Friday, 10 February 2017

Smart benches in Deptford

The good news; you can now charge your phone for free!

The bad news; you have to sit right next to the traffic while you do so.

Lewisham is one of two boroughs chosen to pilot 'smart benches' which are intended to offer free phone charging, free wifi and the opportunity to find out about local air quality as well as somewhere to sit.


One of the new benches has landed on Brookmill Road, right next to Broadway Fields, so being a nosey bugger, I went along to have a look. 

First impression - not somewhere I'd naturally chose to sit for an extended time while charging my phone, especially at rush hour when traffic backs right up to this point from the lights on the A2. 

That being said, it is right next to a bus stop so might be handy when you've got a long wait.


The panel on the bench offers two ready-installed charging leads which while not particularly flimsy are bound to be a target for vandalism. One has an Apple-type charger plug but my phone did not recognise the device so I wasn't able to use it (not a massive surprise if I'm honest). 

However if you happen to be carrying a USB charging lead with you (I wasn't) there are USB ports on the panel that you can plug straight into, and they also offer wireless charging.

The power comes from solar panels on the totem and according to the bench manufacturer, Strawberry Energy, the design includes batteries so that energy can be stored for days when there is no sunshine (most of the last few!) and at night. 


Wifi access requires creation of an account etc, which would be ok if you were planning to use the free wifi regularly but for a one-off I decided to pass.  

There's also a Strawberry App that allows you to access the information about air quality, noise, temperature which is gathered by sensors in the bench. 

It was obviously as a result of a bit of lateral thinking that the manufacturers came up with the idea that you would be able to donate to Cancer Research via the benches (ah I see now from the press release that it was all about launching in time for World Cancer Day on 4 Feb).

Apparently you can do so by 'simply' tapping your contactless payment card on the bench. I didn't see any kind of hardware on the bench that would enable you to authorise such a payment, so I'm a bit confused about how that is supposed to work. Probably best not to have your wallet in your back pocket when you sit down. 

According to the website there's also some of the benches on Lewisham High Street and one on New Cross Road at the top of Clifton Rise. 

It's something of a double-edged sword. From the point of view of collecting air quality data I can see the logic of putting these benches right next to busy roads, but I'm not sure how attractive that will make them to people wanting to sit for a more than a few minutes to charge their phones. 

5 comments:

Emma B said...

The charger worked for my husband's Android phone at the weekend, but we only tested it for a few seconds.

Agree it is in a very odd place, couldn't they have put it in the park or even slightly closer to the bus stop and facing the other way?

Anonymous said...

Gentrification or technologisation?

By the way, what is happening to the African restaurants on the Broadway?
#13 has closed, #1 has closed... the remaining ones don't even have signs anymore and look very sad.
Are we getting more "fancy" chains?

Anonymous said...

Went to play with the bench today :) Didn't see anything about donating to Cancer Research by contactless, only by texting their number (?). The only contactless part was the Qi wirelass charging which seems to work quite well. It was raining and I wondered how well those cables would work after getting wet but we were too nervous to plug our phones in

Paddy said...

presumably your contactless card will get charged if, say, it's in your back pocket and you sit down?

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