Worrying about a flat smartphone battery could become a thing of the past – at least for some pedestrians in London. Ford and smart cities start-up Strawberry Energy are rolling out smart benches to offer pedestrians free solar-powered mobile charging and Wi-Fi access while they sit and rest across the city.
The collaboration will initially provide 20 Ford Smart Benches, doubling the number of benches installed by Strawberry Energy earlier this year. As well as enabling people to use their device to plan onward journeys, the hi-tech street furniture can monitor noise, carbon dioxide, humidity, and temperature. The information will be available free of charge to bench users and participating London boroughs and could help inform future decisions.
“At Ford, we believe the city of tomorrow should make people feel happy, safe and connected, so we’re looking at how streets could be designed to serve a full range of activities: walking, biking, driving, connecting with others, and of course, business and services that support our economies,” said Sarah-Jayne Williams, director, Ford Smart Mobility, Europe. “Walking, along with driving and riding public transport, is part of how people get around in a city like London and Ford Smart Benches complement perfectly the increasingly connected lives we now lead.”
Access to Wi-Fi and charging, both wirelessly and via ports, is free, not just for smartphones but also for tablets, cameras and wearables. There will also be an opportunity for those using the urban pit stops to make a donation to U.K. charities St Mungo’s, Rethink Mental Illness and Macmillan Cancer Support. Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, will match donations received from bench users, up to £10,000 for each charity.
“Whether for fitness, convenience, or simply the pleasure of being outdoors, many people enjoy walking, but dread being unable to access maps, social media, and news sites while on the move,” said Miloš Milisavljević, founder and CEO, of Strawberry Energy. “Ford Smart Benches in Islington, Lewisham and Southwark will increasingly help ensure that walking will continue to be a key part of how Londoners enjoy their city.”