As well as providing seating for up to four adults, the bench comes with wireless and USB connection charging capacity.
This means locals, workers and visitors can charge up their mobile devices such as phones and tablets while sitting on the bench and enjoying the bay views. The bench’s inbuilt batteries mean that it can be used for that purpose even at night.
Smart bench ‘science fiction’ a few years ago
The bench comes with some advanced cutting-edge features:
- Solar panels underneath the plexiglass top that can produce up to 100 W of power each hour.
- Cooling fans to provide comfort during the hot summer months.
- Embedded sensors that measure air temperature, air quality, humidity and bench usage, and transfer this information back to Council.
- Capacity for future upgrades — such as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
The bench also has internal batteries that can store up to a week’s worth of power. This means the bench can be used after dark, in much the same way that a home solar battery combined with a solar panel installation can allow access to solar-generated power in the evenings.
While the bench is the first of its kind in the area, council community planning manager Andrew Bryant said if successful, it could be the first of many. He described the bench as something confined to “science fiction just a few years ago”.
Smart solar powered bench not the first in Australia
The bench may be new to Lake Macquarie, but it isn’t an Australian first. Similar benches have already appeared in various parts of the country.
A young Croatian entrepreneur designed the Steora bench, which is proving popular in Europe, Scandinavia and New Zealand. It comes with free Wi-Fi, superfast internet connection and 15 data-gathering smart sensors. Thirty-six of these benches arrived in Australia during Croatia Week last year.
The only requirement for the benches is exposure to some natural light during daylight hours to generate solar power.