Verizon Acquires Space Age Wi-Fi Kiosk Maker LQD

Startup LQD WiFi's Palo Internet kiosk.
Photo credit: LQD WiFi

Verizon has ramped up its effort to create more connected cities by buying a maker of wireless hot spot kiosks for urban areas.

LQD WiFi, acquired by the telecom giant on Monday, sells futuristic 15-foot-tall towers that can be placed on city sidewalks, in parks or elsewhere to provide Wi-Fi to people nearby along with large screens that passersby can use to look at maps, learn about tourist attractions, and get safety warnings like news of an approaching hurricane. The company is still at an early stage, but it has a deal with New Rochelle, NY to install a total of 160 of its kiosks around the city starting next spring.

Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.

Verizon (VZ) has been looking for new growth opportunities as its core wired and wireless telecommunications markets slow. One promising area is the growing use of connected devices, also known as the Internet of things, which includes everything from traffic sensing street lamps to self-driving cars. Still, Verizon reported only slightly more than $600 million of IoT revenue in the first nine month of the year, less than 1% of its total revenue.

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Verizon said it planned to expand LQD’s kiosks, initially created by design firm Frog Design, beyond city street deployments to schools, entertainment venues and privately run spaces. The screens can also display advertising or other promotional content.

The goal is “to deploy elegant and engaging community technology hubs that connect, inform, inspire and support people where they live, work and play,” Mike Lanman, who oversees Verizon’s enterprise products and Internet of things businesses, said in a statement.

New Rochelle plans to use its kiosks to promote parks, cultural events and job opportunities, in addition to providing free high-speed Internet connections, city manager Charles Strome said. The kiosks will also be used to broadcast emergency messages.

Competing urban kiosks with a greater number of features have run into controversy. New York City replaced hundreds of pay phones with Wi-Fi hubs from LinkNYC this year. But the company had to disable an Internet browsing feature after some people used the hubs to watch pornography.

Verizon’s smart cities effort includes many other components, such as selling smart street lamps that vary the amount light based on how many people are nearby, security cameras that can trigger alerts on their own when they detect abnormal behavior, and traffic sensors to help ease congestion.

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