Digital kiosk
A digital kiosk proposed for downtown San Diego. Courtesy of the city

The San Diego City Council Tuesday approved plans to install at least 50 interactive kiosks designed to help visitors and residents navigate the city.

The partnership with Interactive Kiosk Experience Smart City is expected to generate nearly $15 million in revenue for the city and $7 million for the Downtown San Diego Partnership through advertising.

“This partnership advances downtown San Diego’s strengths and puts wayfinding information into the public’s hands,” said Economic Development Department Director Christina Bibler. “These interactive kiosks are the future of interconnected technology for cities.

“They create access to public Wi-Fi and serve as an important public tool to help connect residents and visitors alike to the many modes of transportation, thriving local businesses, and services San Diego offers,” she said.

According to the city, each IKE Smart City kiosk will serve as a free Wi-Fi hotspot and is geo-located, displaying informational listings based on what’s in immediate proximity. They have dual-sided digital touchscreens and are designed to be fully ADA-compliant.

But the plan drew criticism from Scenic San Diego, which argued that the kiosks would lead to erosion of the city strong signa ordinance that prevented a proliferation of billboards.

The next steps will be for the new locations to be submitted to the city for review and approval by the Economic Development Department and Development Services Department. Those departments then have three years to identify and set up the 50 locations, per the agreement.

“As an organization committed to advancing the economic prosperity and cultural vitality of our urban neighborhoods, we are excited to see downtown San Diego join other major downtown areas in the United States who benefit from IKE Smart City’s interactive digital kiosks,” said Betsy Brennan, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. “We can’t wait to see the different ways people who live, work or play downtown will benefit from introducing these systems.”

IKE networks operate in 15 cities nationwide, including Baltimore, Berkeley, Houston, Miami, San Antonio, Tampa and Tempe. The kiosks are multilingual and include listings of nearby restaurants, retail stores, events and cultural institutions.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the city of San Diego and the Downtown San Diego Partnership to launch our platform in this exciting and vibrant city,” said Pete Scantland, CEO of IKE Smart City. “IKE’s innovative technology will serve as a new amenity for the public, providing greater access to information that further activates discovery, mobility, and equity for residents and visitors.”

The kiosks are also intended to provide access to social services information such as homeless shelters, addiction recovery programs and food support.

City News Service contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.