How Street Furniture Is Paving Way To A More Reliable Public Place In Smart Cities

Smart street furniture solutions in smart cities

With the series of smart city furniture discussed in the previous blog, today we move on to explore how these utterly appealing pieces of innovation are standing as the make-over tools for smart cities. Numerous smart street furniture installations have already transformed hundreds of public places in the cities and yet other hundreds of them are under dynamic progress. So let’s have a look at the smart cities which have already implemented intelligent street furniture in the public places.

Intelligent Usage Of Features That Make Street Furniture Really Meaningful

Integration of free WiFi connectivity, solar-powered charging points, data-gathering sensors, advanced technology in advertising boards etc. into the street furniture makes it really smart. But how these features could be put to use more wisely is another factor that needs to be considered.

Sensors – With real-time information gathered by sensors, it is important to think over – how this data can be used and managed in a truly meaningful way? How can the accumulated data be beneficial in creating more useful services for citizens?

Digital Screens – Digital screens have ample of applications to count. From displaying advertisements to serving as wayfinding tools, the screens stand as one of the most important communication points. Thus, to make the usage more meaningful, it is important to answer the questions like – How can screens be used as an important platform of information in public places? How can we prevent the cities from transforming into digital advertising displays? How screens can be used to connect the citizens to the government?

Multiple Functionality – If we have found out ways to integrate Wifi to smart benches and sensors to street lights, we should now think about: How can we create modular street furniture so as to make the city space more productive? How can we create more efficient furniture with multiple functionalities?

Clean Energy Oriented Furniture – Every city across the planet is striving to cut down carbon emissions. So, while creating every furniture the focus needs to be on: How can we enhance the use of clean energy through smart city furniture? How can we develop novel services that facilitate access to clean energy?

Going further, we have picked up some of the very interesting case studies from different parts of the world that showcase unique ideas mixed with innovative furniture solutions tailor-made for the citizens. To a great extent, the case studies have incorporated a number of features discussed above – It gives us an idea as to how some of the smart city challenges can be overcome.

Soofa Benches – US

Soofa bench: Smart street furniture
By Mack Male [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr
Soofa Benches, the invention of a women-founded startup, have popped up across the entire US in no time. For the first time, the benches were installed in Boston in June 2014. Now, the benches can be found across 23 states of US that include 65 cities such as New York, Washington, Texas, Boulder, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles and Austin. Apart from the US, the Soofa has also moved into the cities in Canada, Costa Rica, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Smart Features – The Soofa Benches serve as easy charging stations that are powered by a solar panel. Each bench consists of two USB ports for plugging in mobile devices. It also enables users to connect to wireless networks.

Recently, the startup rolled out another smart furniture into the smart city public place, the Soofa Sign. These can be found installed on Metro Boston, Kendall Square in Cambridge, Samuel Adams Park in Boston and Porter Square in Cambridge. Each Soofa Sign is installed with apps that display weather, public transit times and events among other important information.

The Soofa products are also outfitted with sensors that capture pedestrian-traffic data for cities (the data can be used by cities to plan out decisions related to city development, smart initiatives that impact the public) The Soofa furniture has become a significant part of the ‘internet of things’ (IoT) now – enabling wireless connectivity and data transmission.

One interesting thing about Soofa is that it encourages cities to name each bench to keep things entertaining and engaging. The headquarters of the startup, track the charging activity of Soofa benches. For instance, ‘Amelia’ the first commercial bench installed at Cambridge Central Square has been used for over a total of 3,571 charging sessions. Additionally, the Soofa collects valuable data for the city governments that request a purchase. The Soofa software can help cities to find out which area at a particular time was high or low with activity.

Smart Shelters – Paris

On November 19, 2013, the Paris City Council’s tender department awarded Sopact (a subsidiary of JCDecaux) the contract to design, install and maintain 2,000 new bus shelters. Originally designed by Marc Aurel, these 21st-century bus shelters blend perfectly well with the contemporary city environment. The reinvented bus shelter offers the travellers with modern, eco-friendly and accessible smart facilities.

The initiatives was implemented after a detailed planning method for each bus shelter. The Paris City Council and JCDecaux carried out an urban diagnosis of the 2,000 locations of the bus shelters to ensure that each shelter adapts well to its environment. Size of the shelter, configuration, signal mast and location was planned in detail before the installation. The features of the smart bus shelter are explained below precisely:

  • Larger shelters with more space
  • Armrests – made for the senior citizens and others in need
  • A double-sided seating arrangement at the front and back of the shelter
  • A rear opening – facilitates the movement of prams or people who find difficulty in walking
  • Tactile labels and buttons for voice announcements related to direction and waiting – helps people with visual impairment
  • Advertising boards and spotlights integrated with smart system that intensifies the light during night times
  • 100 roofs equipped with solar panels
  • Energy optimisation to lower electricity consumption depending on activity

The implementation of these smart bus shelters is believed to be one of the most significant initiative in Paris in the last 15 years. The smart bus shelters have reused the material from the old shelters and reinvented a smart place perfectly comfortable for everyone including the people who are physically challenged.

Smart Bus Stop – Singapore

Collaboration between the Singaporean Government and the DP Architects lead to the development of a smart bus stop in Jurong, an area located in the southwest of the nation. This bus stop has everything you would like to have when you enter a cafe, park or your living room.

The bus stop has a vast seating arrangement for people. It has a mini library of books for everyone from children to old people, from Enid Blyton to Ray Bradbury – books that never let you feel the wait at the stop a boring affair. In addition it has a bicycle parking, a swing and an artwork created by local illustrator Lee Xin Li. The bus stop gives a complete look with a rooftop garden.

Taking the smart features into consideration, space is hyperconnected. The people have the facility to print books, scan a QR code or download e-books from the National Library. Of course, solar panels, charging stations and interactive digital boards are an integral part of the bus stop. The significant feature of the digital board is, it informs the passengers with a journey planner to find the fastest route. The screens broadcast information regarding the weather, news and local events.

Smart Palms – Dubai

Dubai is always at the forefront of technology. It always reflects its desire of making the city the happiest place on earth with its interesting initiatives. One such initiative is the ‘smart palm’ trees that have been cropping up across the city increasingly. One can spot the smart palm at beaches and at public pizazz.

Smart palm tree is nothing but a solar-powered bench with much-needed shade, free public WiFi (when visitors are in the vicinity), recharging stations (that charge 2.5 times faster than regular ones) and digital information boards. Plus, the intelligent palm trees are embedded with a 360 degree infrared CCTV camera and a very important emergency button.

While the solar panels make the trees completely self-sustainable, the information board with a touch screen is provided with smart city info website and mobile apps. One more digital outdoor screen broadcasts public messages, government notices and commercial advertisements.

50 smart palm trees have already been installed with a lot more under planning. The smart palm trees have become the latest attractive spots in Dubai that glow beautifully with green LEDs at night.

Well, the smart cities never stop from amusing the world with their innovative initiatives and their perseverance to achieve the heights self-sustainability. Hope these smart city innovations keep flourishing with the core idea to make cities a better place to live in!