Newark's time has arrived, and it is rapidly becoming a technology epicenter.
That’s clear from the recent announcement of three major tech initiatives: hosting both the VOICE Summit, sponsored by Amazon Alexa, and the 2018 MetroLab conference on the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology, as well as a partnership involving Newark, New Jersey Institute of Technology and Intersection to place 45 LinkNWK kiosks throughout the city.
The VOICE conference brings to Newark the leaders in the burgeoning field of voice technology, which is rapidly changing how the world communicates with computers, machines, cars, home appliances and more – and how those devices communicate with us.
At MetroLab in the fall, technology, government and academic leaders in data analytics and innovation in urban environments will meet to explore research, development and deployment of projects that improve infrastructure, public services and environmental sustainability. The MetroLab Network, launched as part of the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative in 2015, includes 41 major cities, four counties, 55 universities and a plethora of industry leaders.
The LinkNWK initiative creates a new communications network of sidewalk kiosks that will provide residents of and visitors to Newark with free gigabit Wi-Fi, mobile-device charging, phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., access to municipal services, maps and directions, and real-time local information on city streets. The kiosks also will serve as a conduit for applications to harness the power of smart devices, high-speed networking and cloud-based analytics to revitalize urban infrastructure and enable it to be efficient, effective and affordable. Intersection deployed similar networks in New York and London.
Tech is becoming the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Newark, because the foundation of the city’s incredible renaissance and bright future is technology. Newark is home to Panasonic, Audible, PSEG, Prudential, Verizon and many other tech powerhouses. It is the location of NJIT, one of only 32 polytechnic universities in the U.S.
Newark offers a talent pipeline, with 55,000 college students in the city. The city also has been named as one of 20 finalists as a potential location for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
The cornerstone of Newark’s potential as a technology powerhouse is its infrastructure, including international and multimodal transportation hubs as well as the dark (unused) fiber that lies beneath the city’s streets.
Newark provides the ability to move people and products around the world with ease, but it also boasts the ability to move data at speeds that far exceed the capabilities of most locations. Newark has made it practice to encourage the laying of fiber that exceeds the anticipated needs associated with construction projects throughout the city and, as a result, Newark’s broadband speeds are 250 times faster than the average New Jersey municipality.
Another huge advantage for Newark in attracting tech industry leaders is the benefit of clustering, which allows business entities from like market sectors to learn from and collaborate with their competitors. Newark is uniquely positioned to maximize this advantage because of two entities — NJIT and the Newark Venture Partners Fund.
NJIT is home to New Jersey’s oldest and largest technology business incubator with more than 90 companies in residence, as well as the New Jersey Innovation Institute, a portal and platform for applying NJIT’s intellectual and technological resources to challenges identified by industry partners, conducting more than $65 million in contract work annually. NJIT’s unique operating model has enabled it to foster mutually beneficial collaboration among traditional marketplace competitors and develop market-ready solutions to the complex problems identified by industrial and government partners.
The Newark Venture Partners Fund established $50 million in pooled resources to bring dozens of startups annually to an incubator that provides 10-gigabit-per-second Wi-Fi at no cost. So Newark is fertile ground for tech innovation.
Newark is poised to emerge as a technology hotbed in the years ahead. That bodes well for our state and our entire region. We all should be excited about what is happening in Newark and what is yet to come.
Joel S. Bloom is president of New Jersey Institute of Technology.