With the growth of mobile phones over the last ten/fifteen years, the one major casualty has been the humble phone booth. Falling out of relevance with the majority of people, a lot of them have been left to decay or have been dismantled as less people use them. That said, they still have one more use if a new pilot scheme from New York City comes to fruition.
Next month, the city is planning to unveil 32-inch ‘smartscreens’ with internet connections inside 250 old phone booths throughout the five boroughs, according to the New York Post. Currently there are over 12,800 outdoor pay phones in the city, whose contracts with the city expire in October 2014.
The free touchscreens, which will be waterproof and dustproof, will display local neighborhood information such as nearby restaurants, traffic updates, landmark information, safety alerts and store sales in the area – all in multiple languages. Pressing an on-screen icon will link users to 311 online, the city’s government information service, to file complaints or request city information.
The search capabilities on the tables will be protected and controlled so the opportunity to use them as your own free computer is limited. The screens will cost the city nothing and will eventually generate revenue through advertising, the city will get a 36 per cent cut out of all ad revenue generated when the scheme becomes official. Currently, pay phones generate around $18 million for New York City, a city spokesperson told the New York Post, but there is no estimate regarding how much revenue this scheme will generate in comparison.
The city is also rolling out computer kiosks to replace pay phones located underground, such as in subway stations. the 22-inch underground touchscreens will be equipped with cameras for video applications, as well as electrical outlets so users can charge their phones while buying access to the Internet, email and apps.