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Cancer Research Smart Benches Offer Londoners Solar Power Charging And Free Wi-Fi

As News Editor of Silicon UK, Roland keeps a keen eye on the daily tech news coverage for the site, while also focusing on stories around cyber security, public sector IT, innovation, AI, and gadgets.

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The smart benches come with contactless payment tech to enable people to make small on-the-fly donations

Cancer Research UK is tapping into the smart device and Internet of Things (IoT) trend by rolling out ten benches in London providing solar powered charging for smartphones and free Wi-Fi connectivity.

Working in partnership with smart city companies Strawberry Energy and MKTG, Cancer Research UK will provide the charging and connectivity for free, but contactless payment tech in the benches will enable people using them to donate £2 to the charity and research organisation.

IoT meets the fight against cancer

Cancer Research smart bench contactlessThe pilot of the ten benches has gone live today and cover high footfall areas in the boroughs of Lewisham and Islington, and a further ten benches will be installed in London by the end of February, with an additional 80 planned for placement across the British capital over the course of the year.  

“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,” said Michael Docherty, director of digital at Cancer Research UK.

“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.”

But the benches are more than just donation collecting, charge and Wi-Fi points; sensors are built into the benches which provide real-time data on the air quality around them. This could come in handy once the benches reach parts of central London where pollution and air quality is a genuine concern and a health risk.

The air quality data can also be piped to the Strawberry Energy smartphone app so that people can check on how clean or dirty the air is around them.

These benches may seem like a left-field way for Cancer Research UK to generate charitable donations, but they do showcase how smart tech and the IoT can be used as a force for good, rather than simply act as tool for people to bark commands at like the Amazon Echo, or be used for predictive maintenance in the manufacturing sector and heavy industry.

However, some caution is needed when it comes to rolling out such smart devices, as any security flaws could see them being seized by hackers and turned into malware spreading botnets.

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