Aurora, Ill., Activates Electronic Kiosks for Attractions

The eight kiosks, approved by the city about a year ago, are now operational – sort of like big smartphones sticking out of the ground with all the same kind of information available, particularly targeted for Aurora.

by Steve Lord, The Beacon-News / October 15, 2019

(TNS) — Aurora, Ill., officials Monday officially switched on the era of the informational kiosks in the city.

The eight kiosks, approved by the City Council about a year ago, are now operational – sort of like big smart phones sticking out of the ground with all the same kind of information available, particularly targeted for Aurora.

“These new kiosks will be Aurora’s virtual visitors centers,” said Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin.

The mayor said the kiosks - known as Citypost - can be one of the first stops for the more than half a million people who visit downtown throughout the year. They are a high tech way to find out what downtown and the city offers and a way to get a person to those places, too.

Irvin said it is fitting that Aurora is one of the first cities in the country to feature the kiosks, in keeping with his administration’s goal of making Aurora one of the smartest cities in the country.

“Over 100 years ago, in 1908, the city adopted the name City of Lights, because it was one of the first to have electric streetlights,” the mayor said. “We can now be designated the City of Lightspeed.”

The City Council entered into a deal for the eight informational, high-tech kiosks late last year with Smart City Media LLC of New York. Smart City paid the upfront costs of installing the kiosks and getting them operational.

The contract is for five years with an option for Smart City Media to renew for another five years. The city will get 25 percent of all advertising revenue, which officials have roughly estimated at about $700,000 over 10 years.

About 60 percent of the content on the kiosk screens will be local, either advertising by local businesses or information provided by the city. The other 40 percent would be from other advertising, including national ads, which would provide the bulk of the revenue for Smart City.

That was a concern local and downtown business owners had when city officials proposed the kiosks. They thought with too much national and regional advertising, the information might actually work against local business. Also, they thought the city had decided to go ahead with kiosks without any real input from downtown merchants.

Smart City installed a kiosk outside City Hall as a prototype for people to test, and more than 50 local businesses attended a workshop to learn how they could use the kiosks to get their business some advertising and attention.

Mike Mainthow, chief marketing officer for Smart City, said the version of Citypost in Aurora is tailored for the city, by the city. He pointed out that small businesses throughout the city can access the network and add a posting that will allow Citypost to include that business in its lists and maps.

He demonstrated to a gathering Monday morning how a person can touch the screen and scroll, just like on a smart phone. People can find listings for restaurants, attractions or businesses, then transfer those to a map. With the touch of a button, people can transfer the info to the map on their own phone, and use that to take them to the door of where they want to go.

“This is all about what’s going on in your city,” Mainthow said.

The eight sites for the kiosks are RiverEdge Park; two at the Aurora Transportation Center on Route 25; the Paramount Theatre; the Aurora Arts Center; the city’s new Development Services Center; the Water Street Mall outside City Hall; and on the platform at the Metra station on Route 59. The locations are considered experimental for the city - they could change some of them after a while, and could also add kiosks to other locations eventually.

Smart City developed Citypost during an eight-year pilot program in New York City, then branched out to several other locations, including Kansas City.

Aurora officials said the kiosks represent just part of the initiatives in the city’s Technology Plan, presented and adopted earlier this year.

“This is Aurora’s story,” said Michael Pegues, the city’s chief information officer. “Making technology work for our citizens.”

©2019 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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