NYC Phone Booth Smart Screens Were Announced Over A Year Ago (Sort Of)

By April 9, 2012

New York City will pilot a network of 32-inch, internet-enabled touch screen computers in old phone booths, according to recent reports.

Though a report by the New York Post has most recently drawn attention to the project, the City24/7 effectively announced the smart screen network more than a year ago, in an informational video set to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”

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“The city can reinvent its existing infrastructure and use it to deliver vital information exactly where the public needs it most: on the street,” said a spokesperson in the video, which calls the project an “innovative broadcast system.”

City24/7 remains somewhat mysterious, with an incomplete company web site. The Post reported that company CEO Tom Touchet is a former executive producer of the “Today” show.

“The company’s mission: to provide information that’s central to what affects people most today: healthcare, elder services, jobs, economic development, schools, green living and sustainability,” said the narrator in the City24/7 video.

By default, the terminals will be configured to access 311, file complaints and look up geographic and commercial information. In the future, the screens may let users log into email or popular videochat service Skype, and serve as wireless hotspots.

New York payphones, especially in recent years, have garnered a groady reputation. To combat that, City24/7 claims the terminals are designed to be hosed down for sanitary purposes.

Reporting to date suggests that the project will be realized under the auspices of New York City’s department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

“The goal is to pilot it and see what the response is,” Nicholas Sbordone, a spokesman for that department, told the Post.

The city may also be spurred to dabble its toes in new connective technology by fiscal realities. New York’s franchise contracts for its more than 12,000 outdoor payphones will expire in 2014, and officials likely feel pressure not to let the booths fall into complete disuse.

Revenue from the smart screens will be derived in part from advertising. It is not clear whether there will be a cost associated with accessing the terminals.

City24/7 did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Image: City24/7