Not So Much Doctor Who. More Like Doctor When?

Clear Channel

There’s a new-fangled phone box sweeping the capital, and it’s been installed in over 100 locations. However, you may not have seen one and you certainly won’t have used one, at least not successfully. Here’s why.

As with all inventions, the success of something new is almost entirely down to how useable it is and in the case of the new Clear Channel Kiosk, that is, currently, not useable at all. Technocrats in the capital and beyond needn’t be too down-hearted, though; the technology is not dead in the water; it’s just learning to swim. You see, each of these new phone-booths, or Kiosks as Clear Channel are calling them, are like nothing we’ve seen before, at least in terms of the humble phone box. Each unit boasts the usual convenience of a standard phone box, which, in this day-and-age, perhaps isn’t a great deal, but they also have touchscreen control, built-in Wi-Fi and interactive maps of the surrounding location. They really are a rich new world of city-based communications; at least they should be.

Unfortunately, not all these features are working ‘out-of-the-box’, as it were, but with 500 more units set to land in London alone over the coming months, it’s not deemed to be a serious problem. Accounts from those who have used the screens suggest that they are slow to react and clumsy to use; the map service is currently ‘unavailable’ and trying to connect to the Wi-Fi brings up the not entirely encouraging message: “No Data, please enter commissioning mode”.

According to others who have used the systems, the only facet of the combined technology that currently works is the advertising screen, which, with the best will in the world, couldn’t be deemed as ‘next generation’ or even ‘useful’. However, let’s not dwell on what doesn’t work and think about what it will be like when it does work. Clear Channel have this to say, “The stunning new phone boxes re-imagine the iconic London phone box for the 21st Century and pay homage to a design classic – breathing life back into the traditional, and instantly recognisable, British payphone,” and the systems do have some heavy hitters behind them; the screens for example were produced by Lord Sugar’s company Amscreen.

It seems that the kiosks are just undergoing some introductory teething problems but will be up and running in all their glory soon. “As with all new technology there will be a short period when the kiosks aren’t fully operational,” said a Clear Channel spokesperson.“Our team is working around the clock to ensure Londoners can benefit from telephone, free public Wi-Fi and interactive maps as quickly as possible after installation.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on them and will update our readers when they are fully functional, but the kiosks certainly look like a technological step in the right direction.

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