Don’t leave us hanging: reinvent the payphone

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Forgotten, but not gone. via Comm 663

Everything old-timey seems to come back en vogue eventually. But the payphone is one relic destined to be denied retro nostalgia resurrection. Everyone and their subway panhandler has a spacephone these days and our mobile dependency is only growing stronger with every next-gen iPhone. But there are still 11,000 active pay phones in New York City that are mostly sitting idly collecting gross city grime. Mayor Bloomberg and his tech/digital advisory team want to know what you–innovative tech-savvy urban dwellers you are–think the future of payphones should be. Enter the Reinvent Payphones public design challenge for a chance to help modernize the communications infrastructure of your city.

The contract with the current payphone vendor expires in 2014. So the City is opening the idea pool to students, urban planners, designers, technologists, architects, creators and legal and policy experts, inviting them to build physical and/or virtual prototypes imagining a new public utility through payphone infrastructure. They are seeking an innovative, creative communications network that fits the modern needs of a cutting edge city. Major considerations are connectivity, design, functionality, community impact, sustainability, accessibility and safety.

If you want to give it your all and go down in payphone history, there’s an open information session on January 23 from 5:30pm – 7:00pm at 9 MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn. There, you can learn more about payphone infrastructure and policy from City employees, and meet other interested participants. Need a team to work with? Visit to review ideas with potential partners.

The submission period ends on February 18. Submit digital files presenting your prototypes to  Up to 15 prototypes will be selected as semi-finalists and invited to present their design to a panel of judges on Demo Day Tues., March 5, 6:30 – 9:00pm at Quirky headquarters, 606 West 28th Street, 7th Floor, Manhattan.


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