Leeds turning telephone boxes into free WiFi kiosks, crowdsource your memories for posterity

Public WiFi projects don't normally involve antique restoration and historical crowd sourcing, but that's exactly what's going on in Leeds. Local telecoms company aql is renovating Giles Gilbert Scott's iconic red telephone boxes in the area, adding solar panels, networking equipment and giving them a blue paint-job. While the boxes will be locked to keep the wireless gear secure, the company has added touch screens to the outside, letting locals make emergency calls and leave messages that share their memories about the area -- a better fate for the hardware than inspiring this portable monstrosity.

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aql to Deploy 'Blue Box' Free Wifi Interactive Kiosks in Leeds

LEEDS, England, June 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Leeds based telecommunications company, aql, have announced plans to deploy restored 1930s phone boxes in and around South Leeds and the city centre as part of their metropolitan network rollout.

The boxes are 'recycled' classic 'K6' phone boxes as designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott - who was also the designer of Battersea Power station, Waterloo Bridge and Liverpool Cathedral. But with a twist... the boxes will be blue!

The boxes will also be 'green' - in terms of technology rather than colour. They are designed to be a low-impact installation and will be solar powered rather than need to dig up the streets to install mains and network.

Dr Adam Beaumont, aql's CEO says: "We've designed the boxes to house a unique low energy, high bandwidth network, which will allow unmetered, free wifi access to anyone within the vicinity.

"We know Leeds City Council is rolling out free wifi within parts of the City Centre, but we're dedicated to filling in the gaps and to rolling out services within South Leeds to help catalyse growth in the area."

aql have just invested in another site on the outskirts of Beeston which will allow them to roll out connectivity to areas of Hunslet further South. The iconic Blue Boxes will let users know that there is free wifi in the vicinity.

Although you can't actually get inside the boxes because they hold aql's network equipment, they will also allow users to make phone calls via touch screens on the outside, including 999 calls. This also makes them easier to clean and maintain. The boxes will also feature an interactive screen allowing users to leave video blogs and messages to share their memories about the area where each box is located.

Dr Beaumont stated: "The plan is to create an archive of people's memories of important parts of Leeds.The aim is to then make that content accessible online in a similar manner to the Leodis.org photo archive. Our name for the boxes themselves is also to be 'LEODIS'.

Lurene Joseph, Chief Executive of Leeds and Partners, said: "These boxes are a great illustration of Leeds' digital ability and confidence and will be another excellent part of the city's infrastructure. They're forward looking, innovative but rooted in strong traditions and are another example of an ambitious young company driving forward enterprise, jobs and opportunity in Leeds."

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Leeds turning telephone boxes into free WiFi kiosks, crowdsource your memories for posterity