When you turn off your smartphone' Wi-Fi, you'll notice that apps that require location services become less accurate.  On IOS, the operating system will even prompt you to turn on Wi-Fi again to get better accuracy.

What does Wi-Fi have to do with location services, you may ask?

This is because companies like Google and Skyhook Wireless use Wi-Fi positioning technology to supplement GPS satellite signals, which specially in an Urban Canyon like NYC, do not work reliably.

The thing with this technology is that it depends on having a reliable census of the Wi-Fi routers in an area.  Though routers, once deployed, do not necessarily move, the technology only gives you a resolution of 10-20 meters, not accurate enough for dense urban environments like NYC.

With chip manufacturers already manufacturing chipsets that support high-resolution Indoor Positioning Technology, registering DWs down to the last inch allows higher-precision.

And doing so will enable a whole slew of super-accurate, hyperlocal usecases and business models.  Not just indoor, but underground and at the street-level too.

AuthorJoel Natividad

As we pointed out in the Naming Scheme post, we gave each DataWell a "friendly" name.   Why?

  • To honor local residents and
  • As a way to "friend" DWs around the City.

And why would you want to be "friends" with a DataWell?

  • To track the hyperlocalized KNIs (Key Neighborhood Indicators) through a particular DW's website.
  • For wayfinding
  • For tracking hyperlocal offers and postings
  • For checkpointing

If you read "An NYCDataWell Story", you'll see how the Urbina family "friends" DWs throughout the City.  To track what's happening near work, school, the community center, and Abuela's nursing home.

As we keep exploring scenarios in this section of the site, you'll see how the Befriending concept plays a crucial part in the NYCDataWell proposition.

What kind of sensors can be deployed in the City?

  1. CPS-enhanced location (location down to 1 meter, as well as altitude, and below-street level readings)
  2. Friend map states (“I need help (levels 1-10), “I’m OK”, “I’m lost”, “Mommy I’m here”, “Marathon mode”, “commuting to home/work”, “stuck in traffic”).  Friend map states automatically transition to different states based on algorithm/rules.  Can be in anonymous mode too.
  3. Citizen home/work locations.  This allows MTA to better plan rush hour patterns
  4. Ambient noise
  5. Cameras (picture and video for citizen reporting; augmented reality)
  6. Citizen identity information (for expedited access to secure areas, no need to fill out forms)
  7. NFC (for public transit ticketing, also as form of gov issued ID that private companies can use for authentication)At building entrances, tap NFC, this shows verified picture of bearer for guard to check, randomly checks with city-maintained auth server.  Businesses with high-security reqts can subscribe to mandatory confirmation service, another revenue source for the City, on top of which private security firms can build high security solutions.


Landlines and payphones are dying for a reason - they're relics of the Analog Age.

In this Digital Age, Voice is just another application. We now use freemium services like Skype, Google Voice, and numerous other VoIP services on a regular basis. Even modern-day PBXes use VoIP to carry voice.

So why not use VoIP with the Reinvented Payphone?

And even provide it for free!  Perhaps, users can place a one-minute audio call for free by viewing a short ad.   And should they want to have Times Square in the background, have a teleconference option for a nominal amount.

AuthorJoel Natividad

In the pictures of the DataWell in its base plate configuration, you'll notice that it has two "names":

  • Pinpoint Name: 17:BWY:04 - which stands for 17th and Broadway, DataWell 4, and
  • Befriend Name: Gandhi

The Pinpoint name is straightforward enough and it echoes Manhattan's grid system.  The Befriend name is voted on by the community (perhaps, the local Community Board can organize this) when each DataWell is commissioned.

For the example above, we chose Gandhi because of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the southwest corner of Union Square on the intersection of, you guessed it, 17th & Broadway.

While we were brainstorming Naming,  we used Befriend Names like:

  • Jane (for Jane Jacobs) near her old house on 555 Hudson Street
  • Teddy (for Teddy Roosevelt)  His birthplace is just around the corner from Ecco Design's office
  • Dick (for Dick Clark) for a Times Square DataWell nearest the spot where they normally put up the New Year countdown stage
  • Ed (for Ed Koch) in City Hall Park.  And all mayors will have DWs named after them in the park.

There are 59 Community Boards across NYC.  12 in Manhattan, 18 in Brooklyn, 12 in the Bronx, 14 in Queens and 3 in Staten Island.

Community Boards are the most accessible component of NYC city government and are the main advocate of their community's residents. Why not arm these volunteers with  hyperlocalized actionable information to make them more effective advocates?

And not just advocates. With proper training, Community Board members can better harness local volunteer resources to become effective partners of the City.


The current generation of smartphones are bristling with sensors.  The current iPhone 5 for instance has:

  • 2 cameras
  • 2 mics
  • GPS
  • Compass
  • Accelerometer
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • Gyroscope

Should the City create the dotNYC companion app we envisioned, these sensors can be put to good use.  To get pictures of potholes, measure ambient noise, track commuting times,  etc.

And as smartphones get more sophisticated, sensing capabilities can get even more sophisticated.  Old smartphones can even be repurposed as sensors.