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    NYC Replaces Pay Phones

    People use pay telephones August 23, 2011 in Lower Manhattan, New York after an earthquake centered in Virginia was felt in the New York area causing the evacuation of buildings. One of the strongest earthquakes to strike the US east coast in decades rattled offices Tuesday in downtown Washington and caused panicked evacuations from skyscrapers as far away as New York.The Pentagon, the US Capitol and Union Station in the nation's capital were all evacuated after the 5.9-magnitude quake, which was shallow with its epicenter only 0.6 miles (one kilometer) underground.The disruption to cell phone services in the hour after the quake added to the sense of panic in a country preparing to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

    Stan Honda, AFP / Getty Images

    Who still uses pay phones anyway? New York City has announced a new plan to transform public pay phones into giant 311 touchscreens. The new iPad-like screens will provide information, emergency alerts, and local business deals, including coupons that can be downloaded to smartphones. In the event of a Hurricane Sandy–like disaster, the screens become distress devices that will allow citizens to call for help. Some of the screens are already active, and the city plans “a couple of installs per day” with the eventual goal of 250 screens throughout the five boroughs. And to deter potential vandals, a spokesman for the project said that the screens were “over-engineered for a reason” and that they can be easily sprayed clean.

    Read it at GigaOm