An Urban Oasis: Street Signs That Charge Our Gadgets

What does "rest stop" mean in an urban setting with no car? Answer: A place to charge your phone.

There’s nothing wrong with the traditional park bench, a place to stretch your legs and catch your breath, except for its wasted potential. How many of us will sooner cram into a Starbucks than lounge outside because public seats lack the simplest of conveniences: access to electricity (and maybe Wi-Fi)?

Street Charge is what design studio PENSA calls an "urban intervention." It’s a solar-powered rest stop for the New Aesthetic, a place for your phone to sit dedicated to squeezing in a 5-minute email check without killing that last remaining sparks inside your smartphone battery.

Think about it: The urban professional doesn’t need gas, Funyuns, ample parking or a patch of grass for their kids to run around like a typical vehicle commuter. The only thing most of them need is to top off is their mobile phone of choice. As of today, there’s a whole infrastructure of coffee shops and bakeries that fill this role in big cities—not so differently than gas stations fill the role of rest stops where public funding grows dry—but it’s a relatively lousy solution. Much like you’ll end up buying a bag of chips to assuage your guilt for using a gas station bathroom, so too will you ingest sugary lattes and fatty pastries to borrow a power outlet and a reliable internet connection from Caribou Coffee.

And that’s what makes PENSA’s vision interesting. It’s nothing mechanically complex that needs massive amounts of real estate to implement. Rather, it’s a solution that could fit in our current public infrastructure of street signs tomorrow. It’s just smart design. And if it only came with a caffeine dispenser and a Wi-Fi hotspot, we’d really have something.

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7 Comments

  • Daniel Lüpertz

    Innovative idea. I like the concept and hope you will get enough support from the local administrates to get this cool thing to work.

  • gagarine

    In Europe we can already charge devices in trains (half of the people take the train between cities). Every seats have an electric plug and the next generation is certainly going to have USB plug and WiFi.
    What I see is less and less people charging their device in the train as computer's battery life improve.
    My prediction is than 5 years a computer can have a 1-3 days autonomy and 2-7 day for smartphone making those kind of installation useless. Smartphone are the problem now, but I pretty sure is going to be solve faster than we think.
    Anyway, I prefer go in a coffe and have some social interaction around a coffe than waiting along a street.
    That say, this can be good for pedestrian area, because in summer sometimes peoples get their laptop and work outside during the all day... But personnaly I will like to keep those space for real break and will rather not want to see hundred of laptop.

  • Annabelle

    Brilliant! When is it going to be out there? I would write more, but my battery is running out!

  • grayson

    This is a great innovative idea - but lets be real, no one is going to feel comfortable enough to openly take out their iPhone and charge it in public, that is just asking for it. I could just be more sensitive to it after living in Europe for a couple of years, but still - charging your iPhone for five to ten minutes isn't worth the potential mugging. 

  • Justin

    This is an idea that would feel safer if used more in public waiting areas like bus stops, train stations, and public parks.