Cancer Research UK has joined forces with smart city business Strawberry Energy and MKTG to launch a network of Smart Benches (#SmartBenchUK) with contactless technology in time for World Cancer Day on 4th February. The solar-powered benches enhance public spaces by providing mobile device charging ports and free Wi-Fi access, as well as in built sensors to monitor and report on environmental health such as air quality.
In the world’s first use of contactless payment on the Smart Bench, the public can also donate £2 to the charity’s life-saving research to beat cancer sooner, by simply tapping their contactless debit or credit card on the Smart Bench, popping up across London.
Strawberry Energy have been working exclusively with Urban Partnerships, a division of MKTG which delivers projects within the public space that are mutually beneficial for both brands and non-profit organisations.
Cancer Research UK are the first brand to partner on the Smart Bench scheme, a network of benches across two London boroughs (Islington and Lewisham[i].) The sites were identified as high-footfall locations by MKTG, using their strategic insight tools and location planning expertise.
This pilot of 10 Smart Benches are live today with full support from both boroughs, and feature a number of contactless payment locations including Islington Green and Lewisham High Street. Following the pilot a further 10 will be installed by the end of February, with an additional 80 to be installed this year.
Michael Docherty, director of digital at Cancer Research UK, said: “Having used contactless technology in innovative ways in the past to engage the public in the work we do, we are always looking for new opportunities to incorporate contactless technology further throughout the charity and make it even easier for our supporters to help us beat cancer sooner. These Smart Benches seemed like the next step in our use of contactless technology to bring charitable giving closer to our supporters, integrating it seamlessly into cutting-edge street furniture.”
Sensors built into the smart benches monitor real-time environmental data including air quality, which users can check via the Strawberry Energy smart phone app, providing a valuable lifestyle tool for the community and feeding important data to local boroughs. This is especially relevant in support of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s aim to improve the capital’s air quality. Strawberry Energy has taken on production and installation of the first benches, without cost to taxpayers, as part of the company’s commitment to London as a smart city.
Miloš Milisavljević, founder and CEO of Strawberry Energy, developers and owners of the Smart Bench network, said: “We have been working with London boroughs to breathe life into our dream of a network of solar-powered Smart Benches, making energy free for all Londoners. We are proud to launch our network in the lead up to World Cancer Day with a contactless fundraising innovation in aid of Cancer Research UK.
“Our charging stations bring people together, motivate them to spend more time outdoors, and enhance their enjoyment of the environment with information such as pollution sensors.
MKTG’s Urban Partnerships identified Cancer Research UK as an ideal first brand partner for Strawberry Energy and their Smart Bench network. The community can enjoy the benefits of the benches and in exchange Cancer Research UK can maximise awareness and donations through contactless technology in the lead up to World Cancer Day.
Michael Brown, managing director, MKTG said: “A lot has been said about smart cities; the coming together of technology, city infrastructure and big data to enhance the citizen experience of urban life. But up until now, with the launch of Smart Benches, there has been no genuinely city-wide permanent smart city initiative in London, despite Ed Vaizey, former UK minister for the digital economy, saying in July 2016: “We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government.”
“The Smart Cities economy is going to be worth an estimated £400 Billion by 2020, and UK industry is targeting 10% of that – which is twice the value of what the entire UK advertising sector was worth in 2016. We here at MKTG are delighted to be partnering with Strawberry Media to pioneer in this space, and as experience designers we are looking forward to further helping smart city entrepreneurs to enhance the experience of city life.”
Councillor Rachel Onikosi, Lewisham cabinet member for the Public Realm, said: “I’m very pleased that Lewisham is part of the start of this network of smart benches. Finding creative ways to make the most of our public spaces benefits local communities and attracts people to come and see the great things Lewisham has to offer.”
Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport, said: “We are committed to making Islington a place where everyone can enjoy an excellent quality of life. These pioneering Smart Benches offer the best advances in smart technology and we are very pleased Islington is one of the first places in London to trial Smart Benches, and look forward to seeing how they benefit residents, workers and visitors alike.”