Opinion: Newark needs to become a smart city to compete

Plenty has been said lately about the creation of "Smart Cities."

It's a global phenomenon. Virtually every developed country around the world is taking the steps necessary to use the Internet to connect millions of devices and create a high-tech infrastructure that enhances life and grows economic potential to unthinkable levels.

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In September of last year, President Obama announced a major effort to create Smart Cities around the United States, launching a multi-pronged program to help our communities use technology to get "smarter" before we fall behind.

Last month, the City of Newark and the New Jersey Innovation Institute announced a collaboration, along with 12 private technology-based businesses, to launch a multi-year strategy that would infuse technology throughout the city's five wards.

The announcement was held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and was attended by more than 200 interested government leaders, corporate sponsors and dignitaries.

It was explained that the basic concept of a Smart City is to make the urban experience more responsive and more effective in supporting residents and visitors. By properly using emerging technologies, Newark can better support its citizens and municipal departments (like police and sanitation) in vastly better ways.

Just imagine if city workers only needed to deal with trash when cans are full. By having "smart" garbage cans connected to the Internet, the DPW could drastically reduce the time it needs to cover a route, efficiently collecting more trash with less manpower.

A Smart City can greatly improve efficiency with which it operates, the energy it expends, the water it uses and even the quality of the air. A truly "smart" city is one that addresses and improves all of these elements of life, making a community more livable and more affordable.

The world had greatly changed through such landmark eras as Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. The world is changing again – in what I would argue is the most drastic form yet – by using technology to connect us all in ways we have yet to fully fathom.

Never before has there been a confluence of advancements in areas that can immediately impact and improve how we interact with our physical environment. From wireless networking and sensor technologies to data analytics and artificial intelligence, our world is changing every day.

Newark, and other communities across the globe who are marching to become Smart Cities, must leverage these technological gifts and capabilities. Opportunities are boundless to conserve energy and water, to improve health and safety, to improve traffic flow, and on and on.

The New Jersey Innovation Institute is pleased to partner with Mayor Ras Baraka to capitalize on the city's ongoing redevelopment. As investment flows into Newark for new construction, it all needs to work in tandem with the collective effort to become a Smart City.

Modern construction, the latest technology and great vision are the keys to Newark's future and to ensure the city can compete for opportunity with New York City and other urban hubs who already embrace the Smart Cities plan.

Newark is next. We encourage government and business to recognize the opportunities here and hasten the evolution for the long-term benefit of us all.

Thomas Motyka is the Senior Executive Director of the New Jersey Innovation Institute.

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