state into overdrive with multiple tech bets.  Las Vegas is home to Zappos, one of the most successful on-line retail outlets on the planet and now a division of Amazon. North of Zappos' new headquarters in downtown are a set of new buildings owned by Bigelow Aerospace.  Founded by Budget Suites of America owner Robert Bigelow, the company is building inflatable space structures and wants to operate the world's first commercial space station and put a base on the moon.

However, there's a very big economic engine being built by Elon Musk outside of Reno. The Tesla Gigafactory will cost an estimated $5 billion to complete and is expected to generate $100 billion in economic benefits for Nevada over two decades. By 2020, the factory is expected to crank out 35 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year of lithium ion battery cells—more than the worldwide total number of lithium ion battery production in 2013—  to be used in Tesla electric cars and its recently announced energy storage division.

Image via Shutterstock

Las Vegas is getting a lot of bandwidth, a development that will further stimulate tech business. CenturyLink started rolling out gigabit service to residential and business customers throughout the city last year.  Not to be outdone, Cox (News - Alert) Communications announced it was rolling out gigabit service for residents by the end of 2016, with select customers in new apartments able to get access before the end of that year.  

IoT Evolution Expo, happening August 17-20 at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, is shaping up to be another technology milestone for Nevada.  The event starts with an in-depth discussion on Internet of Things (IoT) security and a keynote opening speech by former NFL coach and NASCAR Championship team owner Joe Gibbs. Separate tracks will explore the Connected Home and Building space, Connected Transportation, and Fog Computing.

IoT developers will want to prepare for AT&T (News - Alert)'s Fast Pitch session.  AT&T will award $10,000 first price and $5,000 second price for the best IoT/M2M ideas they hear at the show.  Pitching an idea is free and requires a 3 minute presentation describing the advantages of your idea and how it impacts the Internet of Things. Click here for more information and to register for presenting.

People will still continue to think of Nevada as a gambling and trade show destination, but it is clear that there's a lot more happening in the state than Elvis impersonators and "Pawn Stars."  The Tesla plant and gigabit broadband deployments have the potential to reshape the state's economy and bring its increasing weight into the tech world. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino