This summer, more than 2,600 people converged at the NJIT Wellness and Events Center for the Amazon Alexa-sponsored VOICE Technology Summit. From July 24 – 27, the university hosted its largest tech conference to date. Now, NJIT is hoping to build on the momentum by hosting another big technology conference in mid-October.
The MetroLab Network Annual Summit, to be held in NJIT’s Wellness and Event Center, will run from October 14-15 and will focuson issues of technology on urban infrastructure—or to quote the event website, panels and discussions will tackle “emerging urban issues including predictive analytics for local government services, use of sensor technologies to monitor the built and natural environments, and how cities interact with universities, students, and residents on innovation activities.’’
This year will be the first time the MetroLab Summit will come to Newark. Previously MetroLab summits were hosted in Atlanta and San Diego. According to its website, the MetroLab Network “is a national network of over 35 regional partnerships between cities and universities that are focused on the research, development, and deployment of new technologies and approaches to urban challenges.’’
Also next month, the city is planning Newark Tech Week. This event will run from October 16 – 20. The first two days are focused on industry-centered technology talks, while the end of the week involves fun and free activities open to Newark residents. Allthese events are coming together as part of a strategy to rebrand Newark as an urban tech leader.
“[Newark is] becoming this tech destination,” stated Angela Garretson, NJIT Director of Policy and Partnerships, when describing upcoming technological developments in Newark. “We are becoming the tech Silicon City.”
Garretson said organizers were thrilled by the diversity of people who came to this summer’s VOICE conference.
“There were a lot of people that came from all these different places—[such as] Egypt, [the]Netherlands, New Zealand …And so one of the fascinating things was everyone thought [Newark] was such an amazing destination, and they want to come back,” Garretson said. “They felt that this was one of the most enjoyable locations that they’ve ever done a conference.”
Data from a post-conference report from Modev, the company that partnered with NJIT to organize the event, shows the VOICE Conference was one of the most popular tech conferences of 2018. It inspired over two million social media mentions, more than 190 million Facebook interactions, and 90+ news articles (including one from Forbes!).
Encouraged by this success, the organizers are looking to host next year’s VOICE Summit at NJIT again, targeting the week of July 22nd. This time, their goal is to reach 5,000+ attendees, according to Modev.
“We want to establish at least one consistent home for the event and believe that we can do that here in Newark and with NJIT involved,” Pete Erickson, CEO and Founder of Modev, wrote in an email. “We see the footprint of the event growing to include more of the city and partners. Exciting times.’’
When asked about his experience this summer, Erickson said: “I learned that Newark is a strong community and that NJIT is a wonderful institution. I learned that the voice-first era is just getting started and that we’re on the very edge of a whole new way we will interact with everyday devices, services, and even our cars. And I learned once again that if you bring people together, the magic will happen.”
Erickson’s enthusiasm was echoed by NJIT President Joel Bloom, who was especially pleased by how the conference helped foster interest in NJIT as well as the city itself.
“These [attendees] are predominantly people who wouldn’t know of NJIT,” President Bloom told The Vector. “[The attendees] stayed in hotels, went to restaurants, and may very well be interested in coming back to Newark.
“We’re an educational institution, so the idea of hosting conferences, where there is an exchange of knowledge and information, should be natural for us,” continued President Bloom. “And that’s what we hoped we achieved with this conference and with our new ‘WEC’ center.”
Photo via voice summit.ai/gallery-2018