LinkNYC Free Wi Fi Kiosks in New York

LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will replace over 7,500 pay phones across the New York City with new structures called Links. LinkNYC is completely free because it’s funded through advertising. It is expected to generate more than a half billion dollars in revenue for New York City. 

LinkNYC launched in January 2016 and is currently in its beta phase, giving New Yorkers an early opportunity to try out Link’s features and provide feedback. Additional apps and services will be rolled out on an ongoing basis over the next several years.
Currently it provides:

1. LinkNYC’s super fast, free Wi-Fi to connect personal devices
2. Access to city services, maps and directions
3. Free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. with the Vonage calling app on the tablet or the tactile keypad, microphone and headphone jack
4. Dedicated red 911 button in the event of an emergency
5. USB port to charge devices
6. ADA-compliant (universally accessible) design with low ground coverage, leaving space on the sidewalk as compared to a conventional phone booth
7. Public service announcements and advertising on two 55” HD displays

In 2014 the de Blasio Administration issued a competitive RFP to repurpose payphone infrastructure with free Wi-Fi, phone calls and advertising. The CityBridge proposal for LinkNYC was chosen for its innovative and community-first approach and was
awarded the 12-year franchise. CityBridge is a consortium of experts in technology, media, user experience and connectivity that includes Intersection, Qualcomm and CIVIQ Smartscapes. The kiosk was designed by Antenna Design.

The initiative will deploy a total of 7,500 Links throughout the city over the next eight years. At no cost to the city or taxpayers, CityBridge, the consortium behind the project, is investing $200 million in building the LinkNYC network (Kleiman, 2016).

Through advertising, LinkNYC comes at zero cost to taxpayers. LinkNYC will generate at least $500 million in revenue for the City over the next 12 years and CityBridge will use revenues to maintain and improve the service; the city and CityBridge will split revenues 50/50 (Kleiman, 2016).

Issues with the deployment of the kiosks:
• User data theft by cyber criminals
• People who linger next to it for hours, monopolising it and blocking the sidewalk
• Use of kiosk for other criminal activities and communication

In order to address the issue, in September 2016, the internet browsing facility was disabled on the kiosk screens, with the exception of websites that provide government services, Wi-Fi phone calls and the city’s 311 complaint centre and 911. As of October 2016, LinkNYC Kiosks can also be used for registering to vote. Hi-Speed Wi-Fi for use on personal devices is still in place.

The Kiosks use Ruckus Wireless’ Wi-Fi technology. It is enabled by Qualcomm’s Vive 802.11 AC Wave 4×4 Chipsets. They use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor and the Adreno 320 Graphic Processing unit. Qualcomm will provide maintenance for the rest of the service lives of the Kiosks and upgrade to the software is expected in 2022 (Shah, 2016). Qualcomm has provided some of the technologies for the Links, which are designed so the networking equipment, processor, tablet and other components can be regularly swapped out and upgraded (Shah, 2016).

“LinkNYC is our response to some of the most pressing challenges facing New York City—and cities around the world—today. How can we provide greater access and connectivity without costing taxpayers a dime? How can we address the digital divide, where more than 25 percent of New Yorkers lack broadband access at home? The single largest opportunity when it comes to this project is its sheer scale and ability to benefit millions of people every day. In addition to more than 8.5 million New Yorkers, we’re also serving 56 million visitors from around the world. Our objective is to ensure LinkNYC creates real value for these diverse populations. LinkNYC is about reimagining the public-private partnership model to bring the incredible innovation of the digital world into our physical streetscape, providing value to New York City with a state-of-the-art new communications network.” – Dave Etherington of CityBridge (Kleiman, 2016)

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Smart London Plan

London’s technology market worth GBP 19 billion is the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world. It has over 40,000 digital businesses and 200,000 employees. The Smart London Plan was published in 2013 to leverage this market to improve the experience of London for everyone. Set within the overarching framework of the Mayor’s 2020 vision, the Smart London Plan looked forward to new approaches that digital technology can bring to support London’s future growth. The Plan was prepared by Smart London Board formed in 2013 under the Mayor of London. The Plan focused on actions that were to be undertaken between 2013 and the end of the Mayoral term in 2016.

The Smart London Plan leverages on London’s innovation lead to drive change with further investment in technology and data to offer Londoners better services; create efficient savings; and lead improvements in enterprise, skills and training, infrastructure and environment, health and well being and transport in London. The term ‘smart city’ means different things to different people. Smart London is about how London as a whole functions as a result of the interplay between its ‘systems’ – from local labour markets to financial markets, from local government to education, healthcare, transportation and utilities. The objective of the Plan was to create an ecosystem where the linkages between these different systems are better understood, where digital technology is used to better integrate these different systems, and London as a whole works more efficiently. The Smart London Venn diagram illustrates the starting approach of the Plan that put Londoners at the core – driven by the principles of openness, collaboration, innovation and engagement.

The Smart London Plan identified three opportunity areas for using innovations and advancements in digital technology.

