Making Little Rock a leader in technology is the goal of a new project in the downtown area, the city's mayor announced Monday.
Little Rock's first "digital citizen engagement" kiosk is now active outside the Statehouse Convention Center. In addition to being a wi-fi hotspot, the touch-screen kiosk allows passersby to preview area businesses and events, get directions, and take selfie photographs that are sent to their phones.
During the unveiling of the kiosk Monday, the new technology was touted as being an appealing tool for tourists and small businesses who can advertise on the digital billboard.
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said the cameras on the kiosk, which provide a 360 degree view, could also have public safety benefits by providing additional surveillance. The is also an emergency button to connect with 911 services.
"I am extremely, extremely excited about the safety elements of this. You know, the very first thing that happens when there's an incident, the police want to know if there's any film. Well, this is going to be a great opportunity in high-pedestrian areas where we've got issues that can happen, and I think it's going to be a great, great enhancement to the law enforcement capabilities of our city," Stodola said.
A total of 15 kiosks have been planned for installation in the downtown area within the next year, the mayor said, however the franchising agreement with Smart City Media has yet to be finalized. A representative from Smart City Media said it would be possible for the city of Little Rock to make as much as $100,000 annually from advertisements on the kiosks, assuming all 15 are installed.
Under the current agreement, the city will receive 25 percent of the money paid by advertisers. Stodola pointed out that small businesses in the area have the option to be listed on the kiosk for free, but businesses that pay for advertising would be featured more prominently.
Mike Mainthow, chief marketing officer for Smart City Media, declined to tell the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette how much advertising would cost.
Stodola said other modern advancements, such as driverless cars and package delivery by drones are more likely to happen in cities with a strong technology infrastructure. The mayor said he hopes the latest smart city initiative will help Little Rock become a contender for those types of technology in the near future.