In May, New York City will launch a new pilot program to replace 250 public pay phones with interactive, 32-inch touch screens. These tablets will be free to use and accessible in ten different languages. Users will be able to access the city’s 311 website, local restaurants, street maps, tourist attractions, safety alerts and public transit updates through the devices.
There’s no information as to whether users will still be able to call people, but who really needs telephones when you can access the whole city with the touch of a screen?
The city hopes eventually to replace all of its 12,800 pay phones with these interactive screens. If the devices prove successful and popular, updated versions may eventually include e-mail access and communications apps – like Skype. Tablet booths may also become Wi-Fi hot spots for other portable electronics. Additionally, the tablets will generate cityprofits through local advertising.
This pilot program is part of a two-year-old citywide initiative to update lagging technology. During his 2010 State of the City address, Mayor Bloomberg revealed a number of strategies to “transform our economy into a 21st century engine of innovation.” He outlined plans to launch clean energy projects, encourage a start-up culture, and streamline technology infrastructure. Since then, he’s been pushing a variety of tech campaigns throughout the city.
In March 2011, the city’s many data centers were integrated into a single 18,000 square-foot data center in downtown Brooklyn. In June of the same year, Bloomberg and AT&T announced the installment of free Wi-Fi in twenty different parks throughout the five boroughs. By September, cell phone service had been tested in several subway stations. And at the end of last year, the city opened up the third annual NYC BigApps contest, which encourages software techies to develop web and mobile applications for the city.