I am the council officer working with Strawberry Energy on the smart benches.
It has been very interesting to see the views set out here and I welcome the various suggestions. Cllr Hilton identified a number of questions raised and I will attempt to answer them - apologies in advance if I miss anything out, feel free to come back to me.
Data security / misuse
The chargers on the benches only provide power and cannot carry data.
The bench collects data on the number and duration of charges but no personal data is collected that can relate to this.
To access the wifi users are asked to provide some personal data including name, email and age range. Strawberry Energy’s website sets out the terms under which this data is collected. This commits Strawberry Energy to the use of data in line with the Data Protection Act 1998 and that they will not sell or share personally identifiable information with third parties.
What happens if the benches become obsolete?
This is some information Strawberry Energy has given me:
“The Smart Benches are conceived as upgradable smart platforms. We can easily upgrade it with new features and technologies and can change the hardware to respond to changing technology or demand from consumers.”
How are the benches maintained. And what happens if the funder goes bankrupt?
The benches are maintained for free under the terms of a wayleave agreement covering 10 years that grants permission for the benches to be installed on Council land.
If the company goes bankrupt then there is a risk that future maintenance or removal of the benches falls to the Council. The only no-risk approach is not to have any benches.
What is the value of the benches?
This is commercially confidential, but my understanding is that similar designs have been purchased for around £6,000.
Is there a problem cleaning underneath the benches?
Strawberry Energy acknowledge that there have been occasions when the existing benches have had debris trapped underneath them and are taking steps to amend their regular maintenance to address this. They note that when their maintenance crew clean the bench they also clean the surrounding area and will take particular attention to the space beneath the benches.
A number of people have raised concerns that the benches could become targets for phone thefts. Given the widespread use of mobile devices in public places the installation of benches may not increase crimes of this type, although I recognise that they could become a focus for this. We are monitoring the use of the existing benches and thankfully so far no incidents have been reported. Again the only no-risk approach is not to have any benches.
I hope this covers points that people have raised and sorry for the lengthy post. As Cllr Hilton has said Strawberry Energy has proposed a number of locations in Forest Hill. These are currently being reviewed by service teams in the council to identify any potential issues and we will then seek wider views by placing a notice in each location and asking local groups such as the local assembly for input. Happy to flag up on here when we are moving forward on this.
As I am not too sure whether people automatically see posts they have expressed a view on I thought it might be helpful if I tag people who have commented on the issues above (apologies if this is not helpful).
@RachaelDunlop @Pauline @starman @Wynell @anon5422159 @Londondrz @MajaHilton
Also forgive my selection of username, I can assure you my powers are very limited.