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Houston installs new smart city tech to better engage community and visitors

Houstonians and visitors alike have a new technology to help them find their way around town. Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

Finding your way around Houston is going digital.

On February 7, city officials and others unveiled the first in a series of interactive wayfinding kiosks in Houston. The inaugural kiosk sits at Walker Street and Avenida De Las Americas, adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center.

IKE (Interactive Kiosk Experience) Smart City, a venture of Columbus, Ohio-based Orange Barrel Media, secured the city contract for the kiosks.

According to a City of Houston news release, the citywide IKE initiative is designed “to build smart city infrastructure that enhances the pedestrian experience for residents and visitors, while adding vibrancy to Houston’s urban landscape.”

The new IKE kiosks are touch screen. Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

Installation of the 25 IKE kiosks will happen in phases. Among the areas where kiosks will appear are downtown, Uptown, Midtown, Montrose, the Museum District, the Texas Medical Center, the Greater Third Ward, EaDo, Upper Kirby, Gulfton, and Sunnyside.

Mayor Sylvester Turner says Houston “has so much to offer, and the IKE digital kiosks will be an exciting new amenity to help guide people in various directions to enjoy events, restaurants, and much more. These kiosks are one of the many ways Houston is moving forward with creating more walkable spaces that make for a safer and more pleasant experience.”

Each free-to-use kiosk serves as a geo-located Wi-Fi hotspot that enables information about what’s in the vicinity to be displayed on dual-sided touchscreens. The multilingual kiosks feature detailed listings of nearby restaurants, shops, businesses, cultural institutions, events, social services, and other resources. The kiosks also supply information about transportation modes such as public transit, bike share, scooters, ride-hailing, and walking.

Furthermore, the IKE system spreads critical real-time emergency information. This could include alerts about hurricanes, active-shooter situations, and missing people.

As if that weren’t enough, IKE has teamed up with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston to promote their exhibitions and artwork on the kiosks.

“We are excited to partner with the City of Houston, one of the largest and most diverse cities in the country. IKE will further activate the pedestrian experience providing widespread connectivity and equal access to information to all communities,” says Pete Scantland, CEO of IKE Smart City. “We look forward to serving Houston’s residents and visitors through IKE.”

The first IKE kiosk was unveiled February 7. Photo courtesy of the city of Houston

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Building Houston

 
 

Nancy and Rich Kinder gifted $50M to their eponymous center. Photo courtesy

Houston’s most generous couple has once again gifted a massive sum to a local institution. Rich and Nancy Kinder’s Kinder Foundation has donated $50 million to Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, the organization announced.

The Kinder's generous grant will assist the institute’s focus on what it dubs “inclusive prosperity” — that is, “ensuring that everyone can contribute to Houston's success and share in its opportunities.”

This new grant follows the approximately $30 million he Kinder Foundation previously gifted Rice’s Kinder Institute and its affiliates to facilitate its headquarters.

“Over the past decade, the Kinder Institute has played an integral role in shaping Houston,” said Rich Kinder, chairman of the Kinder Foundation. “However, we can do more to inform and more directly address the challenges our communities face, particularly in the areas of housing, education, economic mobility, health and population research.”

To that end, the Kinders’ funds will ensure the institute can assist its partners regardless of their ability to pay for research. Funds will also help the institute respond to community research needs quickly during times of crisis — such as a catastrophic storm or pandemic — when funds aren’t readily available.

Kinder Institute director Ruth López Turley calls the grant “a gift to all of Houston,” speaking to the institute’s work to improve lives through data, research, engagement and action.

“Inclusive prosperity doesn’t just happen spontaneously,” she noted in a statement. “It requires an explicit effort informed by research. Lots of organizations are working hard to make things better, but most of them have very limited research capacity, and that’s what the Kinder Institute is primed to do.”

Founded in 2010, the institute has evolved into a leader in research, data, and policy analysis of critical issues such as housing, transportation, and education. The institute also releases the familiar Kinder Houston Area Survey, which charts significant changes in the way area residents perceive and understand Houston’s ongoing challenges and opportunities.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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