Thursday, 29 August 2013

Phone Boxes. What to do with them? Great idea from New York. Make them "way-finding" digital touch screens.


So when was the last time you used a payphone to make a call? Couple of years? And yet the city is still littered with these icons of a bygone day. I remember as a kid, visiting London and coming home with a metal die-cast model of the red phone box being such an icon of London.

Indeed, local Irish newspapers reporting recently, that they've become ideal places for drug users to shoot up. But the saturation of mobile phones, has meant that they have no real use anymore and in fact, are becoming an eyesore.

Until now.

Great idea from New York then, which links to a concept being used in London. The idea is to turn the payphones into 'wayfinding' touch screens. Cosy booths, out of the weather to find your way.

So in the payphone booth, are touch screens that give local directions. After all, how many of us have been asked on the street for directions?

An interactive map, with local retail store listings and bus/train stops with timetables, would be a great help to tourism. And a great help to citizens. Once you think about that too, using WiFi, it will allow a lot of other applications.

Clearly Ads on screen being one, but perhaps offering free WiFi hotspots? Or Information hubs on general local heritage stuff? Or opening hours of local attractions showing perhaps, their video? Or local restaurant reviews/info? Car Park information? Traffic updates? Scrolling news? A dispenser of online tickets? Emergency services? And so on. All at the touch of a screen. Perhaps free Skype to allow tourists say hello to the folks literally on the street. 

Commercially it's a sound idea too - as indeed it is to bring real benefits to the streets of a city. The phone box is still iconic and in some ways, treasured. Importantly, it's already there so the conversion is relatively easy.

By giving it a digital makeover could be one of the great landmark ideas. And leave a great mark on the city.