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Payphone of the future: giant, curve touchscreen?

phone booth

The payphone has gone the way of the do do bird, but New York City issued a challenge to residents: design the payphone of the future so they can be installed in 2014.

phone booth

The reinvent payphones design challenge

Ten years after turning select payphone kiosks into WiFi hotspots, New York City set up the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge calling for proposals to the Bloomberg administration, imagining the payphone kiosk of the future.

The city’s payphone franchise contracts expire in October 2014, which is when they hope to launch the kiosk of the future, so rather than mull over ideas from within, Bloomberg opened it up to a public competition, while although it doesn’t guarantee any city contracts, it will help the city to make better decisions in a more timely manner.

Of the 126 submission, 11 semifinalists were chosen, and ultimately five winners were named, one of which was the Control Group / Titan submission which won the Community Impact category. This submission caught our attention as it is an extension of efforts the city has already considered, as ten kiosks in Union Square were replaced with 32-inch interactive touchscreens displaying maps, nearby businesses, event listings, and public service announcements.

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Colin O’Donnell, Founding Partner at Control Group said, “We begin by looking for aspects of the existing infrastructure that are under- or unused in order to uncover their potential. That’s what we discovered in the payphones. While they still produce healthy revenue through ad sales, they also represent a large sunk cost that, from the perspective of functionality, are more or less ignored for being obsolete.”

O’Donnell added, “We then work to design a digital platform that is modular, extensible, and scalable in order to activate that infrastructure, putting it squarely ahead of the technology curve.”

The payphone of the future could very easily come from the vision of New York City, and not only become useful for residents in normal daily life, but especially during crises like Superstorm Sandy.

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