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Lowly Pay Phone Is Getting an Upgrade in New York City

Smart screens with iPad-like functions are replacing old-fashioned pay phones

It used to be said that anything at street level in New York City would soon be either broken or stolen. Especially pay phones.

Things have gentrified a bit since then but finding a working phone can still be difficult, as thousands learned when Superstorm Sandy knocked out their cell phones.

Now the city is trying to go one step beyond fixing up its existing phones -- it's installing 250 new iPad-like devices in existing pay phone booths that will provide emergency broadcasts, city information and, yes, daily deals.

The platforms are run as a partnership between New York City and two companies, Cisco and City 24/7.  Multiple mobile apps are accessible through the 32-inch screens. Content also is fed directly to mobile and web platforms.

It's hard to think those 32-inch screens will last long out in public but everyone involved in the project seems to think they'll somehow survive the predation that befalls things left unattended on city streets.

So confident is City24/7 that it says its service eventually will be expanded to more than a dozen U.S. and foreign cities. The smart screens were tested in a pilot project for a while but are now going live in all five of the city's boroughs.

The public-private partnership also includes the city Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group and LG Electronics USA.

Besides being available on the screens, content developed for the project will be available via mobile and Web platforms.

One question that's not answered in any of the oh-so-cool information tidbits provided by the partnership: Will these things be two-way? In other words, will they be watching us as we watch them?

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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