City24/7 replaces pay phones with tablets throughout city

Nicole Brown

By the end of the week, Manhattan will receive 10 modernized pay phones.

City24/7, a media company that focuses on providing information to the New York City community, has partnered with Cisco and LG Electronics to install a total of 250 touch screen tablets throughout the five boroughs.

City24/7 CEO Tom Touchet said all the screens will be installed by March 2013. He added that the purpose of the new tablets is to inform, protect and revitalize the city.

“That’s our focus — to build a community network that promotes efficiency, public safety and helps streamline services,” Touchet said.

In April, the company placed 25 pilot products in New York City. Two weeks ago, it announced that more are ready to be installed — some of which have been installed in pay phone booths near Union Square.

The screens’ features include real-time news, information about local events and restaurants, subway train schedules and special promotions from local merchants. They will also become a Wi-Fi hotspot for people to connect to the Internet. Additionally, they will be able to stream breaking news in emergencies and connect people to emergency services, as they have a battery backup in case the power goes out. New Yorkers will have free access to all of the services.

Touchet said the company will wait about three to four weeks to test the screens and receive feedback from New Yorkers. After, he said the company will install 240 more tablets throughout the city.

The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications has also teamed up with City24/7.

DoITT spokesman Nicholas Sbordone said the feedback from the public is important to this project.

“These screens are part of the city’s strategy to garner broad-based feedback on what the public would like to see the future of the public pay phone entail,” Sbordone said. “We’ll be inviting additional ideas going forward and then bake all of this into the city’s formal solicitation for the future of the pay phone, which we will look to issue in the first half of next year.

“In addition to the City 24/7 SmartScreens, we are also piloting digital advertising on phone kiosks in and around Times Square, and free public Wi-Fi at 11 locations across the city,” Sbordone added.

NYU-Poly science professor Jonathan Bain said the screens are a good idea.

“They repurpose the old structural supports for outdated pay-phone technology in a pretty sleek way,” Bain said.

LSP freshman Gabriella Diez said the convenience of the screens could help provide breaking news despite the many other ways people get information.

“Sure, a lot of people have smart phones that can do all of this on a daily basis, but perhaps not during a natural disaster when you need a phone the most,” Diez said. “It could really come in handy.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 5 print edition. Nicole Brown is deputy City State editor. Email her at [email protected]