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Technology & Innovation

What’s That Big Screen Doing In That Phone Booth?

Starting today, New York City is replacing traditional pay phones with touchscreens that will provide weather data, safety alerts, coupons for local shops, and more.

What’s the Latest Development?

As of today, some New York City residents should start noticing something different about their nearest grimy-looking phone booth: a shiny new touchscreen. The city has partnered with companies Cisco and City 24/7 to design and roll out an eventual total of 250 devices throughout the five boroughs. Among other things, the screens will display the local weather forecast and information about nearby shops and attractions (with revenue being generated by advertising). In addition, by tying in the system with both 911 and 311, “the screens will become two-way distress devices that let citizens call for help or receive instructions about how to find safety [in case of an emergency].”

What’s the Big Idea?

In non-emergency situations, coin-operated phone booths haven’t exactly been popular of late, not for people or for the city, which owns the real estate they’re built on. City 24/7 CEO Tom Touchet says that using them as the architectural platform makes sense: “They’re legacy infrastructure that the city can utilize and revitalize quickly.” The rollout comes after months of field testing in a variety of neighborhoods, including places where vandalism might be a problem; Touchet says the screens were “over-engineered for a reason.”

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