New life has been given to some of London’s iconic red phoneboxes thanks to a new initiative which has turned them into solar-powered mobile charging stations.
The Solarbox program is the brainchild of two LSE graduates, Kirsty Kenney and Harold Craston, who unveiled their first station, a now green-painted phonebox, on Tottenham Court Road in the capital’s West End.
The Solarbox, which is powered by a solar panel to provide a clean, carbon-neutral source of energy, is free of charge to use, but customers will be shown video advertisements whilst they wait for their device to power up, 30 percent of which comes from unsigned musical artists, alongside larger businesses such as Uber and Tinder.
The facility is able to charge up to 100 phones, tablets, cameras and other devices, per day and should prove useful for tourists or business workers in danger of running out of juice. It requires around four hours of direct sunlight to become fully charged, with any excess sunlight powering a battery which enables the Solarbox to continue supplying charge through the night.
TechWeek Europe went down to the Solarbox, located outside the Dominion Theatre, and spoke to Craston, who said that the facility had already proved extremely popular.
He mentioned that a second Solarbox, in an as-yet undisclosed location, should open in January, while up to six more are expected to follow. Many of London’s red phoneboxes currently stand underused and often neglected, but the Solarbox will be cleaned every day and include sensors to light up the facility at nighttime.
Former geography students Kenney and Craston came up with the idea for the Solarbox whilst finishing their studies, and earlier this year won £5,000 funding for the project from the 2014 Low Carbon Entrepreneur competition organised by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
“In our modern world, where hardly any Londoner is complete without a raft of personal gizmos in hand, it’s about time our iconic boxes were update for the 21st Century, to be useful, more sustainable,” said Johnson.
“As London’s low carbon economy grows, it’s new start-ups like this, with our funding and support, that are keeping London at the forefront of future technology.”
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