“On the Go” Kiosks Provide Real-Time Games and Travel Info for NYC Subway Riders


Every time you turn around in New York City, the vast network of digital connections and opportunities for interactivity seem to increase exponentially. This time, it’s underground in the subway. Three and a half years ago, Intersection was awarded a contract to start a pilot program on the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s “On the Go” digital kiosks aimed at increasing customer communication while simultaneously generating ad revenue. Towards the end of 2015, the MTA board voted to expand the public-private partnership until the end of 2016. Most recently, the New York Lottery got involved as a partner to sponsor an interactive campaign enabling residents and visitors to use the “On the Go” digital touchscreens to play Tic-tac-toe—a simple and nostalgic classic perfectly suited for, amongst other things, reducing a commuter’s perceived wait time.

Thanks to the kiosks’ Local Area Network (LAN) capabilities, created by Intersection, that interactive game ran on 118 kiosks across 25 stations. Starting in late July, subway riders were able to engage in Tic-tac-toe battles against the computer as well as with other people at other stations around NYC right from their platforms. Digital Signage Connection recently caught up with Damian Gutierrez, Strategy Lead for Innovation at Intersection, to discuss the details surrounding the campaign and what it means for travel in and around the Big Apple. 

“The New York transit experience is improving from all angles because of ad-inspired innovation,” said Gutierrez. “The Tic-tac-toe campaign has resulted in the highest engagement we’ve ever seen for anything on the subway system. Initially, we had to pull it down and disable it after three games in a row because people were just playing it over and over and monopolizing it.”

With hardware delivered by CIVIQ Smartscapes, Gutierrez and the Intersection team engineered a customized end-to-end solution to power the game. On the front-end, players interacted with the kiosk interface to place their X or O, while the back-end matched players up between stations, passed game information between kiosks, and kept track of which station was winning with a leaderboard.

Check out the video below for a demonstration:

“Advertisers are always keen to try something new and be the first to implement a new solution,” said Gutierrez. “For another On the Go campaign, an advertiser wanted their creative to react to a train entering the station. Syncing the kiosk with arriving trains was by far the most complicated part as it involved installing a sound sensor in the kiosk that reacted to the sound of an arrival, but that’s another great example of what I mean about ad-inspired innovation.”

Due to sometimes-lacking Wi-Fi connectivity, NYC subway riders don’t always have a way to lean on the crutch of their smartphone for communication and stimulation. That very well may change down the tracks so to speak, but until it does, the “On the Go” kiosks are the primary source of real-time information available. That translates to a captive audience of 2.5 million riders per day with an average dwell time of four to six minutes—not bad considering the campaign was executed with a children’s game from thousands of years ago.

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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