March 6th, 2013

Reinvent Payphones Winner: Smart Sidewalks - Best Functionality

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Smart Sidewalks is driven by two competing aims: to pack as much function into a single device as possible and to reduce the phonebooth’s footprint.  “Everything” –communication, sustainability, and wayfinding is squeezed into “nothing” – a 6” wide interactive strip that folds up from the sidewalk.

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The design works within the existing 5’ sidewalk grid and has two main components. The first lies flush with the ground, and introduces a combined sensor and display with storm runoff storage below. The second stands vertical and functions as a touch-screen, Wi-Fi hub, energy source, charging station, and a range of other functions. In short, a location tethered smart-phone. The bent form is shaped by accessibility, viewing angle, and optimal solar exposure.  A curb-cut bleeds storm water into storage cells dissipating it into existing soil. Sidewalk space is freed, putting to work the invisible space below.

click to see video http://vimeo.com/61222191

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The user interface is concentrated on the front panel and includes touch screen, camera, and sound inputs. The screen vertically scrolls accommodating a range of user heights. On the side are a credit card swipe, speaker, and charger.  Built on the Android platform, existing apps are white listed by NYC and new ones are developed by third party vendors.  NYC’s urban specific apps could be accessed by an increasingly diverse range of publics: think of it as a 21st century library without walls.

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While Smart Sidewalks can function as a stand-alone device, it also networks, charges, and augments existing mobile devices.  The 6” wide ground strip both conveys and gathers information.  Like a vehicular road counter, Smart Sidewalks passively tallies every wheelchair, child, and jogger 24/7. This massive nodal network senses wind speed, rain fall, temperature, and foot traffic with unprecedented granularity. In emergencies, Smart Sidewalks guides citizens away from danger to higher ground. Thinfrastructure is self-sustaining and can go off-grid when infrastructure fails.  As a publicly accessible database, information gathered from street-sides of NY will stand to fundamentally reshape the city.  With a single curb cut and a thin strip of technology NYC prepares for a changing climate, gives maximum functionality to the technological savvy, and lowers the digital divide.

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  1. 100ideasproject reblogged this from nycdigital and added:
    In my opinion, this project sets the bar for multi-purpose public infrastructure. Communication - Sustainability -...
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    From nycdigital: Description Smart Sidewalks is driven by two competing aims: to pack as much function into a single...
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