Social Enterprise, Solarbox repurposes London’s iconic red phone booths with ‘green’ tech

“Allo! Allo! This is London calling!” — Britain’s bright red phone booths have been repurposed and painted green. It’s one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen for what can almost be classified as relics. With the United Kingdom having approximately 83,100,000 mobile (smart) phones in use and a penetration of 62.2% in 2013, phone booth usage has declined.

Solarbox was founded by two young entrepreneurs and former students of the London School of Economics, Harold Craston and Kirsty Kenney in June 2013. It was funded by UnLtd, LSE Entrepreneurship and Siemens.

The social enterprise aims to transform “disused telephone boxes into free solar powered charging points” for smartphones. You heard correctly; it’s FREE! If you are wondering who will foot the bill for energy consumption, well remember it’s solar powered.

Solarbox’s business model revolves around partnering alongside established community (30%) and commercial-based businesses (70%) that will pay to advertise to users of the service. The ads are displayed on a tablet housed inside the booth. The founders have stated that they want to ensure advertisements are “short, fun and exciting”. Hopefully that means they are no longer than six seconds!

From a graphic designer’s perspective, I think they have a clean and simple logo that successfully communicates part of their goal. As an urban planner and entrepreneur, I am fascinated with what both Harold and Kirsty have done. In one go they have managed to promote upcycling, green technology, urban design, historical preservation, and social integration all with an old phone booth; impressive stuff.

The first solarbox was launched on October 1st, 2014 with plans to introduce another 10 throughout the London streets by the end of 2015. Solarbox will open every day of the year between the hours of 5:30am to 11:30pm. Of course, all the liability for charging your smartphone is on you if it gets damaged or stolen, so safety first.

Here’s a feature on the solarbox with its co-founders:

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James Dyson: His Inventions Have Never “Sucked”!

When you think of the word innovation, which entrepreneur comes to mind? Was one of those names Steve Jobs? Maybe even Richard Branson or hot-shot modern day “Iron Man”, Elon Musk? But there’s one man who is a leader in innovation and who in my opinion doesn’t quite get the recognition he deserves.

Sir James Dyson is a British inventor, engineer, designer, and business leader and perhaps best known for his vacuums that it “will never lose suction” and his bladeless fan under his private company, Dyson Limited (founded in 1993). The mere thought of both inventions is enough to end this blog at this line. There are very few entrepreneurs and industry leaders cooler than Dyson.

The Ballbarrow in what looks like a '70s advertisement
The Ballbarrow in what looks like a ’70s advertisement

In his early years he realised how everyday problems could be solved by coming up with better and more practical solutions. Take for instance his “ballbarrow” invented in 1974, after watching a traditional wheelbarrow get stuck in muddy ground. Why didn’t I think of that?! It was pure genius. Such a “simple” idea, but yet it required complex thinking.

Dyson is renowned for being meticulous,  he once created a total of 5,127 prototypes for what later became the DC01, his first machine, the vacuum cleaner, developed in a workshop behind his house between 1979 and 1984. You do the math on the annual average of prototypes!

Most recently, Dyson released its Dyson 360 Eye, a robot vacuum cleaner capable of cleaning any space effectively and efficiently by tracking its own movements from where its been to where its going next.

I was good just drying my hands in a public restroom with the hot air from those hand-dryers and I accepted that as the norm. Then Dyson creates the Airblade! Just like that, everything else seems mediocre. That’s what I admire most about James Dyson — he has a way of creating solutions to everyday problems. Like he once said, “you have to distinguish between what people say they want now and what people might want when they see what it can do”.

I’ll say this much, I couldn’t imagine living in a world without bagless vacuum cleaners.