Around 68,000 benches, public seats installed on sidewalks, squares, boulevards or parks alone, are distributed throughout Madrid with a very simple purpose: so that people can sit on them to take a breather or chat.
But… And if they were used for something else? And if they were points of Wi-Fi access and allow lighting the streets and charging mobile phones or electric scooters? What if instead of planks, stone or metal slats we made them with solar panels?
Some companies and cities have already decided to bet on the idea, which connects with the same approach that has led some countries to install photovoltaic panels on roofs, highways, car parks or even railway tracks: rethinking the use of public spaces thanks to possibilities that renewables offer today.
Banks that are more than banks
A good example is left by the Croatian startup Include, which started out in 2015 precisely to “reinvent the public bank” and turn it into something more than just a seat. His goal is to transform it into “a sustainable energy source that can help people stay connected.”
The approach – details the company – was raised by its founder, Ivan Mrvoš, a long time ago, while he was working on the development of charging tables for the hospitality industry.
“He soon realized that a bench, powered by solar energy, is a more sustainable solution that can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot and be accessible to everyone,” he says. Today he claims to have distributed his models to more than 500 cities and municipalities from all over the world, exceeding 60 countries.
Now the company’s catalog includes several “smart bench” prototypes, all with solar modules designed to resist vandalism and a power output of 99 watts (W), plus a lithium-ion battery pack, LED lights, PHT sensors, a system that facilitates its GPS location in real time and another that allows the bench surface to be kept fresh.
Their Steora Cyclo model even doubles as a “repair and charging station” for electric bikes and e-scotters, so it includes a compressor and screwdrivers.
Another option is the Cyclepods Smart Solar Bank, powered by solar energy that is stored in the bank and incorporates USB ports and wireless chargers for mobile devices. The company also includes a version with a battery designed precisely for charging electric bikes and scooters.
A similar philosophy is that of the Elios Smarth Bench, which also includes renewable energy solutions, device charging, smart lighting and Internet connection. Its solar panels are 100 W and all functions, emphasize its creators, can be controlled directly through the CitySi web portal.
“It works only with clean solar energy that is stored and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” they clarify from InfraMarks, which ensures that it has already participated in more than a hundred and a half projects around the world. with this type of technology. Among other characteristics, it specifies that its benches are designed so that they cannot heat up at more than 30 degrees Celsius.
The seats with solar panels have managed in any case to go beyond the catalogs of the companies dedicated to its manufacture and sale. One of the technology parks in Bangalore, the capital of the state of Karnataka, in southern India, incorporated them in 2021. The units, from Steora, are used for wireless charging of mobile phones and further incorporate two USB ports, a point of Wi-Fi access and lights that allow them to illuminate the surroundings at night.
Similar experiences have been carried out in Zoetermeer, in the west of the Netherlands; or in the Chinese provinces of Fujianor Yangzhou, where in 2021 they installed several banks with panels that included, among other features, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
After all… Why should a bank be just a bank?
Images: Include, Solar-Bench (InfraMarks) and Allred Collaborative
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