Solar-powered furniture offers off-grid connection

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From The Lead

Bronte Modra, the director of Adelaide-based modular engineering company Specialised Solutions, created the Sedi range of park benches, parklets and bus stops in February this year.

The smart shelters are built from sustainable timber and steel and have solar-powered lighting, integrated charging ports, WIFI and informational screens that all run off a battery.

Modra said he created Sedi to fill a large hole in the Australian manufacturing market created by the burgeoning smart city movement.

“People want to be connected to the furniture and to the web, and the greater society,” said Modra.

“Everyone talks about smart cities but no one is really delivering a piece of smart furniture here.

“We just saw a real need and something that we could make out of our existing facility.”

The Sedi office is located at the Tonsley innovation district alongside technology companies such as SAGE Automation, which, together with JPE Design Studio, helped develop the furniture.

Modra decided to make the units “off-grid” to attract buyers who couldn’t connect to a power source.

“It being solar-powered gives us a lot more flexibility to where the Sedi is placed,” he said.

“With Sedi we can go to regional, remote locations and open up connectivity there.

“It’s also cost-saving measure for councils to install in the park [as] service connections are fairly expensive.”

Modra said they weren’t “reinventing the wheel” with the furniture’s individual technological features, however these add-ons were compounded to develop a new brand of smart furniture fit for a multitude of environments.

“We would like to see them absolutely everywhere: the typical bus stops on your streets, your typical parks, council parks and reserves,” he said.

“But we’re really trying to tap into is regional Australia.

“So, opening up tourism locations to maybe national parks, maybe more locations where by putting in a WIFI system gives tourists access.

“We would be looking to connect directly with councils for this.”

The Sedi shelters will sell for around $10,000 each, depending on the specific configuration ordered by the client.

Many of the structures are now undergoing three-month trials at various locations and will also be featured at an open day at Flinders University.

“We were hoping that once the students got on them, they (the university) would see the use that it makes it hard for them to remove the structures,” Modra said.

Modra is also in the process of opening a Queensland office because he sees the state as a “huge potential market” for the business.

“Brisbane city council is the biggest city council in Australia, and I feel that if we can crack Brisbane and the Gold Coast and those sorts of areas, it would give us a huge market moving forwards.”

The company also plans on exporting internationally to European and is in the process of developing more furniture.

“We’re also getting into off-grid accommodation huts and units, which follows your glamping tiny-house type theme, smaller accommodation pods,” Modra said.

“We really just want to keep developing the smart features and what we can add onto the structures and see how we can improve the interaction between users and what smart cities are all about.”

This article was originally published in The Lead.