Posted November 20, 2012 8:32 am by with 1 comment

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We all knew it was coming. The decline of the phone booth has run about side by side (and maybe even a little faster) than that of newspapers, yellow pages and common sense (Hey! Did I just say that?! Sorry.)

As more and more people have mobile or smart phones the need for the public phone booth is going away except for maybe the extremely poor or those needing one for unsavory business.

So with phone booths becoming less and less practical will there be something replacing them? In New York City, at least, the answer is yes and what they are doing looks pretty cool and it doesn’t even remove the phone from the equation for good reason. Jeff John Roberts of GigaOM tells us

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the humble phone booth took on renewed importance as cut-off New Yorkers used pay phones to connect with each other in an emergency. Now, this quaint but reliable form of public technology is getting a major facelift.

Starting today, New York City is officially launching a plan to transform pay phones into giant touch screens that provide city information, emergency broadcasts and local business deals

The platforms are run as a partnership between New York City and two companies, Cisco and City 24/7.

There will be 250 of these over all the five boroughs in the coming months.

OK, for all of you cynics out there who wonder just how long these things will last before they are trashed, covered in graffiti or stolen there has been plenty of testing and it appears as if these kiosks of sorts are ready for anything

As anyone who’s watched The Wire can attest, traditional phone booths have a dark side. They are not only a way to connect friends but also a place of business for pimps and drug dealers, and temporary shelters for hobos. And if New York’s new phone booths resemble giant iPads, could they also be the target of vandalism or the wave of “i-crime” sweeping the city?

In response to such concerns, [Tom] Touchet [CEO of City 24/7] says that the new platforms have been field tested for months and “not just in the Upper East Side.” He says they have been deployed successfully in high traffic areas like Penn Station and on the tough streets of Newark, New Jersey.

….he notes the screens were “over-engineered for a reason” and that they can withstand anything New Yorkers throw at them. The platforms can also be easily sprayed clean.

These could be great marketing vehicles on many levels and we will watch how this expands both in NYC and other cities around the globe. Personally, I like the idea and look forward to test driving one some day.

What do you think?

  • Will they work with no power source or submerged in water? If not, they’re not ideal for helping out in a crisis. They’ll just be one more thing that fails during a crisis.