NYC pay phones converted to Wi-Fi hubs could collect data, too

Arman Dzidzovic

NYC pay phones converted to Wi-Fi hubs could collect data, too

NYC pay phones converted to Wi-Fi hubs could collect data, too
March 4, 2016

Last month the de Blasio administration launchedLinkNYC to great fanfare, unveiling the first of at least 7,500 city pay phones that are being converted to free Wi-Fi hubs.

But while much of the attention has been paid to the benefits for everyday New Yorkers – free high-speed Internet, free phone calls, USB charging ports and more – the portals could eventually be expanded to allow the city to collect such data as noise, traffic and air pollution.

“We’re working with the city right now on trying to figure out what type of sensors would make the most sense,” said Kiva Allgood, a vice president at Qualcomm Technologies, which is a partner on the project. “So definitely if you think about pollution, pollution is tied to traffic and traffic congestion, so how do you have a predictive element there.”

City officials have emphasized that personal data will not be collected and that the city would ensure that individuals’ privacy would be protected.

Allgood noted that the city is already using noise detection with ShotSpotter, a system that identifies gunshots and automatically reports them to the police. The program was initially tested in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and the de Blasio administration is set to expand it.

“There are also even event-type things, so you hear noise, we’ve heard about gunshot detection, there are a lot of other thumbprint detection and computer intelligence that can be used,” Allgood said. “Because these are going to be so pervasive, 7,500, up to 10,000 units throughout the city, we can definitely figure out a type of sensor array that would add the most value. So we’re working with the city on that right now.”

Allgood, who participated in a panel discussion at City & State’s recent “On Tech” forum, also discussed other features of LinkNYC as well as Qualcomm’s  water sensor technology.

 You can watch the interview with Allgood here: 

Jon Lentz
is City & State’s editor-in-chief.