Public Works: Free, Solar Public Phone Charging Stations Hit NYC
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Public Works: Free, Solar Public Phone Charging Stations Hit NYC

Juice up your Apple in the Big Apple.

Public Works looks at public space, urban design, and city-building innovations from around the world, and considers what Toronto might learn from them.

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Image courtesy of AT&T

If your phone battery has ever died just as you’re about to about to see some kittens or hit “send” on an ill-advised booty text, you know how frustrating it can be. Well, a project underway in New York City may have the answer.

Designer Pensa, solar gear manufacturer Goal Zero, and telco giant AT&T have partnered on an initiative called Street Charge, a pilot project that has placed 25 solar-powered device-charging stations around New York. The catalyst for the idea was last year’s Hurricane Sandy, when AT&T delivered mobile cell towers and generators to blacked-out neighbourhoods around the city.

Charging units are located in various parks and public spaces. They’ve been changing locations about every four weeks since the project’s inception in June, and will continue doing so until it wraps up in September. Each station can charge six devices at a time using standard USB ports or dedicated connections for popular phones and tablets. The units don’t feed the phones directly from the solar panels, but instead store power in lithium-ion battery units, so the stations function at night—or during solar eclipses.

The time it takes to charge your device in an eco-friendly way is the same as if you’d plugged it in at home, so users may want to bring something to read while they’re waiting.

Maintenance, battery replacement, and inspection for damage or vandalism is handled by a third-party company.

The total cost of the project is estimated at between 300 and 500 thousand dollars. However, this isn’t strictly a charitable gesture on the part of AT&T—after all, every chargeless customer is a customer not being charged.

AT&T says that if the program is successful, it may be rolled out to other cities, which will not include Toronto, since AT&T doesn’t operate here. But by all means get in touch with your Canadian wireless provider and see if they want to subsidize some public eco-charging. And then please contact us and let us know how that went.

Hat tip to Gizmag.