  • To engage citizens- by focussing on inclusive digital engagement and improving digital skills for all.
  • To enable good growth- by building resilient digital infrastructure, making more data available and investing in innovation.
  • To work with businesses- by breaking down boundaries, supporting common standards and smarter regulations, and scaling-up innovation.

Seven aims in of the Smart London Plan targeted these opportunity areas.

  1. The Plan placed Londoner’s at the core by seeking citizen opinion of what a “Smart London” should look like, and deliver. Using digital and offline tools, the plan strategised citizen engagement that is inclusive.
  2. The Plan promoted open data, such that relevant data on demand, consumption, services and operations is made available for public. The plan encouraged public and private organisations to open their data and aggregate data sets and sensors networks across London into developer friendly platform.
  3. The Plan encouraged the energy and talent in London to solve the city’s challenges by hosting Innovation challenges, showcasing investment opportunities for global finance, and providing the necessary ecosystem for start-ups in the city to grow.
  4. The Plan brought together the innovation ecosystem created by various organisations including university led activities, corporate led activity, not for profit, public bodies and others in the city for a strategic collaboration to create real efficiencies across London to scale up successful projects.
  5. The Plan supported the use of data to identify and plan ‘opportunity areas’- localities and sectors for development. It supported digital solutions across city utilities such as water metering, solid waste management, traffic management, etc.
  6. The Plan identified the need for the city authorities to work in an integrated manner by sharing data and analytics and identifying strategic opportunities for applying data and technology for efficiency.
  7. The Plan harnessed digital technology to enhance the experience of London for all by investing in wireless networks and digital solutions such as journey planning, digital money etc.

The aims of the Plan was further enhanced with a set of milestones/ indicators to measure success. Some of these milestones/ indicators were measured at the end of the Mayoral term in 2016 and others, which will take longer to affect, measured later. The Smart London Plan was followed up with an update report – The Future of Smart in 2016, which provided the status of implementation of the strategies/ activities within the seven aims of the Smart London Plan. This report shared the supporting data and statistics for the progress till 2016 in each of the activities within the seven aims of the 2013 Smart London Plan. The Smart London Plan positions itself in synergy with the Mayors vision 2020 and provides inputs to Mayors Infrastructure Plan 2050. Mayor’s technology programmes in London are guided by the Smart London Plan. The plan hence functions as a digital overlay to the ongoing and proposed interventions/projects in the city.

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NIUA-CIDCO Smart City Lab @ International Workshop for Development of TOD Projects in Indian Smart Cities

CIDCO Smart City Lab participated in a two day International Workshop on the Development of TOD Projects in Indian Smart Cities on 12th and 13th January, 2017 at India Habitat Center, New Delhi.

First day of the workshop involved an interactive session with real estate sector representatives on the topic of public-private partnerships for driving Transit Oriented Development in Indian Cities.

The second day included three panel discussions with national and international experts on TOD with a focus of operationalising TOD projects within the framework of the Indian Smart Cities Mission.

City representatives and PMCs from 13 cities took part in the event along with advocacy groups, private sector and multi lateral agencies.

This workshop if part of an ongoing research on Transit Oriented Development conducted by NIUA. The CIDCO Smart City Lab team is a part of the research group.


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Case Studies form Lighthouse Cities

The National Smart Cities Mission launched by the Government of India is leading the change in the urban development scenario in India. Over the last two years, the mission has highlighted best practices across the multiple cities that can be replicated both within and outside the Smart City Mission. This publication presents case studies from ten lighthouse cities, focusing on one strategy/intervention/salient feature embedded in each city’s vision and context. The purpose of these case studies is to demonstrate how the strength of these smart city proposals lies in the contextualized application of their ‘smart solutions’.

The full publication is available for view here.


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Electric Vehicles (EVs): SCPs of Lighthouse Cities

Electric vehicles (e-vehicles/ EVs) present an opportunity in cities to move towards cleaner fuels and sustainability in the field of urban mobility. Smart cities have scope of EV projects in various arenas

•E- vehicles for movement of goods and persons in zones of pedestrianisation
•Conversion of school busses to electric buses with charging points within school campuses
•Charging point for electric vehicles in fuel stations
•e-vehicles for commuting within the complex in apartment complexes and other group housing schemes
•Reserved parking for electric vehicles and designated charging points for e-cars in parking lots
•Intermediate para-transit (IPT) (for last mile connectivity) using e-vehicles, mostly e-rickshaws
•Designation of specific industrial unit within the development plan for city to avail facilities for maintenance and repair of e-vehicles
•e-bicycles for bike share programmes
•Advocacy and promotion of e-vehicles as cleaner alternative

Datasheet below gives the the EV projects and their budgets in the 20 lighthouse cities.


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33 Smart Cities from 25 States/ UTs

Central Government has announced 13 more Smart Cities from the 23 cities that submitted their Smart Cities Proposal in April 2016. Lucknow topped the list of winners of the Fast Track competition conducted for 23 cities belonging to the 23 states /UTs that did not make it in the first round of winning proposals. These cities improved the quality of their Smart City Proposals based on the feedback received.

