IKE Smart City
The IKE Smart City project exists to fill a few difficult gaps:
- As cities embrace administrative technology more and more, it rests in the realm of equality to ensure that all of a city’s residents can communicate with these city technologies, regardless of what technology they personally possess
- As the world continues to grow digitally cities have a vested interest in making sure that all of their citizens have well-supported options for accessing the internet and the additive value that can come from it
- As automated mapping and categorization services grow in their traffic and audiences, cities want to retain an ability to give personalized (by a human!) resource lists for locations within the city that help to tell that city’s story in the way a machine never could
IKE is a “Smart City” kiosk. After attending the Smart Cities New York Conference in 2019 I can confirm that folks aren’t really sure yet what “smart city” actually means, but the gist is that a ‘smart city’ is a city that is pursuing and/or implementing digital platforms or means to either automate existing tasks or solve new problems with digital mechanisms. IKE aims to assist in the latter — solving the issues noted above in a new form of mechanism: an eight-foot tall, double-sided touch screen kiosk bolted into the sidewalk. 🙂
IKE creates instantaneous, wireless, and fluid communication channels between a city and its residents, broadcasts free wifi for anybody that wants it, and allows city managers to personally tailor (some) content for visitors. I won’t go deep into all of the features of IKE myself (check out the main site), but enabling cities to connect with their citizens was one of the most personally rewarding aspects of this project.
As one of the core contributors to the project I helped build most facets of it. Of course, being much larger in scope than a purely software venture, ‘most facets’ ranges wider than I’d typically been used to! Distributed hardware, physical licensing and building permits throughout cities, physical installation and power/wiring requirements, distributed server connectivity (cellular) and setup automations, multi-interface environments for serving web content to all sorts of users (and kiosks!), etc. I learned a ton working on IKE and worked with some really talented folks (that I’m still great friends with!). I still smile when I walk by IKEs in my own city (or others I’m visiting) and have many fond memories helping to build IKE.
I decided to part ways with the IKE project in 2021 after a couple years of fun and excitement (including riding out the first COVID wave). IKE rides a difficult line between helping features and good-for-the-people interests… and advertising. On one hand, a part of the money generated from the IKEs playing ads on their screens (while not in use) goes to the city — a nice little revenue bump for them. An in addition, IKE charges a city zero dollars to install IKE into a city. It’s absolutely free to the city. Of course, on the other hand you now have many screens rolling ads to folks as they walk by/in/around your city. In the end, I couldn’t support the advertising nature of the product any longer.
As should be understood from my sentiment (but just to make extra clear), this is a net pro/con of the product, not the people working not the IKE project. They are awesome. It was tough to leave them on the project!
All that said, I’m excited to continually hear of IKE’s success and growth into many more cities than I even saw it. I wish the project the very best and hope the team(s) involved find new and creative ways to enhance the experience of being a citizen in a city via these kiosks.