The pilot, scheduled to get underway in May, will involve replacing up to 250 of the city's 12,800 public pay phones with large, interactive smart screens that are free to use. The plan calls for installing the systems at pedestrian-friendly locations in each of the city's five boroughs, with content available in 10 languages.
The touch-screen systems are made by City 24/7, which describes the platform as an "up-to-the-minute public communications system." They will provide access to New York's 311 website, which is managed by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT), as well as other sources of local information.
The City 24/7 website shows street maps, restaurant information, and real-time transit updates as among the location-specific services provided by its system. The fixed, tablet-like devices are also capable of serving up local advertisements.
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The City 24/7 system can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot and support transaction services, though it's unclear if those will be part of New York's pilot program. City 24/7 will be responsible for maintenance and repair of the systems, which will be installed at existing pay phone enclosures.
A DoITT spokesman said the agency will use the pilot to assess the future of public pay phones, which are operated under franchise agreements due to expire in 2014. The city plans to seek the public's input into what "the payphone of the future" might look like.
The smart screen trial is the latest in a series of tech modernization initiatives undertaken by the city. New York's metropolitan wireless network supports meter reading, video transmissions from public cameras, mobile devices used by city workers, and emergency call boxes, among other applications. And last year, the city opened a new 18,000-square-foot data center in Brooklyn to serve as a new home for servers displaced under its data center consolidation initiative.
As federal agencies embrace devices and apps to meet employee demand, the White House seeks one comprehensive mobile strategy. Also in the new Going Mobile issue of InformationWeek Government: Find out how the National Security Agency is developing technologies to make commercial devices suitable for intelligence work. (Free registration required.)