There have been several failed attempts to bring wayfinding kiosks to downtown, but Chris Musgrove thinks he can succeed where others didn’t — thanks, in part, to solar power.
Musgrove has been working for about a year with the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association. Together, they’re trying to get solar-powered interactive kiosks installed in the city.
Musgrove, a Sarasota resident, is the North American representative for the kiosks, developed by the Irish manufacturer EcoTech Computers. He says the kiosks’ primary selling point for the city is the solar power.
“It makes a statement for the city to show the world that they’re green minded,” Musgrove said.
Powered by Wi-Fi or a cellular network, Musgrove said the kiosks could list business information, provide directions or offer coupons, among other things.
When Musgrove presented the idea to the Downtown Improvement District at a Sept. 17 meeting, he was met with some criticism. DID member Mark Kauffman said he wasn’t aware of any malls that had replaced a standard kiosk with an interactive one, evidence that Musgrove’s product was unnecessary.
“This is for the tech world,” Kauffman said. “I don’t think it’s superior to what they have at St. Armands Circle.”
Musgrove said the user interface on the kiosks would be inviting, and that most people today would be able to catch on as they began to use it.
“There’s a lot of people sporting smartphones, and this is really just a big smartphone,” Musgrove said.
But DID member Eileen Hampshire expressed concerns that an interactive kiosk would be obsolete if it competed with other modern technology.
“My concern is, if you’re somewhere in a new city, don’t you pick up your phone?” Hampshire asked. “My phone tells me where to go.”
Though the initial response from the DID was tepid, Musgrove is continuing to push forward. Ultimately, he’s hoping the city will buy into the power of solar energy.
“We would be the first city to go green with our wayfinding system,” Musgrove said. “This is huge.”
Contact David Conway at [email protected]