Charging ahead

Smart benches

As our cities become ever ‘smarter’, benches with a difference are popping up – giving the public a chance to both literally and metaphorically recharge their batteries.

The smart, solar-powered benches offer not only a spot to rest weary legs, but also charge-points for mobile devices, free Wi-Fi and sometimes even the opportunity to donate to charity via a contactless card.

The benches also have the capacity to monitor air quality, through sensors that can also log temperature, humidity, noise and air pressure – with the results accessible in a downloadable app.

In Southwark, the first benches arrived in last spring and 10 have since been installed – including near Elephant and Castle – the most recent in August. In total, 29 are earmarked for the borough, and they come at no cost to the local council; manufacturer Strawberry Energy has crowdfunded more than £300,000 for the smart street furniture.

The Serbian start-up has redesigned the latest benches so they take up less space on the pavement and have more advanced monitoring technology – including an option to tailor what is being monitored.

Milos Milisavljevic, founder and CEO of Strawberry Energy, said: ‘We designed the benches with today’s Londoner in mind, providing free, solar-powered phone charging, Wi-Fi and air-quality monitoring in a single, sleek piece of street furniture.

‘We hope the addition of new sensors will help the council and local residents have a better picture of air quality, down to a street level.’

Southwark Council leader Peter John said: ‘These new smart benches will help us offer people in Southwark modern technology that responds to today’s needs.

‘Whenever I pass the benches, they are busy with people resting, charging their phones and using the free Wi-Fi.’