If you need a lunch recommendation or WiFi hotspot in downtown Tampa, you can soon turn to a friendly fleet of robots named IKE.
The Tampa Downtown Partnership has partnered with an Ohio company to install about 30 digital informational kiosks around the city in 2021, each of which will include information on local businesses and serve as a free wireless hotspot.
Most of the touchscreen kiosks will be placed in and around downtown; a few will go to “underserved communities,” said Shaun Drinkard, the partnership’s senior director of public programming and operations, including potentially East and West Tampa.
Partnership leaders are hoping to install the first kiosks in high-traffic areas before the Super Bowl on Feb. 7. Temporary kiosks — like one currently on display in Curtis Hixon Park — are likely to go up first, Drinkard said, possibly along Tampa’s Riverwalk.
“The intent of these is to have wayfinding and messaging, and they can all be customized immediately,” Drinkard said. “So I would hope that that would be the case, that we could definitely get some messaging out there for the Super Bowl.”
Each IKE — short for Interactive Kiosk Experience — features information about local businesses, attractions and events. Users will be able to have directions and contact information texted from the kiosk directly to their phones. The city can also utilize the signs for things like job opportunities or public announcements.
“We can directly put any kind of emergency information on all 30 kiosks within a matter of minutes,” Drinkard said.
The devices were created by IKE Smart City of Columbus, Ohio, and are already in use in cities like San Antonio, Cleveland and Baltimore. The company sells ads for each kiosk; the ads will be vetted by Tampa officials.
The Tampa Downtown Partnership will receive some revenue through an agreement to manage content about local businesses. Drinkard said that money will be allocated toward upcoming downtown projects.