Ford Smart Benches help London pedestrians stay connected on the move with Mobile Charging and Wi-Fi

Worrying about a flat smartphone battery could become a thing of the past – at least for some pedestrians in London. Ford and smart cities start-up Strawberry Energy are rolling out smart benches to offer pedestrians free solar-powered mobile charging and Wi-Fi access while they sit and rest across the city.
The collaboration will initially provide 20 Ford Smart Benches, doubling the number of benches installed by Strawberry Energy earlier this year. As well as enabling people to use their device to plan onward journeys, the hi-tech street furniture can monitor noise, carbon dioxide, humidity, and temperature. The information will be available free of charge to bench users and participating London boroughs and could help inform future decisions.
“At Ford, we believe the city of tomorrow should make people feel happy, safe and connected, so we’re looking at how streets could be designed to serve a full range of activities: walking, biking, driving, connecting with others, and of course, business and services that support our economies,” said Sarah-Jayne Williams, director, Ford Smart Mobility, Europe. “Walking, along with driving and riding public transport, is part of how people get around in a city like London and Ford Smart Benches complement perfectly the increasingly connected lives we now lead.”
Access to Wi-Fi and charging, both wirelessly and via ports, is free, not just for smartphones but also for tablets, cameras and wearables. There will also be an opportunity for those using the urban pit stops to make a donation to U.K. charities St Mungo’s, Rethink Mental Illness and Macmillan Cancer support. Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, will match donations received from bench users, up to £10,000 for each charity.
“Whether for fitness, convenience, or simply the pleasure of being outdoors, many people enjoy walking, but dread being unable to access maps, social media, and news sites while on the move,” said Miloš Milisavljević, founder and CEO, of Strawberry Energy. “Ford Smart Benches in Islington, Lewisham and Southwark will increasingly help ensure that walking will continue to be a key part of how Londoners enjoy their city.”

Ad Week Europe 2017: Remembering the big picture

By Rachel Taylor, Strategic Manager at Posterscope
I was lucky enough to spend time at this year’s Advertising Week Europe to listen to all of the fantastic speakers debating the key questions for our industry. The core contemporary pillars were well covered; programmatic, content, mobile and agency structures stood out as key themes. However, there also seemed to be a growing focus on wider socio-cultural events, such as Brexit or Trump’s election, which sit outside our industry but still impact our decisions.
Whatever form Brexit takes, it will have implications for both client marketing budgets, be that positive or negative, and for consumer attitudes and spending power. Consequentially, there are still debates and big questions for the advertising industry to be involved in. Thursday’s ‘Open Minds, Open Boarders’ debate aptly highlighted the issue of junior creative talent and the need to maintain diversity if we are to grow London’s creative community. However, I feel one of the most interesting underlying conclusions of this talk was that the implications of Brexit on the industry are all still uncertain and there is nothing we can stick our teeth into until the dust begins to settle.
A strong theme this year was the role of emotion in technology and data as well as remembering the human element at the centre of advertising campaigns. Ravleen Beeston of Microsoft looked at technology’s empathetic potential, demonstrating chat bots which can anticipate and mitigate potentially fractious moments such as splitting a drinks bill. Interestingly however, the debate around these kinds of innovations kept returning to the warning that we should not allow ourselves to fall into a bubble and design campaigns around technology consumers aren’t ready for.
Indeed, the ‘Future of Tech and The Millennial Consumer’ stage profiled businesses which were all firmly rooted in their audience understanding, be that to alleviate the struggling care industry or redesigning dating for queer women. In the case of Grabble, the business completely pivoted based on the new audience understanding that their audience wanted more boutique labels and they needed to appeals to a consumer with more disposable income than their original student target. A great example of audience truths designing the product rather than fitting an audience to the platform.
Certainly, the advertising industry now places great focus on ensuring messaging is rooted in audience understanding but this was a good reminder that the same is true for innovation. While some technologies may have become commonplace in media land, we should not get ahead of ourselves and always root design in the human experience.
In as much as we should be remembering the wider world experience effects our consumers, the broader world picture also effects our relationship with our clients. While we are good at watching the competitor environment and market forces which will be shaping client pressures, Rory Sutherland made a fantastic point when he argued we are limiting ourselves when we only speak to our clients about MarComs. That is certainly where our specialism lies but the power of our data and strategic thinking can stretch must further, answering at least wider marketing questions.
Indeed, Posterscope have started pushing beyond the bounds of OOH media to employ our location expertise in wider location analysis projects powered by our award winning ECOS platform. This allows us to explore a range of wider client challenges, be that the location understanding powering a wider communications brief or broad location mapping of audiences by behaviour to help clients really understand what is really happening on the ground. Similarly, MKTG have pushed beyond experiential with their Smart Bench roll out, demonstrating that we can also be part of the smart city revolution and shape the future design of the cities we live in.
It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. There is a wealth of potential for us to apply our audience data to business intelligence and we should be thinking big in order to make the most of it. But if we are to turn this potential into success two watch outs stand out: don’t go too big for the humans we are speaking too and don’t sell ourselves too small to clients who will then look to someone else.

MKTG release first week insights of Smart Bench UK

Last Wednesday (1st February), MKTG in partnership with Strawberry Energy announced the roll out of 10 trial Smart Benches, sponsored by Cancer Research UK to celebrate World Cancer Day which took place on February 4th.
Not only do the benches make use of solar power to offer free Wi-Fi and charging portals to the community, but they allow users to donate £2 via contactless payment to Cancer Research UK, to help fund life- saving research.
Research was carried out with passers-by in areas of Lewisham and Islington where the benches have been installed. In only 7 days, the pilot of 10 benches has proven to be a hit, with the public awarding 9/10 stars for the benches’ “usefulness”. In addition, the benches have collectively totted up 1800 Wi-Fi connections and just short of a 1000 phone charges, with each person spending an average of 9 minutes on each bench. As unique visitors sit at 770, it is evident that people are connecting with the benches more than once.

Within a week, the benches have had a high amount of unique impressions

As well as a great public reception, over 40 media outlets reported coverage of the technology, citing it as revolutionary for the communities were the benches are present, with the BBC branding it as “future of benches in London”.

“The bench with contactless donation, is a world first”

97% of the bench users think that brands should do more to offer free services like this to the public. Users of the bench were quizzed as to how memorable brands sponsoring a bench would be, and over 7/10 people found Cancer Research UK had left an impression, while 8/10 people found Smart Bench advertising more memorable than other forms of OOH media.

Users of the benches find the branding more memorable than traditional forms of OOH

80 more smart benches will be installed later on in the year and MKTG will give brands the chance to sponsor this project which raises their level of public awareness.
A further 85% of users stated that their opinion of a brand would improve if they saw they had sponsored a smart bench, with 97% saying they would talk about it to a friend. This proves that providing an asset to the public which they appreciate and find advantageous raises the level of a brand’s estimation in the public eye.

A brand who provides a free services raises their level of awareness amongst the public

Christopher Nicola, Head of Urban Partnerships at MKTG, said: “In only one week of launching this smart city project, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from the public, clients and local boroughs. Our initial  findings show that people want to see more smart benches in London, whilst also demonstrating a strong business case for brands to consider this new way of engaging with customers. With another ten benches launching by mid-March, smart benches are here to stay and we are excited to expand the London network as part of our portfolio of unique urban partnerships.”
The complete figures from the first week insights can be seen below.
Smart Benches infographic