New York City's neglected old pay phones are tarting themselves up and making one last desperate bid for relevance by slapping newfangled touch screen technology onto their dilapidated skeletons. The transformation, which was announced in April, will bring free hyper-local information from the Internet in multiple languages, giving pedestrians details on local sales, dining options, nearby landmarks, and safety alerts. Today Gigaom reports that after a successful pilot program, they are expanding throughout the city, with smart screens on pay phones already fully operational at 13th & Broadway and 3rd Ave & 10th street.
By the spring, the companies behind the project—City 24/7 and Cisco IBSG Outbound Marketing—hope to have installed 250 of the 32" devices in all five city boroughs, and depending how it goes, they could expand much further. There are currently 12,800 remaining outdoor pay phones in NYC, and the city pulls in $18 million a year from coins and ads. These old dinosaurs will still be available for those who need them (at least those that actually serve a functional purpose beyond public urinals) but these smart screen modifications are intended to make more effective use of increasingly underutilized street furniture. As part of the deal, 36 percent of the advertising revenue—yes, of course there will be advertising—will go to the city.
As we previously noted, the new smart screens are not based on Apple software, so it shouldn't be too long before they're hacked to show porn. Progress!