NYC to replace pay phones with Skype-enabled, 32" touch screen kiosks

By on April 9, 2012, 2:30 PM

New York City intends to pilot a program that will replace the city's pay phones with "smart screens". The touch screen devices will measure 32 inches in size, connect to the Internet and provide local neighborhood information in multiple languages. There are plans to include Skype-based video conferencing, facilities to check email and even function as a wireless hot spot.

The initial roll out will include the replacement of 500 phone booths, but may expand to all 12,800 pay phones in the future. In addition to their larger counterparts, officials also intend to replace subterranean pay phones with smaller, 22-inch versions.

If you're disturbed by the prospect of swiping your fingers across a surface fondled by thousands of greasy, snotty fingertips, Tom Touchet says not to worry. As the CEO of City24x7, Touchet assures us, "They're built to be cleaned with a jet hose." The tablet-like kiosks will be fully sealed, making them entirely water and dust proof.

In times of financial hardship, replacing pay phones with 32 inch, touch-responsive displays may sound like a careless indulgence. However, according to the NY Post, the devices are actually being provided to the city for "free". Although few details are given, the news outlet implies that NYC's smart screens will be bankrolled by their own advertising revenue. Once they pay for themselves, the city plans to get a 36 percent cut of advertising revenue.

Public pay phones, on the other hand, bring in about $18 million of annual revenue to NYC through coins and ads. When you stop to consider the numbers, this means each phone brings in an average of around $990 per year. Although what portion of that income can be directly attributed to advertising is unknown, but it is clear displacing 500 pay phones with smart screens will not be entirely free, even if the city doesn't pay for them directly.

User Comments: 11

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MilwaukeeMike said:

Well of course they're not free... they should have said the kiosks should be able to pay for themselves. I'm sure City24x7 isn't donating hardware, installation, setup and support. Not to sound all negative, but if govt was invovled with this decision, then they probably grossly underestimated the costs.

treetops treetops said:

Free pay phones would probably draw more revenue with ads. Then coin based ones, way more people would use em.

MrAnderson said:

I find it interesting. I wonder how they will hold up to the general population's wear and tear.

If NYC is not pay for it and there are no political dealings under the table to fund it, I say why not!

viperfl said:

Has anyone every seen what the current phone booths look like in NYC? The phone booths look like they have been through hell and back a few times. They are spray painted with graffiti, defecated on, peed on, spit on, and who knows what else. Don't know what the cost is for putting one of the new booths in but they won't look pretty after a week.

Wendig0 Wendig0, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Because regular payphones didn't get vandalized enough, let's replace them with glass touchscreens... Yeah, I think that will work.

Scshadow said:

Phase 1 should have been 50 phone booths max not 500. Oh well, have fun learning your lesson NYC.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

I eagerly await their business explanation for why this was a good idea when the maintenance & replacement costs eat away most of their profits.

Guest said:

Seeing that it's NYC, I would imagine Homeland Security is involved. Being Skype enabled means it has a video camera installed. NY's finest would have them tied to a face recognition computer and monitors all calls that get a hit.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

Seeing that it's NYC, I would imagine Homeland Security is involved. Being Skype enabled means it has a video camera installed. NY's finest would have them tied to a face recognition computer and monitors all calls that get a hit.

Astute observation... If DHS got involved, I wouldn't be the least surprised if they took full advantage of a Skype booth and utilized an always-on camera in tandem with some of the new mass recognition programs hitting the market. Wouldn't be too much of a leap forward from what they do now.

Guest said:

They'll think this is a good idea until masked hoodlums begin to take hammers and spray paint to the screens. What a huge waste of money. How about cutting down on violent crime and police corruption first? Or just give that money back to the taxpayers. They'll appreciate it probably more than the invasion of privacy that will surely come in no small part thanks to always-on cameras and the PATRIOT act.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Yeah... cause building expensive kiosks that are easily vandalized in order to mount cameras is WAY easier and cheaper than just putting cameras on street light posts. Much better view from the ground too.

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