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Aurora, Ill., Eyes Downtown Smart Kiosks

The kiosks would carry public information and private advertising, and would include a smartphone app for download.

by Steve Lord, The Beacon-News / August 17, 2018
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(TNS) — Aurora officials are considering allowing informational kiosks throughout downtown that would operate on a smart media platform.

The kiosks would carry public information, as well as private advertising, and would include a download on smartphones that would alert those with the app when they walk near a business that it advertises.

City officials are proposing a deal with Smart City Media, of New York, in which the company would pay for installation and operation of the kiosks, with the city collecting some revenue for allowing them on public right-of-way.

“So the city doesn’t have any financial responsibility,” said Andrew Feuerborn, data and analytics director of the city’s Information Technology Department. “The city allows the locations so it gets some revenue. Overall, it’s a project to install kiosks for the public to interact with.”

The proposal came from the Mayor’s Office, and Mayor Richard Irvin has asked the council to expedite the process. He and other city officials started looking at the kiosks after attending technology conferences and getting a personal tour of similar kiosks in Kansas City.

While aldermen on the Finance Committee this week seemed to like the concept, they declined to recommend it, largely because city officials did not have a specific contract to present. Feuerborn said that contract still is being negotiated.

Officials could not even say how much money the city would get, although officials are asking for 25 percent of the advertising revenue. Feuerborn said city officials also are willing to give Smart City as much as a 10-year contract, in exchange for the company spending all the upfront money to install the kiosks.

Aldermen held over consideration of the contract until a special Finance Committee meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. Aug. 21 in the 5th Floor conference room at City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place.

Another reason aldermen wanted to wait to vote on the contract was to get more detailed information about Smart City Media. Aurora Chief Financial Officer Martin Lyons said the city researched Smart City and found them to be a “Top 4 recommended” company from an independent research firm.

But Ald. Richard Mervine, 8th Ward, likened the situation to about 10 years ago, when the city entered into a deal with a company to build free Wi-Fi across the city. Mervine said while the concept was good, the company’s “model was flawed,” and the city was left to clean up the infrastructure left behind.

“I really like this package; we’ve been talking about wayfinding downtown, and this fits in with that,” Mervine said. “The key here for me is that we want to make sure if it does fail, somebody can bring it back to square one.”

The sites city officials are looking at downtown include: the Transportation Center on North Broadway; the Water Street Mall in front of City Hall; the Development Services Center; RiverEdge Park; the Aurora Arts Center; and the Paramount Theatre. The one location outside downtown is the Route 59 Metra station.

Officials said those locations have been suggested to Smart City. The company will check out the sites on a visit to the city, Aurora officials said.

“The locations have been factored in so they’re at the highest visibility locations,” said Alex Alexandrou, the city’s chief management officer. “We really believe we’ve done the legwork.”

The spot on the Water Street Mall in front of City Hall is on a slab of dark concrete that was included in the mall’s renovations for just such a situation. The concrete is only two inches thick, and all the city connections, from electric to fiber to water, are underneath it. That way, it can be easily broken through for connections.

©2018 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.