Fabulous news for on-the-go New Yorkers who like to clear jellies and catch up on crucial kitty vids while in close proximity to trash cans: there's a decent chance that hundreds of public waste receptacles will be transformed into super-charged Wi-Fi hotspots in the near future.
While a public rubbish bin may seem an unlikely spot to loiter around while perusing Yelp for the best artisanal fro-yo joint within a 2-mile radius, it’s a natural next step for the tech-minded waste management wizards at Bigbelly. The Massachusetts-based company has already installed a small army of snazzy, solar-powered smart garbage and recycling receptacles in high-traffic areas around town including in the trash-clogged core of the Big Apple, Times Square.
BigBelly’s extra-fancy cans also have a significant presence below 14th Street, where two of the company's 170 signature high-capacity waste stations were outfitted with wireless Internet systems this past winter. Given that rubbish-compacting BigBelly stations are already equipped with sensors that alert sanitation workers when they need to be emptied, bestowing them with public Wi-Fi capabilities wasn’t too much of a stretch.
Launched in partnership with the Downtown Alliance, the goal of the pilot initiative was to see if broadcasting Wi-Fi from within the bowels of a trash can would even pan out.
Turns out, the two Wi-Fi garbage receptacles, located near Wall Street, performed impressively during months of daily testing: the signals were robust and interference-free, even when originating from a contained trash heap. According to CityLab, the two test receptacles boast a bandwidth of 50 to 75 megabits per second — “more than enough to run a small businesses.”
Based on the success of the test run in Lower Manhattan, BigBelly plans to conduct additional pilot programs. And with the aid of potential grants and sponsorships, the company hopes to eventually expand and roll out municipal Wi-Fi hotspots than you can also deposit bags of dog poop into across the city — and not just in touristy, high-volume areas already blanketed with wireless signals above — and below — ground. Neighborhoods where free public wireless is scant will be specifically targeted.
In addition to the obvious perks of free public Wi-Fi, the bin-cum-hubs could help city officials collect crucial date on waste. And New York needs every bit of help it can get in that department.
Cities beyond New York, including BigBelly’s hometown of Boston, could potentially follow.
New Yorkers, particularly those in underserved areas, will no doubt benefit from the presence of Wi-Fi-equipped waste stations. It’s an innovative additional layer of convenience and connectivity in a city where even the most ubiquitous fixtures of the urban streetscape are going wireless. Late last year, the city unveiled LinkNYC, an ambitious initiative in which obsolete public payphones will be removed and replaced with 10,000 sleek gadget-charging kiosks that double as municipal Wi-Fi hubs.
This is all fine and good although New Yorkers, such as myself, who regularly experience blinding rage when attempting to walk behind someone on a crowded city sidewalk who is completely oblivious to their surroundings due to their preoccupation with whatever is happening on their phone, may not be as receptive to extensive public Wi-Fi. New York is town that should be experienced full-on. You should be alert, responsive and fully aware. You should interact. If you’re distracted — read: head buried and completely sucked into a smartphone void — while traversing the urban landscape, you’re missing out on what makes New York City so great.
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