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London's red phone boxes go green, are converted into solar-powered phone chargers

Thursday 02 October 2014

The iconic red phone box of London has been painted green, and will act instead as a solar-powered phone charging station. The first of six solarboxes around the city was unveiled this week on Tottenham Court Road.

Although passers-by can use these solarboxes for free, adverts will be broadcast as they wait for the device to charge.

London's red telephone boxes of yore are largely disused, although recent initiatives have seen some converted into miniature libraries or equipped with emergency medical equipment.

London's red phone boxes go green

This is the phone box's highest-tech renovation revolution, with the chosen boxes painted green and fitted with a roof-mounted solar panel.

Inside there is a variety of phone charging ports for a range of smartphone models, as well as a screen that displays ads.

The ad screen also functions as a deterrent for vandals, with the box's well-being paramount to the experiment.

The Solarboxes contain a variety of phone connecters It will be regularly maintained and locked overnight.

The idea was born of Harold Craston and Kirsty Kenny, two former geography students at London School of Economics, who were exploring new ways to use public spaces.

Mr Craston told the BBC: "I lived next to a phone box in my second year at uni and walked past it every day. I thought, 'There are 8,000 of these lying unused in London and we must be able to find a use for them.'"

The solarbox can charge up to 100 phones a day, offering a 20 per cent battery boost in 10 minutes. Craston said that the booths will serve about six people per hour.

London's red phone boxes go green

This is among the handiest of the city's public projects, with battery issues a real nuisance in the age of the smartphone.

Smart devices are increasing in power, running all sorts of apps, but battery life hasn't seen equivalent improvement.

Mr Craston said: "On launch day, my phone ran out of battery and I genuinely had to use the box."

The Solarbox project came in second place in the Mayor of London's Low Carbon Entrepreneur of the Year Award earlier this year and also won the LSE's Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award.

The winner was the former award was Crowd Power Plant, an alternative way of purchasing and funding renewable energy.

As it is an ad-funded model, Craston and Kenny hope to keep users engaged in the solarbox screen with "short, fun and exciting ads showing exclusive content."

Tinder and Uber have already signed up, and 30 per cent of advertising space will be filled by community projects.

Five more boxes will be rolled out by April 2015.

Who knows, perhaps this pilot test will prove so successful that six solarboxes will become 10 will become more.

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