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Testing the Payphone of Tomorrow

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QualiTest discusses LinkNYC, the challenges associated with testing this technology, and where we think we could help!

So long, 1903… Hello, LinkNYC.

We here at QualiTest have been following a really great technology burgeoning on the streets of New York City: LinkNYC. LinkNYC is part of a plan to replace old, manual pay phones with uber-sleek kiosks, designed to provide some of the fastest free internet available in the world.

Link will be offering 24/7 free Internet access at up to gigabit speeds, as well as other services, like free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., a touchscreen tablet interface to access City services, map access, free cell phone charging and digital displays for advertising and public service announcements.

The project will be performed by CityBridge, a partnership of companies consisting of the advertising company Titan, the design firm Control Group, Qualcomm, and the hardware manufacturer Comark.

However, along with this great new innovation comes great trepidation; will the kiosks work as planned? Many of the naysayers cite the failed wireless connectivity project in the subway; others point out that even in parts of the world who have already implemented free wi-fi, such as Korea and Japan, the service is still not up to snuff.


I’ve seen something like this in Hong Kong, where the payphone booths carry routers. In theory, it’s a great idea, but in practice, I could barely connect even with a plan from the payphone operators. They need to test these.

 So in order to make an effective and usable wifi hub, what kind of testing will be required?

Load and Performance – Performing stress testing and really pushing the bounds of the Link will be crucial to the success of the project. The specs are designed to allow 250 devices to simultaneously connect to each Wi-Fi kiosk; can you imagine 250 devices attempting to connect to your internet at home?

Interoperability testing – One unique thing about the kiosks is how they tie user interactions together throughout three screens: the public screen displaying ads on the kiosk, the private screen on your phone or laptop, and the touchscreen you use on the kiosk itself. Once you’ve signed up, your devices will automatically join the network and stay connected as you move throughout the city. However, these features will pose a challenge in ensuring that all devices work quickly and accurately together, while maintaining usability.

Network testing– The goal of LinkNYC is to possess a gigabit connection, achieving the fastest public internet available anywhere. However, the city is notorious for low internet coverage, slow speeds, and nonexistent signals. With over 10,000 Link kiosks planned, the network testing services will prove to be a challenge.

Security testing – CityBridge said it will never share or sell protected personal information. However, it will collect aggregate data anonymously from a pool of users to set up effective ad campaigns. Another aspect of security testing is that of penetration testing the network; in this age of hackers, can the city ensure that their users are safe while accessing the web?

Localization testing – A large component of the project will be based around the advertisements, which will be based on information gathered from users’ personal network. A particular kiosk could change the displayed ad based on certain aspects, such as time of day, or what events are happening nearby, or even potentially what sorts of people are walking by it. Extensive compatibility and localization testing will have to occur that the right advertisements are playing at the right time.