Smart bench expansion

2016-06-07 06:00
 The Isabelo smart bench provides free WiFi and USB charging points.  PHOTO: S Alfreds/Cape Town Partnership

The Isabelo smart bench provides free WiFi and USB charging points. PHOTO: S Alfreds/Cape Town Partnership

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Over 800 people made use of the Isabelo smart bench installed on the corner of Wale and Adderley streets in just one month.

And now the Cape Town Partnership plans to roll out another bench to Pier Place in the next few weeks.

The bench has an access point that receives the Internet signal from a nearby building and broadcasts it as WiFi through the access point attached to the mast of the bench, explains the partnership’s Alan Cameron.

“The solar panels above the top sail fuel the batteries that power the electronic equipment – including the USB charging points in the central pillar,” he says.

In April, only a month after the bench was installed, 800 people made use of it, says Cameron.

“It transforms a place between destinations to a destination in and of itself by offering the services of free WiFi and mobile device charging points. Within the first six weeks of placement the users of the bench burnt through 100 gigs of bandwidth – that’s a lot of bandwidth to consume via the screen of a phone!”

Users have been noted at the bench at all times of the day, and even in the rain, says Cameron.

“Clustering people of all walks of life to the area around the bench means the area becomes a safer space.

“It also becomes a more welcoming space, with greater opportunity for incidental conversations with strangers – the type of conversations that lead one to understand that strangers are often friendly people, quite willing to lend you their USB connection to charge your phone.

“This camaraderie builds the community spirit of the place, and making the local a prouder South African, and helping tourists to understand why locals love living here,” he says.

Besides making the public space more equitable, the free WiFi provides a bridge between South Africa’s extreme digital divide, Cameron believes.

“Current estimates find two in three South Africans are unable to afford internet access, and in the Western Cape it was found that some households spend more than 25% of their income on ICT related costs (data and airtime) as they look for economic opportunities online.”

The business model behind the bench relies on the sale of market research, Cameron explains. These funds are used to pay for the costs associated with the bench – the creation of it, the set-up and maintenance as well as the bandwidth costs.

The bench currently in Wale Street was installed in partnership with Wesgro, the investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape, and the survey questions posed to users are mostly about local and international tourist experiences, to establish a feedback loop to better inform Cape Town Partnership projects, such as City Walk Saturdays, and to pass on to relevant stakeholders.

“Besides providing market research, advertising is also an avenue for funding. When talking about funding market research, it’s important to also state that any data collected is done so in line with the Public Information Act – so at no point is there an abuse of the confidence placed in us as holders of this information.”

The Pier Place bench will work on a similar model, with a corporate sponsor showing interest in contributing towards the public activation of the square.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.