NYC Announces 'Reinvent Payphones' Design Challenge Winners

Five of the six finalists proposed an interactive information kiosk.

by / March 7, 2013

Update March 18, 2013: The public has spoken, via the City of New York’s Facebook Page, and named NYFi as the Reinvent Payphone Design Challenge Popular Choice winner

NYFi is designed as an interactive portal to public information, goods and services; a hub for free wireless Internet access; and an open infrastructure for future applications.


Original story, March 7, 2013: The finalists for New York City's Reinvent Payphones design challenge --  a city-backed effort to inject new life into the 11,000 payphones located throughout the city -- were announced Wednesday, March 6.

The contract for these 11,000 payphones is set to expire and renew in October 2014, according to engadget, so the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) launched the design challenge to get ideas on how to replace them. 

Five out of the six finalists proposed some type of interactive information kiosk, reported, and all proposals suggest the kiosks will be widely used for Internet access, phone calls, emergency response and other pedestrian needs in the 21st century.

The six finalists, according to the City of New York Facebook page, are:

  • Beacon: a communication and information hub with integrated technology (LED matrix screens, sensors, speakers, lighting and solar cells) that is controlled by the user's voice and gestures.
  • NYC I/O: an update featuring sensors and displays that creates a foundational input/output system for an open, urban-scale computing platform.
  • Windchimes: a distributed sensor network that provides a real-time and hyper-local record of the city’s rain levels, pollution and other environmental conditions, with the goal of empowering the city with never-before-seen data.
  • NYC LOOP: serves as an access point to the latest technology while simultaneously supporting the public spaces that make NYC unique.
  • Smart Sidewalks: communication, sustainability and wayfinding are squeezed into a 6-inch-wide interactive strip that folds up from the sidewalk.
  • NYFi: an interactive portal to public information, goods and services; a hub for free wireless Internet access; and an open infrastructure for future applications.

To determine a favorite approach, the city is enlisting citizens, asking them to vote on their favorite via Facebook through March 15. 

But as Nicholas Sbordone, director of external affairs for DoITT, told engadget, there isn't exactly a winner coming from this event that'll provide a final design. All avenues of information-gathering, including the challenge, will help shape the guidelines for what the city wants in its payphone kiosks come October 2014.

The whole competition, Sbordone said, helps the city get insight from those outside the telecommunication industry. "[The city]'ll take the results of all the ongoing efforts ..., plus the best ideas from the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge winners, and then bake all of it into the city's formal solicitation [known as an RFP] for the future of the payphone," he told engadget. "We'll look to issue that RFP later this year."

Image of NYFi concept courtesy of

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