When was the last time you used a phone booth – or even saw one? You might want to keep your eyes peeled because they’re becoming cutting-edge.

In cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Miami and Los Angeles, phone booths are becoming SmartScreen Stations with interactive touch-screens that display local information, including lists of nearby stores and restaurants, traffic updates, and tourist information. They also offer safety alerts in multiple languages, like evacuation routes during a storm. And it’s all free!

Experts point out that even cell phones can lose service during a disaster, like the recent Superstorm Sandy. That’s one reason the souped-up phone booths also double as wireless hotspots. Which means, if you’re close to the booth, you can still make calls and get free Internet access on your smartphone, laptop or tablet. And indoor versions for buildings or subway stations include electrical outlets so you can recharge your phone. Some will also be equipped to make Skype calls.

The SmartScreen Stations are also waterproof and dust-proof and are built to be cleaned with a jet hose, so you don’t have to worry about germs from everyone else’s fingers.     

But they’re not replacing old phone booths entirely. Where they used to be a bank of 3 or so phone booths – one or two will become SmartScreen booths. The others will still be available for old fashioned calling. 

The lowly, disappearing phone booth is moving from outdated, to updated, as we speak.