25,000 São Paulo Payphones Get Hacked for New Purpose


The use of open data is slowly but surely shaping the future of all global metropolises, and the bustling city of São Paulo, Brazil is no different. According to the GaWC, the urban hub is not only the most populous city in the country, but also the most populous in the Americas and the Southern Hemisphere for that matter, with countless commuters, 15,000 buses and 19,000 bus stops. The real-time data for all of these buses’ geo-location is available on the Internet, but those without a mobile web connection cannot access it. So, Red Bull and LDC (one of Brazil’s 20 largest advertising agencies formerly known as Loducca) recently collaborated to hack 25,000 São Paulo payphones serving primarily as canvases for tagging and graffiti and repurpose them as bus locators.

This renovation is not unlike the infamous LinkNYC kiosk campaign in the Big Apple and comes as part of a promotion for Red Bull Basement—a platform and festival dedicated to the production, research and diffusion of creative and cooperative urban technology solutions with the tagline “Celebrating Ideas that Hack the City for the Better.”

By calling the toll-free number on the existing payphone, the system pinpoints one’s location using geo-data provided by the government and combines it with the city’s transport system to identify the nearest bus stop and to determine the estimated arrival time of the next bus before converting all of that information into speech. Check out the video below for more:

Although digital signage may not have the starring role in this Installation of the Week, the service was advertised on buses with digital screens and next to payphones and bus stops. More importantly, the geo-location data that figures so prominently here is and will continue to play a vital role in the future of how digital signage networks target audiences with information services and advertising.

But the real beauty of this campaign is its economy. LDC and Red Bull used existing structures for a new purpose thereby eliminating the need for costly and disruptive construction. They’ve even legitimized the graffiti as an irreplaceable element of a vibrant urban landscape in the process.

About Author

Jason Kushner is a videographer, editor, writer and filmmaker living in the Greater Atlanta Area. With an educational background combining film and journalism, Kushner has shot video and written for a myriad of publications and multimedia projects including Creative Loafing Tampa, TBO.com, Starline Films and Digital Signage Connection. His 2009 documentary American Colonies: Collapse of the Bee became an Official Selection at 12 international film festivals, won Best Documentary at the 2009 Central Florida Film Festival and a John Muir Gold Award at the 2009 Yosemite Film Festival.  In 2015, he became Digital Media Editor for Digital Signage Expo, LightShow West and LED Specifier Summit and has since become Digital Content Manager for those shows’ parent company, Exponation.

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