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Smart Benches

Smart Benches


About this initiative

MKTG wanted to pioneer London’s first city-wide Smart-City initiative with their roll-out of 10 Smart Benches this year. The solar-powered-benches provide smart-device charging ports and free Wi-Fi access, while collecting environmental data (air and noise pollution levels), which is fed back to local authorities. They also brought in Cancer Research UK as a partner on the project. 

In the most recent reports from the United Nations, there were 13 million premature deaths in 2015 as a result of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes. As part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the goal is to reduce this by a third, mostly as the result of enhanced treatment and changed behaviours.


For Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the benches were adapted to enable contactless payments to be made simply by tapping the bench with a debit card. The benches, as well as the Wi-fi landing page were rebranded with CRUK’s brand livery and call to action to donate. While Smart Benches are a permanent fixture in London, the campaign with CRUK as our launch tenant lasted for two weeks. CRUK wanted to strengthen their relationships with local government and combat negative perceptions of on street fundraising activities, by increasing brand love on World Cancer Day. A secondary objective was to find an innovative way to fundraise for the charity.

MKTG also negotiated and sourced permissions to install the benches. ECOS MAPS and ECOS PLANNER were used to identify sites of interest that indexed highly with members of the public who would be more open to embracing new technology, and had high footfall. These were cross-referenced with Cancer Research UK store locations. 10 Key sites were identified in the clients preferred boroughs of Islington and Lewisham.


After installation, MKTG evaluated public interaction with the smart benches, to prove that they could work as a media platform. This would enable corporate funding to be unlocked to fund further roll-out of the benches in a mutual exchange that would also benefit local communities. Citizen benefits include the ongoing monitoring of air quality levels (in line with the London mayor’s office stated aim of combating air pollution in the capital).

Over the campaign period, there were 3,600 Wi-Fi connections and 2,000 phone charges. Each person spent an average of 9 minutes on each bench. With 1,540 unique visitors, this shows that there are ongoing CRM opportunities, and donations from contactless tech outperformed similar applications by 15%. The smart bench campaign gained press coverage in over 40 outlines with the BBC branding it is as “the future of benches in London”. Coverage was obtained across mainstream broadcast (prime-time ITV) raising awareness of World Cancer Day.


Michael Brown, managing director at MKTG, added: "The Smart Cities economy is going to be worth an estimated £400bn by 2020, and UK industry is targeting 10% of that – which is twice the value of what the entire UK advertising sector was worth in 2016. We here at MKTG are delighted to be partnering with Strawberry Media to pioneer in this space, and as experience designers we are looking forward to further helping smart city entrepreneurs to enhance the experience of city life.”