The following affirmation is probably less true in most emerging markets around the world, but as far as the US is concerned, gone are the days of public payphones! And you don’t have to take my word on it, as New York City officials have recently announced that they are beginning to transform payphones in the Big Apple (the city, not the smartphone manufacturer) into touch-screen information kiosks, units that are referred to as “Smart Screens”.

The New York City has partnered with Cisco Systems and City 24/7 to gradually transform public payphones in NY into internet-enabled Smart Screens, machines that feature highly resistant 32 inch touch screen displays used to display information regarding tourist attractions, traffic updates, as well as nearby stores or restaurants. The Smart Screens can also be used to access New York’s 311 complaint and information line, and will generate revenue via local advertising. It goes without saying that the Smart Screens can be operated by anyone that needs them, at no cost.

Here is an official statement from Cisco regarding the utility of the Smart Screens:

“This information is displayed on durable, yet easy-to-use Smart Screens that replace unused and often outdated public furniture such as pay phones located at bus stops, train stations, major entryways, shopping malls, and sports facilities.”

The 32 inch touch screen displays used in the Smart Screens are both dustproof and waterproof. In addition, they are so resistant that they can be cleaned with a jet hose, in order to address sanitary concerns. The intervals at which these Smart Screens will be cleaned is, at this point, unknown, but hopefully this will happen at least once a day.

The idea originated back in April 2012, but it is only now that a few of these Smart Screens are up and running, with the officials planning to deploy 10 such units around New York’s Union Square in the following weeks. Sure, this is a very small number compared to the 12,800 outdoor payphones sprinkled in outdoor New York, but this number should rise to 250 kiosks in the beginning of 2013.

The Smart Screens are not the only plan New York officials have for making use of this outdated “public furniture”. Back in July, it was announced that a pilot program was started that is to transform payphones into free and unlimited Wi-Fi kiosks.

I don’t know how you guys see things, but to me, this is a most welcomed sign of innovation and evolution in the great city of New York. Feel free to agree or disagree with the “transform public payphones” movement via the comment section below!

Mike Andrici
Growing up in my father's PC store, I was surrounded by and developed a passion for technology ever since I was in kindergarten. However, advancements made in the technology world continue to amaze me on a daily basis! I've been writing about the Android OS since back in October 2008, when Google and HTC launched the first Android smartphone ever, the T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream. Although I'm no company's fanboy, Android is the mobile OS I devoutly support.