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The Future Is Calling: The Next Step For Payphones Might Begin In NYC
March 12, 2013
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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked an interesting question a few months back: what can we do with all the payphones?

There are 11,000 public phones in NYC, and many of them have seen better days and don't get used much anymore.

So, the city launched an initiative called Reinvent Payphones. The goal: build a better payphone for the digital age.

Now, it's announced the six winners. None of the winning teams is guaranteed a contract with the city when its payphone contracts expire in 2014. But the city says it will take the designs into consideration as it figures out what to do with the booths.

Check out some ideas about what the future might hold for the poor, neglected payphone:

Smart Sidewalks

This concept is all about pedestrians. The thin, solar-powered kiosk features two displays: one vertical, and one for the sidewalk itself.

The idea is to help people interact with their environment by offering local info and maps, as well as info about NYC through a web browser and apps. You can also charge your phone using a USB port on the side.

And if you're taking a tour of the city, the Smart Sidewalks kiosks could be programmed to guide you. The concept won best functionality.

NYC Loop

Granted, being in a phone booth these days is a bit like being in a germ factory, but at least this one doesn't have any doors.

The Loop took the award for best in creativity. It features an interactive image projector that can display information or art on the sidewalk, while the other side of the loop could include an electric car charging station, a bench and miniature garden, or maybe parking for bikes.

And if you want to go old school and you know, make a call, the Loop will let you do it. The booth includes a touchscreen phone with sound harmonizing tech to block out some street noise.

The Beacon

This one combines ad space with community connectivity. The Beacon features a top screen that would generally be used for ads, although it could be used for events (like mile markers during the NYC marathon).

The lower screens are for the local community, with hyper-local ads - maybe directing you to have a drink at the bar next door - as well as message boards that people could use to connect with one another. It's also got a phone function built in.

And if you don't want to touch a screen that's been used by millions of New Yorkers, you're in luck: the Beacon is voice-activated. It won for best design.


This concept won the connectivity award. It transforms the payphone into a connected hub where people can access city services: you can buy a metro card, get info about local businesses, and use wi-fi on your personal devices.

If you're hoping to make a call, though, you're out of luck. This is more of an information portal than a phone booth.


Now, this one's pretty different: the Windchimes concept would gather local data about stuff like the city's rain levels, and pollution.

On the NYC Digital Tumblr, this team wrote that they "created Windchimes because we wanted to empower the city with data that it's never captured before."

The data gathered by each Windchimes station would be available to people online and on their devices, so someone with asthma could check the air quality, or a biker could plan their commute to keep the wind at their back. Windchimes tied for the community impact award with NYC I/O.


This concept aims to "create a full data network by using existing payphone infrastructure," the team wrote on the NYC Digital Tumblr. The outside of the booth would feature ads or community messages, while the inside would allow people to find their way around the city, order a cab, find out about transit, or yes, make a call.

At the same time, the team would install sensors in the booths that would allow for data collection across the entire city for researchers. This concept tied for community impact with Windchimes.

Via Business Insider


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