New York gets smarter, one tech trial at a time

Wi-Fi kiosks, smart park benches and sensors that detect gunshots are just a few of the technologies the Big Apple has on tap.

By Matt Hamblen
Jan. 10, 2017

Smart city technology beta projects and pilot programs are gaining ground in New York City. Walk around the Big Apple, as Computerworld did recently, and you encounter everything from free public Wi-Fi to smart park benches and even sophisticated listening devices that can detect gunshots to allow a quick police response.


Much of this wide-ranging tech focus goes back to 2014 when Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed the city's first Chief Technology Officer. He picked private sector tech veteran Minerva Tantoco for the role. During her tenure, she made a practice of pushing for small tech trials that could be modified and adjusted before being expanded.


"Taking a page from the CTO playbook is the concept of using pilots and prototypes," Tantoco said in a video interview with Computerworld recorded at City Hall in June of 2016. "The way you do that is create small tests of tech before you take them citywide. That actually has the effect of 'de-risking' the project on a wide scale," she said. "It's a fairly common tech approach, but not so common in government. So this is where some my private sector experience is being brought to the public sector role."

nyc cto miguel gamino jr 

New York CTO Miquel Gamiño Jr. 

Tantoco served nearly two years in her city CTO post before departing Aug. 31, 2016 to return to the private sector as senior advisor of Future\Perfect Ventures, a woman-run tech venture capital firm. On Oct. 25, De Blasio named her replacement, Miguel Gamiño Jr., a former CIO for both San Francisco and El Paso, Texas, and co-founder of the Council of Global City CIOs

As CTO, Gamiño works with all city agencies to further New York's smart city and internet of things initiatives and has taken the lead on city's broadband program, which was previously led by the counsel to the mayor.

To find out more about New York's smart city prowess, Computerworld strolled the sidewalks of Manhattan over two days. Here's what we found.


Free Wi-Fi on city streets

One of the most ambitious tech projects underway in New York, LinkNYC is intended to replace the city's 7,500 eyesore pay phones on city sidewalks with permanent Link kiosks. The kiosks, slated to be installed in all five city boroughs over eight years, provide fast, free Wi-Fi, device charging and a tablet computer for accessing city services, maps and directions. Free public internet calls are also possible from the units, and there's also a red 911 button that can be pushed to call emergency services.

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