City of Dallas explores plans for smart kiosks on city streets

Dallas, Texas – Officials in Dallas are currently pondering the idea of setting up interactive, high-tech kiosks on their city sidewalks. This kind of project is gaining momentum in cities across America. Dallas’s Public Works Department has kicked off efforts to involve the community, aiming to communicate the plan and advantages of a widespread digital kiosk system while seeking input from people who have a stake in it. They gave a briefing to the city council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 26.

These kiosks might offer useful services, like free Wi-Fi for everyone, directions for getting around, a boost to local identity, surveillance cameras, emergency buttons for fast 911 calls, updates on public transportation schedules, places for ads, and notifications about important public announcements, according to statements from the city.

However, Dallas hasn’t yet decided on a supplier for these kiosks. Still, other cities have often gone with IKE Smart City units created by the Ohio company Orange Barrel Media LLC. You can see these kiosks in Houston, San Antonio, Baltimore, Miami, and San Diego. It’s not an entirely new concept for Dallas; back in 2020, another company called Smart City Media LLC teamed up with Dallas Area Rapid Transit to put up 300 digital kiosks at local transit stops.

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Ali Hatefi leads the public works department in Dallas and he mentioned these installations wouldn’t cost the city anything upfront and could potentially bring in some money—though no exact figures were provided. It’s possible that the vendors might take care of all the expenses related to the setup and upkeep of these units. For instance, back in 2019 over in Baltimore, IKE Smart City didn’t charge the city for its kiosks and covered installation and maintenance costs.

In return for this investment, they were able to earn some money from ads shown on those kiosks under an agreement with Baltimore’s administration. Recently in 2022, officials from Houston projected that their deal with IKE could generate advertising revenue valued somewhere between $11 million and $50 million over a period of 12 years; this was reported by Community Impact.

Last year’s efforts failed

Last year, Dallas officials launched an initiative to bring in a company to set up these advanced kiosks, but they encountered some resistance and had to go back to the planning stage. By May 2023, the Public Works Department updated the same committee about a new strategy to put out a call for vendors to come forward with proposals for installing, running, maintaining, and generating shared revenue from interactive digital kiosks on city property.

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After receiving encouraging responses, the city announced the RFP in the same month. However, during the process of reviewing proposals, some concerns surfaced because there had been no effort to seek out public opinion before releasing the RFP, as noted in an internal city document. In light of these issues, city staff chose to cancel the call for proposals—a decision that received approval from the city council—to make room for public engagement.

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