LinkNYC – a Step Toward Smart Cities?

Ever wonder what will happen to all those obsolete public pay-phone booths littering the urban streetscape? In New York, they’re being replaced by super-kiosks that are not only Wi-Fi hotspots, but platforms that will help people navigate the city, find services, and discover new destinations. It’s a model you may see popping up in a city near you, and a step toward the idea of connected Smart Cities.

LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will bring the fastest available municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers, small businesses, and visitors. It will be one of the first free municipal Wi-Fi services in the country. The five-borough LinkNYC network, which will be funded through advertising revenues, will be built and funded at no cost to taxpayers through an advertising-based revenue model. According to the New York City Mayor’s Office, the system will generate more than $500 million in revenue for the city over its first 12 years of operation.

By replacing the aging network of public pay telephones with state-of-the-art Links, the city aims to transform the physical streetscape—and New Yorkers’ access to information—while also creating new local jobs for the development, servicing, and maintenance of the structures.

LinkNYC is the result of a public/private partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, and CityBridge, a New York City-based consortium whose members and extended team include:

  • Titan, the country’s leading media company focused on providing innovative programs for municipalities, including New York City, where it is the largest and most experienced payphone franchisee. Titan will oversee LinkNYC’s operations and manage the advertising program.
  • Intersection (formerly Control Group), an NYC-based technology, strategy, and user experience design firm that also partnered with the New York City MTAto develop new “On the Go” digital information kiosks that simplify wayfinding and communication for the city’s subway system.

>>Mike Clare,experience design and strategy lead for Intersection, will be a featured speaker at Xlab 2015.

  • Qualcomm Inc., a Wi-Fi and next- generation wireless technologies provider that will serve as technology advisor for wireless connectivity technology
  • Comark/CIVIQ Smartscapes, which specializes in the design and manufacturing of interactive hardware solutions for rugged environments. CIVIQ Smartscapes is responsible for the design, engineering, and manufacture of the Links.
  • Antenna Design, an award-winning industrial design team specializing in people-centered design, is responsible for the iconic physical design of the Link.

“Links” are iconic connection points that house state-of-the-art wireless technology, interactive systems, and digital advertising displays. The ADA-compliant Link structures provide free 24/7 public Wi-Fi at up to gigabit speed (more than 100 times faster than the average public Wi-Fi and 20 times faster than the average home Internet service in NYC); free phone calls within the U.S.; an Android touchscreen tablet interface to access city services, directions and more; and easy access to 911 and 311 services. In addition, they offer free charging stations for mobile devices and digital displays for advertising and public service announcements. 

The units’ sleek design and aluminum construction were designed to withstand urban conditions and the smaller footprint is intended to restore sidewalk space. Integrated lighting will provide visibility and enhance public safety around the kiosks, and the digital displays, say Control Group, will provide “insight-driven and intelligently programmed advertising and public service announcements.” Tactile keypads and Braille lettering will make the units ADA-compliant, and the kiosks also incorporate a dedicated 911 button.

Construction of the LinkNYC network has begun and the first structures are operational. Up to 10,000 Links will be installed in NYC’s five boroughs, providing a linked system of hotspots and a seamless roaming experience for New Yorkers.

CityBridge has committed to establishing a facility for local production in New York City. The LinkNYC program is expected to create 100 to 150 new full-time jobs in manufacturing, technology and advertising, plus an estimated 650 support jobs.

>>Hear more about LinkNYC and other cutting-edge digital experiences at Xlab 2015 November 5-6 in New York!

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