February 5, 2013 By News Staff
Ideas are starting to materialize for New York City's Reinvent Payphones initiative, a city-backed effort to inject new life into the 11,000 payphones located throughout the city.
According to techPresident, one promising concept comes from students in NYU's Interactive Telecommunication Program. Called "Street Beacon", the proposal suggests allowing people to call individual payphones, via the Internet, to access information on the noise levels and air quality of that neighborhood. Citizens on foot could also consult a touchscreen display at the payphone location to access the same information.
Broadly used in times of compromised cell service, like during Hurricane Sandy, New York City wants to find new ways to repurpose the phones that are more in line with the needs of a modern citizenry. Other payphone pilots now in progress in the Big Apple include equipping the units with free Wi-Fi and touchscreens armed with neighborhood information and targeted advertising.
As reported last month in Government Technology, Boston faces a similar issue with its 2,200 fire alarm boxes. Officials are looking for ideas on how to modernize the outdated one-way communication system with a solution that reduces false alarms and provides better service to Bostonians. In an attempt to encourage a range of creative ideas, CIO Bill Oates said the city's Request for Information (RFI) was intentionally worded as broadly as possible.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Justin Brown told techPresident that the city would entertain ideas for digital kiosks, wireless hotspots, various sensing or monitoring technologies, public messaging and more. Responses to Boston's RFI are due Feb. 22.
And Chicago is crowdsourcing ideas to help improve Internet connectivity through a variety of methods -- free public Wi-Fi, expanded broadband in poorer areas and high-speed fiber connections into the city -- in its Broadband Challenge. The Windy City's industrial infrastructure may prove critical to the effort.
CTO John Tolva explained that running under the central business district in Chicago is a system of tunnels that used to carry freight trains. Why not use the now defunct rail network to run fiber optic cable?
"Sixty percent of the cost of laying fiber is ripping up the street and paying to repave it," Tolva said, adding that city officials are also exploring the use of alleyways and sewers to minimize the cost and disruption of tearing up streets.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.