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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