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London To Get the Link Treatment

So, as has been suspected for some time, the evolution of BT’s public payphones in the UK is going to bring digital innovation to the streets of London. – exactly like it has done in New York, mainly because they are using the exact same Link from Intersection.

linkuk-logo [1]BT’s RFP for this technology has reportedly been a bit of a shambles but it has ended up with Alphabet funded Intersection effectively winning with hardware (i.e. the Link) and outdoor media owner business of the moment, Primesight win advertising sales. I am sure there is more detail than that which will no doubt come out in the wash over the ensuing months. Let’s hope BT did some proper due diligence on the Vistar Media software that runs much of the New York Intersection network and realise that it is very unlikely to cope with a huge network and let’s give some thought as to who is going to manufacture these units. Are Civiq Smartscapes (Civiq are part of the CityBridge consortium along with Intersection and those dolts at Qualcomm with the actual ‘contract’ for LinkNYCF) involved at all in this deal and if they are, are they really going to build them in North America and ship them cross the Atlantic, or as would be much more sensible, they do a deal with Amscreen for local builds in Bolton [2].

The new service is called LinkUK from BT [3] and the usual #SmartCities benefits have been rolled out – sleek, ultramodern kiosks called Links rolled out to major high streets across the capital. Hundreds of users within range of a Link will be able to access free ultrafast Wi-Fi on the move, with speeds of up to 1Gbps – the fastest free public Wi- Fi service available and free UK landline and mobile phone calls, mobile device charging and access to maps, directions and local services.

All of course at no cost to users or taxpayers as they will be funded by those magical revenues from advertising on the Links’ digital displays.

Rajesh Agrawal, London’s Deputy Mayor for Business, said: “I welcome this exciting new addition to London’s streets. Expanding London’s digital infrastructure is a priority for the Mayor, and LinkUK can play a big part in improving connectivity for Londoners and visitors to our city, while reducing street clutter by upgrading and reducing the number of phone boxes. I look forward to working with BT, Intersection and Primesight to see how we can roll LinkUK across the capital, and to explore its future potential. London is already widely regarded as one of the technological capitals of the world but the Mayor is determined to improve connectivity across the city to ensure we maintain that position.”

The plan is that hundreds of BT’s existing phone boxes across the capital will be replaced by the new Links.

Gerry McQuade, CEO, BT Wholesale and Ventures, said “We’re evolving the phone box to make it relevant in the 21st century by offering people ultrafast Wi-Fi and a range of digital and information services entirely for free. London is one of the greatest cities in the world and it’s entirely fitting that it becomes the first UK city to benefit from the Links. But we will be rolling out many more Links to the other great cities across the UK over the coming months as we look to transform the look and functionality of our public payphones.”

As in New York, the new Links will also feature sensors, which can capture real-time data relating to the local environment, including for example, air and noise pollution, outdoor temperature and traffic conditions. This could potentially introduce an exciting new range of smart services to local councils and communities based on the ‘Internet of Things’. In London there is probably no need for the gun-shot detectors so common in North America with public facing #IOT street furniture.

linkuk-eveningstandard-headline [4]

The London newspaper, the Evening Standard who was supposed to break the news, wrote a less than flattering story on the deal (click here to see that in full [5]).

Up to 100 Links are expected to be installed in the London Borough of Camden – with the first ones due to appear in 2017. At least 750 Links will be installed across central London and in major cities across the UK over the next few years.

Dan Doctoroff, Chairman & CEO at Intersection, told us “As a global hub for media and technology, London is the ideal city for Intersection to invest in the expansion of connectivity, digital innovation and our business. LinkUK from BT will bring tremendous benefits to Londoners, visitors, local businesses, and international brands and we look forward to working with our partners, BT and Primesight, to transform this great city’s streetscape.”

As part of the agreement with BT, Primesight will also sell advertising on nearly 17,500 BT payphone kiosks across the UK and super hero man of the moment, Naren Patel, CEO of Primesight, said “Link UK from BT represents an incredible opportunity for advertisers to access a unique and world leading digital Out of Home platform across the UK as we work with BT revolutionising their payphones to meet the demands and opportunities of the 21st century. Our partners at Intersection have designed an incredible product that will offer free UK calls, the fastest public Wi-Fi, a mobile charging station as well as tablet which will provide a host of useful information. The Link unit will help transform the streets and lives of the people in the UK.”

There’s a real danger that there is going to be somewhat of an over-supply of digital inventory in London if people are not careful. Street furniture alone now includes JCdecaux’s Bus Shelters, Clear Channel’s beautiful Amscreen design Adshel units and now the Links.

Whatever we think and whatever you believe, London is certainly the place to be!!