One of the biggest population shifts taking place in the US and other parts of the world today is the repopulation of urban areas, according to the Brookings Institution, a research organization. This shift has created a growth opportunity for "smart city" kiosks that provide free Wi-Fi, wayfinding, public transportation access and other public information.
Olea Kiosks explored the opportunity in a recent white paper, "Kiosks and the Emergence of the Smart City."
The term, "smart city," refers to technologies that support information access, governance, energy, building, mobility, infrastructure, health care and citizenry.
In "From Intelligent to Smart Cities," authors Husam Al Waer and Mark Deakin define the term as follows: The application of electronic and digital technologies to cities, the use of information technology to change life and working environments, the embedding of information and communication technologies in government systems, and the "territorializationn" of practices bringing technologies and people together.
Kiosks are among the technologies that manage normally cumbersome tasks such as transportation scheduling, wayfinding and last-minute research.
Transportation needs change
Changing public transportation needs play heavily into the demand. Another Olea white paper, "Kiosks: A Turbo Boosts for Public Transportation," noted that public transportation trips grew 37 percent in 2013 from 1995.
The U.S. Department of Transportation in 2016 announced that Columbus, Ohio, won the agency’s $40 million Smart City Challenge, with an additional $10 million coming from Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Inc. The $50 million supplemented $90 million that the city raised from other private partners.
Using these resources, Columbus will reshape its transportation system to become part of a fully-integrated city that harnesses the potential of data, technology and creativity to reimagine the way people and goods move throughout the city.
The DOT received 78 applications from almost every mid-sized city in the nation in response to the challenge.
City governments see the need
Kansas City, Missouri deployed more than 50 blocks of free public Wi-Fi in partnership with Cisco and Sprint. The network includes 125 smart streetlights and 25 interactive kiosks. In addition, the new Kansas City streetcar line will include 25 more interactive kiosks. Riders will have access to information about current events, digital art, entertainment and city services.
Miami-Dade, Florida negotiated a 15-year agreement to deploy up to 300 kiosks with Wi-Fi at bus stops and Metrorail stations. Residents will likely have access to GB Wi-Fi, cell phone charging, 911 access, free Vonage access and an interactive screen with information about city services and local events. Third party advertising is expected to benefit the city.
Santa Barbara, California installed its first public kiosk at the city’s Transit Center. The kiosk provides bus schedules and helps users plan routes by car, foot or bike. Trip information can be sent to smart phones. Applications also include news, weather and Yelp reviews.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Port Authority recently designed a kiosk network to allow riders to navigate the local buses and subways. There are five touchscreens passengers can use to access directions. Eight solar-powered devices at bus stops provide real-time transportation information.
The city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates has converted more than 100 bus stops into smart shelters. Each shelter has free Wi-Fi, a smart kiosk, a mini mart and more. Visitors can top-up prepaid cards and pay utility bills. The city plans to deploy 400 additional shelters. The smart shelters were selected from 656 air conditioned bus stops.
Questions to consider
Smart city projects raise the following questions:
- Which light rail or bus stations will have kiosks?
- What functionality should they include at launch? Will additional functionality be added, and if so which?
- What are the environmental factors the kiosks will face?
City governments are recognizing they can use self service kiosks to make public transportation easier to navigate and make information accessible to citizens. They are also realizing that behind the scenes, kiosks can provide efficiencies through robust data networks, be they subsidized or funded through third party advertising.
/ Elliot Maras is the editor of KioskMarketplace.com and FoodTruckOperator.com.