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Recycling bins with LCD screens hit London's streets

Renew

High-tech recycling bins being rolled out in London's financial district display news, stock quotes, and advertisements to passers by.

The trash can is getting an upgrade. Instead of a just a receptacle for recyclable rubbish, new models hitting London's streets feature LCD screens that display breaking news, stock quotes, emergency alerts, and, naturally, advertisements.

What's more, the high-tech bins are made of a material that is reportedly four times stronger than steel, a feature that could thwart attempts to use them as a place to plant bombs.

Renew, the company behind the functional billboards, aims to deploy a network of 100 bins in London's financial district by this summer, providing advertisers the opportunity to catch the eyeballs of deep-pocketed consumers as they pop out of the office for a spot of tea.

The company inked a 21-year contract with London in part because the bins' toughness is a solution to clean up streets littered with papers handed out on street corners. Standard trash cans are discouraged in the city due to terrorist threats.

In case an emergency occurs, the bin network is equipped with instant-messaging capabilities that allow delivery of updates directly from civil authorities, allowing increased public awareness. 

Each bin costs about $30,000, a hefty sum that Renew eats in order to sell content providers access to the LCD screens.

According to the company's studies, the current rollout of 50 screens is sufficient to engage a financial district worker a minimum of six times per day.

Renew also markets the receptacles as environmentally friendly. The screens have what's called adaptive brightness technology that they claim is energy-sipping instead of guzzling. In addition, Renew says it will donate 1 percent of profits to sustainable energy projects for world cities. 

While the planet might be better off without any energy-sipping billboards, at least London's streets will be cleaner and its workers more engaged with advertisers.

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John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.

 

As computing power increases exponentially, the ways we relate to computers become more natural — and more ubiquitous. Msnbc.com's Wilson Rothman explores the evolution of interfaces, from primitive punch cards to interactive buildings.