Creating smart cities, one bench at a time

By - 16 October 2019

Smart cities might still feel like a concept of the distant future, but more and more strides are being made by innovative startups and local governments to move towards these digitally-driven cities today. Indeed, worldwide spending for smart cities is expected to reach 34 billion US dollars by 2020 and the value of the global smart city market is projected to exceed 2.5 trillion US dollars by 2025.

Despite having heard about smart cities so much over the past years, you might still be wondering what a smart city even is? The core objective of a smart city is simply to use technology in order to improve a city’s infrastructure, operations and public facilities. This can include providing better parking, making wifi publicly available or even collecting data to improve energy efficiency.

Benches and beyond: everyday objects turned into smart city devices

Seedia, a Polish startup created in 2016 and rated by Early Metrics, is developing products that are perfectly emblematic of society’s ongoing evolution towards smart cities. The startup develops smart benches, trash bins, interactive kiosks and bus shelters that all incorporate technology and data to improve residents’ daily lives all while being eco-friendly.

Indeed, a bench is no longer just a bench. Seedia has turned an object that has typically only had one purpose (to seat people) into a multi-service eco-friendly tool. The startup’s SEEDiA City bench integrates solar panels to help reduce CO2 emissions and charge your mobile devices through USB and inductive chargers. While you’re charging your smartphone in an eco-responsible manner, you can also enjoy free WiFi.

The smart bench can also display bus schedules or weather alerts and stays lit at night thanks to LEDs. Furthermore, it can collect data on bench users and environmental factors such as CO2 levels, which can then be leveraged by local governments.

The innovation does not end at benches, Seedia’s Citi Trash Can is equipped with solar panels, has four USB slots and uses green and red LED lights to indicate whether a bin is full or not. When there’s a will there’s a way, any ordinary everyday life object can become a multi-purpose smart tool of the not-so-distant-future.

Startups tackling urbanization and climate change

Seedia’s products stand out as yet another sign that the future is now: smart cities have become a thing of the present. The need for smart cities is further strengthened by the rapid urbanization: according to the UN, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas by 2050. Furthermore, by 2050, the population is projected to reach 9.6 billion and we would require the equivalent of about three planets worth of resources to sustain our way of living, if our current consumption patterns remain unchanged.

With that in mind, it isn’t surprising to note that other companies have entered the market with similar products to move towards more sustainable and environment-friendly cities. Soofa, a US-based startup, and Include, a Croatian-based startup, both develop similar smart benches.

Nevertheless, Seedia’s project ranks in the top 8% of startups rated by Early Metrics. It continues to expand worldwide, with its most recent international deployment being in Toronto, Canada. We wish them the best of luck in their continued efforts towards creating the eco-friendly smart cities of the future.

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