Ford’s solar-powered smart benches are Wi-Fi-enabled, can recharge phones and monitor air quality for local research projects.
Automotive giant Ford has unveiled a range of solar-powered smart benches that will provide Wi-Fi access and smartphone charging across London. Local authorities in the UK capital will also be able to use environmental data gathered by the benches to help monitor pollution.
Ford has teamed up with smart cities start-up Strawberry Energy to offer pedestrians free solar-powered mobile charging and Wi-Fi access while they sit and rest across the city.
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Future planning scenarios
Initially, there will be 20 Ford Smart Benches, doubling the number 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 could help inform future planning and transport decisions for participating London boroughs.
Access to each bench’s Wi-Fi and charging facilities is free and open to smartphones, tablets, cameras and wearables. There will also be an opportunity for those using the benches to make a donation to UK charities, including St Mungo’s, Rethink Mental Illness and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Ford Motor Company Fund, the car company’s philanthropic arm, will match donations received from bench users at up to £10,000 for each charity.
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Making economic sense
Sarah-Jayne Williams, director of Ford Smart Mobility Europe, said that her company was looking at how streets might 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.”
“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,” she said.
The new benches are planned to launch in the London boroughs of Islington, Lewisham and Southwark. If the scheme proves successful, it may not be long before smart benches begin cropping up all over the capital.