NEW YORK: New York is set to become the foremost "smart city" in the US, with old-fashioned sidewalk payphones being replaced by wi-fi enabled kiosks that also offer new advertising opportunities for brands.

So far, 16 kiosks – called Links – have been installed for testing, but CityBridge, the company behind the LinkNYC scheme, is committed to having 500 in operation by the middle of this year and ultimately plans to install as many 10,000.

And since each Link features a digital screen on each side, that would make LinkNYC one of the biggest digital OOH networks in the world.

Mike Gamaroff, head of innovation at Kinetic, described LinkNYC as "first and foremost a utility for the people of the city that also doubles up as an advertising network".

He told Ad Week that it also had the fastest internet speed available – unlike domestic connections, "it's at gigabit speed".

Residents and visitors will get the service free of charge – a development that may concern traditional ISPs and telcos – while CityBridge and NYC will split the advertising revenues, with the latter standing to collect around $500m over the 12 years of the contract.

David Etherington, chief strategy officer at Intersection, which will handle the advertising sales, outlined a different approach for the network.

"Digital out of home has traditionally been sold inside a loop, typically over a four-week period," he explained. "We don't agree with that. We want to allow advertisers much greater strategic and creative flexibility."

Advertisers will also be able to take advantage of data-capture capabilities of Links, which will gather information from the wireless devices of those people using the free network.

"I would consider it a new out-of-home medium completely, because the vision is to have an online experience when it comes to data that will enhance the media itself," said Helma Larkin, CEO of OOH firm Posterscope.

"They expect to develop audience data from the consumers who will be in front of the screen, which will help us with the planning aspect," she added.

But even as the connected city moves closer to reality, Ad Week also noted that some consumers are heading in the opposite direction – disconnecting their devices to preserve their privacy and to establish more authentic connections with their fellow citizens.

Data sourced from Ad Week; additional content by Warc staff