2012-12-19 / Features

Bloomberg Launches Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Rahul N. Merchant and Chief Digital Officer Rachel Haot today launched the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, a competition to rally urban designers, planners, technologists and policy experts to create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of New York City’s public pay telephones. The goal of Reinvent Payphones is to foster innovative, data and design-driven ideas that will help modernize payphone infrastructure across the five boroughs and optimize use of public space once the city’s current payphone contracts expire in 2014. The mayor announced the challenge through a video message on December 4 at the New York Tech Meetup.

“From Wi-Fi in public spaces to the High Line, our administration has continuously reinvented city infrastructure by matching innovative concepts with extraordinary designs,” said Bloomberg. “Now we’re doing the same for the thousands of public pay telephones across the five boroughs, and we’re challenging our dynamic and evergrowing tech community to ‘Re-Own the Phone’ and provide their ideas on what the future of payphones could entail.”

Today, there are more than 11,000 payphones on city sidewalks, down from a high of approximately 35,000 in the late 1990s. Once a primary means of communication for the public, the role of payphones has changed significantly over the last decade. While the widespread adoption of mobile devices reduces the overall need for payphones, not everyone owns a mobile phone and not everyone has connectivity at all times. Payphone availability remains critical in times of emergency, as seen by an increase in their usage after Hurricane Sandy, and Reinvent Payphones is an opportunity to shape the future design and functionality of payphones and their surrounding enclosures.

To enter the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, participants should visit www.nyc.gov to review competition rules, sign up for important updates and submit their prototype application for consideration by Feb. 18, 2013. Participants are invited to an information session on Jan. 23, 2013. Participants are also invited to inform their designs with datasets related to city’s public pay telephones – including their locations and related 311 complaint data – available on the Reinvent Payphones Web site.

The Reinvent Payphones design submissions will be judged by the following criteria: connectivity, creativity, visual design, functionality, community impact.

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