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.