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Free phone charging stations proposed for city

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Rundle Mall and North Terrace would host free, solar-powered phone charging stations under a proposal to go before the Adelaide City Council tomorrow – but one councillor argues they would be “useless infrastructure”.

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A staff report recommends the council install charging stations in the CBD’s central shopping strip and on its premiere boulevard – plus indoor charging facilities in council-owned community buildings.

Under the proposal, a freestanding Street Charge unit (shown above), costing $9000 and featuring iPhone and micro USB charging cables, would be installed in Rundle Mall, and a $2300 Soofa smart bench – with charging ports for two phones and other capabilities, such as WiFi – would be installed on North Terrace.

A further $15,000 would be spent purchasing 10 indoor ChargeBar stations for the council’s customer centre, visitor information centre, libraries and community centres, the Aquatic Centre, Golf Links and the Adelaide Central Market.

The council voted to have its staff investigate the costs and benefits of installing charging stations in the CBD in March.

North Ward councillor Sue Clearihan, who proposed the investigation, told InDaily this morning smartphone charging facilities were a necessary investment in “basic infrastructure” that would help people stay connected.

“It happens to everyone at different times … they’re using their phones quite a bit and they suddenly find they’re out of power,” she said.

“(Public charging stations) are just basic infrastructure these days.

“It’s like having somewhere to sit, or somewhere to get water.”

Clearihan conceded that she was surprised at the cost of the facilities, but argued they were a required public good.

According to the 2016 Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey, quoted in the staff report, 84 per cent of people now own smartphones.

“I think everyone would acknowledge that (smartphones) are an essential part of our daily lives now,” said Clearihan, who added that running out of charge can be a safety issue for some people.

“If you are walking somewhere and you feel unsafe (you) will often ring … to let someone else know where you are,” she said.

“(Or) you might be in a crowded place and someone gets lost.”

A Soofa smart bench, featuring USB ports and WiFi capability, would be installed on North Terrace if the Adelaide City Council agrees to the proposal. Image: ACC / InDaily / Leah Zahorujko

She said it was not adequate for the council to provide charging facilities in its libraries and community centres – outdoor facilities were also needed.

“It’s all very well to install them in … indoor areas but it’s often that people get caught out after hours … when a lot of those places aren’t open,” she said.

“Everybody’s so dependent on their smart phones and other devices these days.”

“Useless infrastructure”

However, Central ward councillor Houssam Abiad – former owner of mobile phone repair company DigiMob in SA and WA – told InDaily the charging stations would amount to “useless infrastructure”.

He said phone companies were releasing increasingly sophisticated phone charging technology – such as wireless charging – and that mobile devices would eventually require no charging at all.

“It’s just an ever-changing technology,” said Abiad.

“Eventually, we’re go to end up with devices that don’t need charging, I’m sure of it.

“It’ll be useless infrastructure.”

He argued the charging stations would be an unreasonable ongoing cost to the council – and subject to potential vandalism.

Area councillor Anne Moran said the City Library – which hosts the council’s only charging station – was the best place for charging facilities, and that they weren’t necessary elsewhere.

“I think a library’s an appropriate (location),” she said, adding that a charging one’s phone wasn’t a “life-or-death” situation.

“I’m not against the idea, I’m just not terribly interested,” she said.

The council staff report also notes public phone charging facilities would help people experiencing homelessness stay connected with their family and friends.

The Rundle Mall and North Terrace stations would be used as a trial for further facilities in other areas of the CBD.

Clearihan said the city’s public squares, as well as frequented public parks – like Elder Park on the riverbank – would be ideal locations for more charging facilities.

The council currently has one ChargeBar, in the City Library, and provides free access to power at 43 barbecue facilities in the parklands.

The proposal will be debated at a council meeting tomorrow night.

 

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