Have you ever been on the go and noticed that your smartphone is low on battery? Or your mobile internet access went over the limit and you can’t go online? The answer is: yes, most likely. But there is a solution. Enter: Strawberry Energy, a Serbian crowd-funded start-up, that produces solar-powered smart benches with free Wi-Fi access, mobile phone charging facilities and information services in public venues.
Its products are already present in 17 countries and its clients include London’s Canary Wharf, the United Nations Development Programme, Orange and Ford.
Now, Strawberry Energy is expanding its network into the Middle East and across London – in both cases, it is set to play a small, but a sensible role in policies to combat air pollution.
Milos Milisavljevic, founder and CEO of Strawberry Energy, said: “We made the decision to expand to the Middle-East market in mid-2018 and we partnered with UK’s Future Cities Catapult for market entry support,”
“We installed the first Smart Bench at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. We selected a very large and ecologically focused distribution partner and we expect to officially launch the partnership within the next few days,”
The roots of Strawberry Energy go back to Milos’s high school days where he held lectures on renewable energy. Noticing an increase in the use of mobile phones, a public solar charger seemed like the best solution. Thus, he gathered a group of talented and like-minded people and established a company that turned into Strawberry Energy.
Strawberry Energy’s Solar benches are public benches with solar panels and Wi-Fi. Placed above or inside the bench, or even in the pavement nearby, the panels capture and store solar power to be channelled into charging ports. Unsurprisingly concentrated in densely populated metropolitan areas – the benches provide a free, clean and inexhaustible energy source.
Milisavljevic is very optimistic about his company’s future, as in addition to the Middle East, Strawberry Energy will also continue to expand their products in London.
“We are currently present in three central London boroughs (Southwark, Islington and Lewisham) and we are currently talking with an additional five boroughs and private landlords to expand the network to more public spaces across Central London,” says Milos.
As well as expanding in London, Strawberry Energy launched a new product last September – the Smart Bench 2. With a completely new design, the Smart Bench 2 has more charging cables, slots and power. They also have new built-in sensors that allow you to monitor air quality in the area, something that has been playing on many Londoners’ minds since Sadiq Khan issued a toxic air alert.
“We had an official launch with Councillor Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council,” says Milos.
“The reception was very good since the benches are helping Local authorities in two very important ways,”
“First being Air Quality issue. London is working very hard on solving the problem with Air Quality. The Smart Bench 2 is equipped with the sensors that feed real-time air quality data back to the local authorities,”
“Second, London is focused on improving digital infrastructure and the Smart Benches are helping by providing free WiFi public spaces by creating outdoor smart city platform where (the) city, academics and other companies can add their sensors and tech in to the Smart Benches that are already installed across the city,” he adds.
The Strawberry Energy benches are free to use since the Smart Benches infrastructure scheme is funded through Brand partnerships and sponsorships.
The benches address the very real need for quick and easy phone charging – a problem that will only be exacerbated. The newest generation of phones have shorter battery life, and 5G will likely shorten average battery life even more.