London Borough Seeking End To Deal For DOOH-Driven Smart City Transit Shelters That Were Promised But Never Delivered

November 24, 2023 by Dave Haynes

A borough in the south end of London is in the process of trying to terminate its contract with an ad-focused smart cities start-up from New York that had promised to deploy tech-filled bus shelters along major roadways in the area.

Croydon Council says in a statement that VALO Smart City was awarded the concession to deploy the screen-equipped shelters in 2021, but has not put any in place since that time.

Jason Perry, the Executive Mayor of Croydon, says a particularly frustrating aspect of the situation is that the existing bus shelters along Croydon roadways were dismantled and hauled off to make way for the new ones.

Some 185 positions around the borough were to get custom-fabricated bus shelters, with advertising displays, wayfinding screens, environmental sensors, full fiber optics  connectivity, free public Wi-Fi, power, and other smart city technology. The 10 year deal was expected to bring in more than £6.75m ($8.5M USD) in revenue to the council.

Perry, who was elected to the post about a year after Croydon administrators awarded the contract, says that the council did the deal with VALO even though it had no track record of delivering a contract like this in the UK.

“Since I was elected in May 2022,” says Perry, “many attempts have been made to arrange a working plan that would deliver the shelters; timelines have been shifted, negotiations have taken place, and none of this has resulted in a satisfactory outcome. Our residents have waited long enough.”

“Bus shelters and street furniture are an important part of the transport network and street scene, and I am determined that we must restore them for the benefit of commuters, residents, and businesses. The council is taking immediate steps to terminate the contract with VALO Smart City and we have informed them of our intent to pursue damages. Meanwhile, council officers are reviewing our options to get bus shelters back on our streets as soon as possible.”

Previously, Digital OOH giant JC Decaux had the transport ad concession with Croydon.

It’s hard to say what’s all going on here, but the tangible thing is that the DOOH company has a contract to deploy transit shelters and generate ad revenues, and those things haven’t happened. The company’s polished website suggests Croydon is the one jurisdiction where it has a deal, though I did find a couple of references elsewhere to the CEO saying VALO had a 20 year deal with Dubai for something similar to Croydon. There are no references to that Dubai contract anywhere on the VALO site.

Much more detail in this post on a site called Inside Croydon.

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