FutureStructure

KC Kiosks Avoid LinkNYC's Porn Troubles, Rollout Going Smoothly

As New York City's Internet-connected kiosk program stumbles, Kansas City's is rolling along smoothly.

by / September 18, 2016
Workers set up one of the first smart city kiosks near a streetcar line in downtown Kansas City. Screenshot/Kansas City

Last week, New York City officials decided to remove Web browsing capabilities from their public Wi-Fi-spreading kiosks because some people were reportedly using them to watch pornography.

Kansas City is not having those problems.

That’s because Kansas City’s kiosks were rolled out in a much narrower, controlled way than New York City’s. New York City’s kiosks were meant to spread free, superfast Wi-Fi. Kansas City’s were rolled into a streetcar project and fitted for a number of hyperlocal use cases.

Whereas the LinkNYC kiosks in New York had tablets users could use to browse the web, Kansas City’s lack the ability to freely surf the Internet, according to Kansas City Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett. They’re connected to the Internet, but only in limited ways — users can look up transit schedules, for example, or watch videos from Kansas City’s sports teams.

“What ours do is — essentially, it turns into a communication channel from the city,” Bennett said. “Two-way communications are available, but it’s in a very focused manner. For example, you hit the 311 button on the kiosk, you can file a 311 entry there on the kiosk.”

Since the city began installing the fleet of 25 kiosks in March, Bennett said, the metrics he’s tracking on them are about what he expected them to be. On the whole, the kiosks log about 6,000 sessions each month. Bennett estimates that people have seen the posters on the kiosks — including advertisements that help pay for the program — some 1.2 million times. That number includes both people using the kiosks directly and people walking past them. The kiosks brought in $150,000 in ad revenue in the first three months, which is enough to support the city’s expenses on the project.

Kansas City is also not experiencing another problem the New York Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications reported with the LinkNYC program — kiosk hogging. DOITT has reported that some users were using kiosks for extended periods of time.

Not so in Kansas City. According to Bennett, nearly three-quarters of users engage with the kiosks for less than two minutes. Those that stay on for more than two minutes are usually looking at nearby restaurants or entertainment options.

One thing Bennett said he’d like to improve on a bit is connectivity issues. The network for the kiosks experienced some problems staying connected at first. Now, he said the network stays on about 93 percent of the time. He’d like to bring that up to 95 percent.

Ben Miller Staff Writer

Ben Miller is the business beat staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.