33 cities from 25 States/UTs are now covered under Smart City Mission. The winners of the Fast Track competition are Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Warangal (Telanagana), Dharamshala, (Himachal Pradesh), Chandigarh, Raipur (Chattisgarh), New Town Kolkata(West Bengal), Bhagalpur (Bihar), Panaji, (Goa), Port Blair (Andaman & Nicobar Islands), Imphal (Manipur), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura) and Faridabad (Haryana)

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Emerging Themes: Financial Resource Management

As the 20 lighthouse cities begin to embark on their smart city adoptions, they have to consciously plan their financial resources. The current resource restrained times require the cities to adopt multiple approaches in their financial planning; improve the efficiency of user fee and property tax collection, explore newer ways of raising revenues such as local municipal bonds and global finance mechanisms such as clean development mechanism (CDM) and reform institutional barriers to attract private sector to finance urban infrastructure. Deployment of ICT enabled sensors on existing and new infrastructure will help to monitor water and energy usage and price the resources to match the demand. Yet, additional resources will have to be raised to cover the operations and maintenance (O&M) costs of these technological interventions. A preliminary analysis of the 20 SCPs shows varying preferences of the cities to tap possible avenues for urban infrastructure financing.

• The cities have identified 6 main types of funding- grants under the smart cities mission, convergence with other missions, public private partnerships (PPPs), borrowing from lending banks, increase in own source revenue and others such as corporate social responsibility.

• Overall, the 20 lighthouse cities will raise Rs. 64,000 crores, thereby leveraging an additional Rs. 44,000 crores against the 20,000 crores investment by the central and state governments.

• Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur have the most financially ambitious proposals. For every rupee that is funded through the mission, these cities aim to leverage Rs. 5.29, Rs. 4.56 and Rs. 3.64 respectively through a combination of public private partnership, augmentation of own source revenues, long term borrowing and others (corporate social responsibility, state finance grants etc).

• Aside from the central and state grants, own sources accounting for 33% of the planned investments are the biggest source of revenues. These are followed by public private partnerships and convergence funds, both estimated around 13%.

• Land  monetisation is the most widely used tool, understandably by cities seeking to leverage funds using the improved level of infrastructure in the identified areas. Borrowing long term debts to finance capital infrastructure is definitely the least preferred option, possibly due to lack of good credit ratings of the municipalities.

• Per capita expenditure inversely influence financial efficiency. From an efficiency point of view, the cities of Ahmedabad (Rs. 3401), Chennai (Rs. 2940) and Surat (Rs. 5812) exhibit the most cost effective smart city proposals. These cities have the lowest per capita proposed expenditures for their smart city plans.

• Cities need to assess capital financial needs of their smart city plans against the annual municipal revenues they generate. The higher the ratio of resources needed to the municipal income, the greater is the need to improve the income the cities can generate while the opposite case is strictly not true.  Bhubaneswar, Belagavi and Jabalpur need resources multiple times their annual municipal incomes and consequently need to look at increasing their revenues over the duration of the SCP.  This revenue capacity needs to be continually augmented to sustain the smart city effort and to scale it from a specific area to the entire city.

• Alongside the revenue capacity, equally important is the expenditure capacity. This indicator represents the city’s capacity to execute the smart city proposal based on the recent municipal expenditure. It is calculated by dividing the proposed annual SCP expenditure by latest available actual municipal expenditure. A resultant number less than 1 indicates that the Smart City Proposal is well within the city’s existing capacity. A number greater than 1 indicates that the city has not executed a project of this scale previously and needs to focus on capacity building to ensure its successful implementation. Amongst the 20 lighthouse cities, Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad. New Delhi Municipal Council and Chennai exhibit sufficient financial experience in implementing projects proposed in their SCPs.

• A mobilisation diversity index, similar to the Herfindahl-Hirschman index was calculated to test the diversity of the funding sources (other than the national mission grant) as identified in the Smart City Proposals. The value of HHI is between 0 and 1. A number close to 0 indicates that the funding sources are less diverse, i.e. most funding is from a single source. A number closer to 1 indicates greater diversity of the funding sources, i.e. the funds are coming from a variety of sources. Diversity in funding indicates resilience of the financial plan. Interestingly despite not having any credit rating and therefore low borrowing capacities, the cities of Solapur, Belagavi and Kakinada have the most diversified portfolio for resource mobilisation.

Definitions of Financial Indicators

Budget (INR Crore) – the overall capital expenditure proposed in the SCPs by each city

Budget Efficiency – the overall capital expenditure divided by the population of the city

Funding Leverage – the amount of money to be mobilised by the city divided by the funding identified under national and state schemes

Mobilization Diversity – similar to Herfindahl-Hirschman index, calculated to measure the dependence of the proposal on one or more funding sources

Revenue Capacity – the amount of money to be mobilised divided by the latest municipal revenue of the city

Expenditure Capacity – the amount of money proposed to be spent under the SCP divided by the latest municipal expenditure of the city

JnNURM Property Tax Reform – the status of implementation of JnNURM tax reform

Credit Rating – the credit worthiness of the city

Note: $1 = Rs. 66.48

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