Newark NJ

Newark unveils smart city lab, kiosk

Newark, N.J., has launched a smart city initiative and unveiled its first visible project, a smart kiosk.

The city is partnering with New Jersey Institute of Technology, the New Jersey Innovation Institute and multiple private business to start MetroLab@Newark, a local version of The White House’s MetroLab, a federal effort to connect cities and universities on smart city projects.

Tom Motyka, the executive director of the smart city program, said the goal is to make Newark  a testbed for smart city technology. The MetroLab will work with businesses to test technology at scale around the city, he said.

A smart kiosk named BrandNewark will be the first incarnation of the initiative. It will sit on Newark’s fiber backbone and will offer free Wi-Fi to those in range. It will also provide 911 capabilities, wayfinding services, an events calendar, transit schedules and internet browsing (with some restrictions after lessons learned from LinkNYC).

A 22-inch screen allows users to interact with the kiosk, which runs on the Android platform. Two larger screens on the side will show notifications and advertisements, the latter of which will help offset kiosk cost, Motyka said. Developed by Aptinet Inc., the first kiosk will be installed in Military Park, which is central to the downtown area.

Because BrandNewark and MetroLab@Newark run on an open platform and have plug-and-play capabilities, they can test different applications and sensors from a variety of vendors, he said. MetroLab@Newark, which is headed by the city’s CIO’s office and Motyka , will have the final say on the system’s applications, but city officials said they plan to work with anyone who has ideas for how the kiosks can be used with different technologies.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said this initiative is an important part of growing the city’s economy.

"This is a big step forward for the city, to make us an innovative hub where tech companies will want to locate,” Baraka said. “BrandNewark is a physical extension of that, and a way that the neighborhoods can feel like this innovation is all around them and they are a part of it.  We want to make it happen right here, a smart city, gigabit internet and a tech-savvy workforce.”

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.

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