By Mudassir Raja
“Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation,” Dean Kamen, a noted American inventor, once said.
The use of newer technologies in improving environment and healthcare is always welcome. The state of global environment calls for concrete steps to change lifestyle and behaviour of urban citizens. Cities are getting overcrowded. Renewable energy and environmental protection have become key economic and social challenges. Technical minds are always thinking about and working towards having smarter and environment-friendly cities. Street furniture is a simple entry point to a world of smart cities. A relatively simple looking product, but with vast usage potential, a solar-powered bench comes with multiple functionalities — a wireless charging pad and charging ports for wired phones and other smart devices, night illumination, energy saving main controller, and data collecting.
Aspire Zone Foundation and Doha Technology W.L.L, a member company of The Croatian Technology & Business Association (CTBA Group), recently introduced the first smart bench in Qatar and the entire GCC region. The project is the next step in turning Aspire Park into a smart park. The whole project is said to be in compliance with Qatar National Vision 2030.
Community recently spoke with Mario Lozanci?, Chairman of the CTBA Group, in detail about the smart bench called Steora.
Lozanci? is very keen in promoting Croatian business companies in Qatar. He said: “I try to help out companies come here and do business. The company brought the bench to Qatar two years ago to test it in this environment. The bench is back after undergoing few changes related to heat and dust. To share our idea of installing smart benches, we approached the Aspire Foundation. We discussed the utility of the bench as part of a plan to turn Doha into a modern smart city.”
Lozanci? added: “We have installed five benches in Aspire Park initially. It has been less than a month that we installed the benches in the park. So far, we have got very positive feedback because of its attractive design. The first use of the bench is for sitting. It is street furniture with smart technology.
He said: “People walking or running in the park can rest at the bench. While sitting on the bench, they can charge their phones with or without wires. It has a wireless charger for advanced mobile devices (Samsung S6 model and newer, iPhone 8 and newer). It also offers two regular USB ports, together with a Wi-Fi access point. Overnight, the bench can give them LED light. The bench is 1.7 metre long and 0.5 metre wide. It weighs 88 kilogram. It also has an integrated cooling system which means that the seating cover stays cool even during the hot summer days.”
Further describing the utility of the bench, he said: “With its simple design and convenient size, the bench can be installed anywhere, outdoors and indoors. Our smart bench has in-built sensors for data collection and analysis, gathering information on, for example, the number of bench users, operability of various components, and atmospheric conditions. Additionally, the bench owners can easily change settings on the dashboard. The bench also carries a big screen with it.
When asked how come the bench does not have a back rest, he said: “Our bench was designed to fit seamlessly into any environment and allow seating from all sides. A back rest would disrupt this concept and potentially create problems with charging since shadowing negatively affects the energy.”
In response to a question about how many days the bench can work without sunlight, Mario said: “This depends on several factors such as the number of bench users, amount of sunlight and clouds in the course of a day. Usually, the smart bench Steora can function normally up to five days without direct sun exposure before the primary functions start to power off to save the battery. USB charging ports are the last to shut down.”
Regarding the primary question of how long it takes to fully charge a phone device, he said: “Charging time depends on charging type and smartphone model. When using wireless charger, it usually takes up to 90 minutes to fully charge a device as the technology is still in development phase. Charging speed, when using USB ports, is usually between one and 18% of battery per one minute. Charging speed also depends on whether the smartphone is in use while charging or in the stand-by mode.
When asked how long it takes for a bench to be fully charged, he said: “In summer, Steora can charge its battery system within one day, while in winter this can take up to 10 days. That is why Steora is mostly in standby mode during winter.
He added: “Steora has to be installed on a solid surface — concrete, asphalt or stone. The surface needs to be at least 10cm deep.
Regarding the acceptability of the benches, he said: “The benches are in a testing phase in Qatar. Mass awareness about the use of these benches is increasing the world over slowly but surely. In Qatar, we will organise different events, may be workshops to highlight how useful the benches are for the public and for saving energy. We are also in a phase to receive the feedback and response of the users. After the evaluation of the feedback, we will install more smart benches, may be, around the lake in the park. I see no reason for the people to overlook the benches present in the park.
“The benches will definitely be useful for the people who go out in the desert for camping. They will be able to have furniture with modern technology right outside their camps.”
T H E S M A R T C H O I C E
Steora has to be installed on a solid surface — concrete, asphalt or stone. The surface needs to be at least 10cm deep
The bench is 1.7 metre long and 0.5 metre wide. It weighs 88 kilogram. It also has an integrated cooling system
Steora can function normally up to five days without direct sun exposure before the primary functions start to power off to save the battery. USB charging ports are the last to shut down
It has a wireless charger for advanced mobile devices. It also offers two regular USB ports, together with a Wi-Fi access point. Overnight, the bench can give them LED light. Charging speed, when using USB ports, is usually between one and 18% of battery per one minute
In summer, Steora can charge its battery system within one day, while in winter this can take up to 10 days.
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