Inspiration

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Solar street furniture: the what, where and how

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Four years ago, I wrote an article about a small Belgrade-based technology company called Strawberry Energy and their ingenious innovation, the Strawberry Tree – a public solar-powered mobile device charging station that popped up for the first time in a small district in central Belgrade, Serbia.

Strawberry Energy wins "Cool Prize” in the Cognicity Challenge

Last Friday, Strawberry Energy announced that it is going to be bringing its invention to London’s Canary Wharf, having won the so-called “Cool Prize” in the three-month-long Cognicity Challenge. But let’s back-pedal a little to 2011 while I tell you what Strawberry Trees do.

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It’s happened to us all: you're walking through town and you need to make a phone call or send an email. Trouble is, you've spent way too long on Facebook that day already and your battery is perilously low. Your charger's at home, a public phone box simply won't do (all your contacts are in your phone's address book, for a start) and there isn't an Apple store nearby where you can go and surreptitiously use your webmail. What to do? Well, thanks to the ingenious invention of a student from the University of Belgrade, there is an answer. And now, it’s hitting Canary Wharf.

The Strawberry Tree is a public solar-powered mobile device charging station. The first stations installed in Belgrade look more like a sleek piece of modern art than an incredibly useful piece of public-serving technology. They sit in the middle of Belgrade's Obrenovac district and have become something of a hang-out point as well as a talking point for Belgrade's citizens.

Canary Wharf will be equipped with smart solar units providing free battery charging for devices

Over the past four years, the technology has undergone continual developed and has been rolled out further afield. Canary Wharf will be equipped with smart solar units providing free battery charging for devices, and will also feature local environmental data (air quality, noise levels, and so on), relevant local info and details about how much energy is generated. There’s even an emergency call button. Installed in such a busy public space, these solar platforms will become inspiring and “green” socialising spots that literally gather people around the idea of renewables.

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During the course of the Cognicity Challenge, Strawberry Energy has worked with business leaders and mentors on shaping the best smart city technology relevant to the needs and future plans of Canary Wharf. This has ultimately led to a new breed of smart street furniture being developed that will premiere in London. All being well, this will be a springboard to roll out further solar energy units across Britain.

Miloš Milisavljević, Strawberry Energy CEO and founder, came up with the idea for the Strawberry Tree aged just 17. To date, Strawberry Energy’s achievements so far have been impressive. With over 400,000 users so far, their ongoing mission is to enhance the outdoor experience of the 21st-century mobile generation, by making their experience in public spaces more efficient, pleasant and productive.

“We are honoured that Canary Wharf recognised our technology as one of the integral points of their smart city orientation,” said Milisavljević. “We want to provide Canary Wharf’s visitors with unique, smart social hubs which will make their experience at Canary Wharf complete, with local relevant information to hand – without having them worry about their loss of mobile connectivity through empty batteries.”

Strawberry Energy have won international acclaim for their green energy solutions from the European Commission and prestigious organisations in Europe and the US. Their innovations have achieved global recognition, winning the Verge Accelerate 2014 in San Francisco and reaching the finals of the World Technology Award 2013. The Strawberry Tree was also named one of the “Top ten urban innovations that work” at the New Cities Summit in Dallas in 2014.

by Ashley Morrison

Ashley is a copywriter, blogger and editor

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