Winning Prototypes from Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge

By - MAR. 06, 2013

Mayor Bloomberg, Chief
Information and Innovation Officer Rahul N. Merchant and Chief Digital Officer
Rachel Haot announced the winning prototypes from the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge, a competition that engaged
hundreds of urban designers, planners, technologists and policy experts to
create physical and virtual prototypes that imagine the future of the City's
approximately 11,000 public pay telephones. The City received more than 125
submissions aimed at modernizing payphone infrastructure and optimizing the use
of public space. Competition judges selected 11 semi-finalists to demo their
prototypes and the top submissions were awarded for best connectivity,
creativity, visual design, functionality, and community impact.

The Reinvent Payphones Demo Day occurred last night
at Quirky, a social product development company that brings new product ideas
to life through its online collaborative platform. Eleven semi-finalists
presented their prototype ideas to a panel of judges including Ben Kaufman,
founder and CEO of; Andrew McLaughlin, entrepreneur in residence at
Betaworks; Majora Carter, founder of Startup Box; Jason Goodman, CEO and
co-founder of 3rd Ward; Nancy Lublin, CEO of; and former United
States Deputy Chief Technology Officer Beth Noveck.

"New York is the most dynamic city
in the world, and while technology has changed all around us, the city's
payphones have remained mostly the same for decades," said Mayor Bloomberg. "That's
why our Administration launched interactive touchscreens around Union Square
and free public Wi-Fi at payphone locations across the five boroughs. The Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge has resulted
in some of the most creative and dynamic ideas to date - with the potential to
transform the aesthetics and functionality of New York City payphones."

"New York City's public pay
telephone network has incredible potential," said Chief Information and
Innovation Officer Merchant. "By collaborating with the City's vibrant
technology community to develop creative and forward-thinking ideas, this
infrastructure could become one of our most important technological assets,
helping define the 21st Century streetscape in cities around the

"The goal of the Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge is
to collaboratively engage designers, urban planners and technologists in
imagining an innovative future for the City's public communications
infrastructure, and we have been humbled by the phenomenal talent and
creativity of the initiative's participants," said Chief Digital Officer Haot.
"With more than 125 outstanding submissions, 11 semifinalists, and six winners,
Reinvent Payphones exceeded our expectations and marks another step forward in
Mayor Bloomberg's roadmap to make New York the world's leading digital city.
From Wi-Fi hotspots and charging stations to alternative energy sources and
community art installations, once again New York City proves to be fertile
ground for launching groundbreaking ideas that set the global standard."

were blown away by the thought and design that went in to these submissions,"
said Ben Kaufman, Founder and CEO of Quirky. "The Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge furthers the notion that great
ideas can come from anywhere. Even better is that these ideas were developed
for New York, but could inspire cities around the world."

The Reinvent
were judged and awarded on the following criteria:

  • Connectivity: Ability to connect New Yorkers and enable
    communication, including for safety and emergency purposes.
  • Creativity: Originality, innovation, and quality of
  • Visual Design: Including visual appeal and user
  • Functionality: Flexibility, versatility, scalability,
    accessibility, and sustainability.
  • Community Impact: Support of local residents, businesses
    and cultural institutions.

sixth prize category, "Popular Choice," will be decided by public vote through
the City of New York's Facebook Page at Voting begins today and will run through 5:00 PM on
Thursday, March 14, with the winner announced on Friday, March 15.

Connectivity Award

NYfi, Sage and Coombe Architects

"Reinventing the payphone is not
only about a sleeker design or a digital display, it is about radically
reimagining a public amenity; how it will be used, and what it will provide,"
said the NYfi team. "Unlike today's payphone, the NYfi will be an interactive portal to public information, goods,
and services, a hub for free wireless internet access, and an open
infrastructure for future applications. Two versions of the NYfi
are proposed: a 10-foot model for
commercial and manufacturing districts, and a smaller model - with limited
functionality beyond Wi-Fi and emergency services - for residential and
historic districts where new payphones have not traditionally been permitted."

Creativity Award


"NYC Loop combines a beautiful,
contemporary payphone with a uniquely tailored public space that can be chosen
to suit New York's diverse communities," said the NYC LOOP team. "It provides
sound harmonizing technology as well as a smart screen for making calls and
enhancing personal mobile communication. The Loop also features a responsive
projector that creates an ‘information puddle' on the sidewalk with which any passerby
can interact-an amazing opportunity for local artists or as a means of
generating revenue from advertising space. The iconic design of NYC Loop and
the relationship of its public space units to the city's neighborhoods will
become an integral part of New York City's urban identity."

Visual Design

Beacon, frog

"BEACON is New York City's next
generation open communications platform, connecting the city and its services
with our communities, businesses, residents, and visitors," said the Beacon team.

Community Impact

NYC I/O: The Responsive City, Control Group and Titan

"Our submission, the ‘NYC I/O:
Responsive City,' updates the payphone with a modern array of sensors and
displays to create a foundational input/output system for an open, urban-scale
computing platform, which would allow New York City to respond to and serve the
people in a way never done before,"Through open access to real-time data and a
distribution platform for community, civic, arts, and commercial apps and
messaging, we can create a safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable city."

Windchimes, NYU
ITP, Cooper Union, Parsons

"We are a group of students and
recent grads from Parsons, NYU-ITP and Cooper Union studying art, engineering,
environmental science, and design," said the Windchimes team. "This competition
was a great way to do meaningful work across disciplines that could have a
direct impact on the quality of life in NYC and build toward a sustainable
future. With Windchimes, we imagined adapting payphones to create a distributed
environmental sensor network in service of New York City residents and
visitors. The City's Reinvent Payphones
Design Challenge
allowed us to build a team around this vision and share it
with the rest of the community."


Smart Sidewalks, Syracuse
University, UC Davis, Parsons, Rama Chorpash Design LLC, Cheng+Snyder

"The Reinvent Payphones Design Challenge was an opportunity to reimagine
a piece of outdated city infrastructure in the age of mobile," said the Smart
Sidewalks team. "In Smart Sidewalks we considered the widest range of issues
the payphone might address from the changing climate to lowering the digital

In 1999, the City's Department of
Information Technology and Telecommunications entered into a number of
franchise contracts for the installation, maintenance and operation of public
payphones on City sidewalks. These agreements expire on October 15, 2014. The
next step in determining the future of the New York City payphone is the
issuance of a Request for Proposals, which will be informed by Reinvent Payphone Design Challenge
winners, public feedback received through the City's Request for Information
issued last summer and ongoing pilot programs - including digital advertising on
phone kiosks around Times Square, interactive touchscreens around Union Square
and free public Wi-Fi at payphone locations across the city.



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