At TEDxNJIT 2013 Speakers Weave Digital Connections

Photo: Lynier Richardson of Brick City Development Corp.  Photo Credit: TEDxNJIT
Lynier Richardson of Brick City Development Corp. | TEDxNJIT

TEDxNJIT 2013 was a not-to-be-missed event focusing on the pervasive nature of digital technology. For the lucky 100 or so in the audience on April 4, 2013, the gathering was not only a learning experience but a theatrical one.

In addition to the audience in the Jim Wise Theater at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) (Newark), some 1,000 people viewed the talks via live streaming. TEDxNJIT was moderated by NJIT associate vice president Judith Sheft and organized by senior Kevin Ly along with assistant professor Michael Ehrlich and Sheft. Brick City Development Corp. sponsored it.

Speakers attended the event with their best presentation styles, aiming to grab the audience’s attention for their big ideas. In addition to live presentations, viewers were treated to several national TED talks that had been recorded earlier.

Don Sebastian, senior vice president of research and development at NJIT, showed how in the future, connected technologies will allow better monitoring of healthcare. He demonstrated this through a series of fictional futuristic interactions with his doctor.

Guy Story, Audible (Newark) CTO, brought his guitar to the stage to sing about the power of immersive long-form content, like listening to books to connect people around the world. He noted that though we hear a lot about the “fast-switched” generation with “continuous partial attention,” he believes all is not lost.

Randal Pinkett, founder, chairman and CEO of BCT Partners (Newark), gave an inspiring talk on valuable life lessons he learned as a producer of technology. Often times, he said, there is more than one solution, and “We must bring our own creativity to problems.” He noted that disciplinary boundaries between arts, humanities and science are an artifact of how we construct the world. The world is fundamentally interdisciplinary, said Pinkett. He also spoke about the power of “and,” of finding harmony in engineering skills and the passion for hip-hop.

Brick City Development CEO Lyneir Richardson spoke passionately about the importance of not only bringing the tech industry to Newark but the fact that new companies coming to the city connect to the community, create jobs for city residents, sponsor community events like street fairs and volunteer and become part of Newark’s fabric. There shouldn’t be an “invisible line” between the new tech community that will be developed and the existing community, he argued.

Carlos Dominguez, a tech evangelist at Cisco (San Jose, Calif.), talked enthusiastically about how connectivity will benefit society. His remarks centered on the Internet’s next wave, the Internet of Everything. Dominguez discussed smart light bulbs, which use chips to change colors, and smart street lamps, which can detect water and bioterrorism and will be equipped with speakers and digital signage. They will also adjust as people move down the street, providing more light where it is needed.

NJIT student Kathleen Uske presented SmartGuardian, her idea for smart home behavioral and physical health monitoring. She envisioned a doormat that can obtain weight, balance and even pressure distribution readings for diabetics; a wireless heart rate monitor installed in a TV remote control; a toilet designed to obtain urinalysis readings; and a shower that senses when someone has fallen. By integrating sensors into everyday items, caretakers can obtain important medical information without changing the behavior of the user, she said.

NJIT professor Bernadette Longo brought along Yvan Yenda, a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, to discuss the importance of trusted networks, both digitally created and through person-to-person relationships. After she described a project in Africa that had failed because of issues with trusted information, she said she had come to believe that questions about the nature of our connections were important. “I also thought more about how our demand for devices and technology impacts people who will never have access to this technology. We don’t hear their voices as much as we should,” noted Yenda. She explained how Western society can hold accountable the middlemen who buy resources at low prices.

Micheal Smith , chief digital officer of Forbes media also took the stage to deliver a talk about digital advertising.

The complete TEDxNJIT talks can be found on this website.

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