Benches are something you’ll find in the public spaces of every city. But apart from allowing you to rest, they don’t really serve any other purpose.
This is changing. Croatian startup Include has launched a new version of its Steora smart bench — three new versions, in fact — adding tons of additional functionality to the good old regular bench.
Unlike the original Steora bench, which was modern-looking and without a back rest, the new, redesigned Steora has the appearance of a regular, wooden bench. The appearance, however, depends on the buyer, as the Steora is now modular, allowing the customer to design the bench with a variety of armrests, legs, and different materials.
More important than the looks is what’s inside. The Steora Classic, which is the cheapest variant, packs a Li-ion battery, two Qi-compatible wireless charging surfaces, a LED ambient light, a seating surface cooling system, as well as pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors. Additional options include USB chargers, air quality and noise sensors, a Wi-Fi hotspot system, a GPS locator, and a seating surface heating system. It’s all powered by solar panels built into the seat, though the Steora can also be powered by the city’s power grid.
From a user’s perspective, the Steora is useful as it lets you charge your phone or another electronic device and connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot. From a city-wide viewpoint, the installed sensors are beneficial as they can be used for weather reports, air quality reports, and the like.
A more advanced version of the bench is the Steora City, which packs additional sensors and optional LCD displays, as well as an optional AI camera which can monitor passers-by and count their numbers, and even report on data such as a pedestrian’s sex or how long someone looked at the display. The company claims the camera protects privacy by never storing videos.
Finally, the Steora Cyclo offers additional benefits to commuters on e-bikes and scooters, including built-in charging plugs compatible with a number of scooters such as those from Lime and Bird, an air compressor, and hand tools. All of the above turns the bench into a mini service station for your vehicle.
Another new product is Terra, a smart waste collection bin, which includes an advanced waste compression system. The state of each Terra bin can be remotely monitored.
All of the products are connected to Include’s Solos platform, which the company describes as a cloud-based operating system. It allows remote access to all of the bench’s gathered data, as well as control of all of the bench’s functionality. Solos also supports apps, with one example being the Waste management app, allowing cities to organize waste collection routes and oversee the state of Terra bins.
The new Steora benches will be available in 2021, starting at €1,659 ($1,988) for the Classic, €1,799 ($2,156) for the City, and €2,499 ($2,994) for the Cyclo. Include has sales contacts in several European countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy.