New York City Introduces the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge in early December — “an open call for ideas to bring the payphone into the 21st century — and maybe beyond,” writes Businessweek. What might these new payphones look like? “City officials can envision payphones that are solar charging stations or places to do limited commerce — purchase tickets, say, for the theater or mass transportation. Think Internet café on the corner where anyone can look up local attractions — or the closest green market — and get directions for walking or taking public transportation,” notes the article.

Or it could be a place for local business to offer coupons or a place where citizens can voice thoughts and/or opinions on city matters.

But according to a Pew Research study, the original function of the payphone is still important in such a vast urban landscape. Pew indicates that 15 percent of American adults still do not own a cell phone.

“More to the point, when the city loses power or cell towers, as happened during Hurricane Sandy, payphones have a better chance of surviving powerful storms, thanks to underground communications cables and power lines,” explains the article. “During superstorm Sandy, payphone usage tripled, according to the city’s chief digital officer, Rachel Haot.”

Mayor Bloomberg’s challenge is open to all; prototypes are due by February 13.