Innovation Focus #1: Isabelo™ launches its second smart bench in the Cape Town CBD
The Isabelo™ Smart Bench is a stand-alone, entirely solar-powered free Wi-Fi hotspot for public use complete with USB charging points, night lighting and easy seating. This is the second Isabelo™ Smart Bench to be installed in South Africa, the first was installed in Braamfontein, Johannesburg in 2015.
The Isabelo™ Smart Bench was conceptualised by Louise Meek while she was studying her Masters’ Degree in Urban Infrastructure Design and Management at UCT.
She says: “The product name Isabelo™ is derived from the Zulu word “to share” and the smart bench is all about sharing: Sharing a seat. Sharing public spaces. And sharing content online. What we love about it is that people can sit down, charge up and freely access information and share ideas online,”
Adriaan Hugo, lead Industrial Designer of the Isabelo™ Smart Bench and co-founder of the award winning Johannesburg design company Dokter and Misses sees the bench as a ground breaking ‘plug and play solution for public spaces.’
“It is a first for Africa. These different technologies have been available on our continent for some time and Isabelo™ brings them all together into one incredible user-friendly Smart Bench,” said Hugo.
Nic Rosslee from our IP Commercialisation Team caught up with Louise who had the following to say:
Nic: What problem is Isabelo trying to solve?
Louise: Isabelo™ aims to reduce the digital divide in African cities and create inclusive, vibrant public spaces where everyone feels welcome to sit down and get connected. Off the Wi-Fi hotspot we also conduct market research for clients who are looking for immediate response digital market research.
Nic: What have been the biggest challenges/frustrations?
Louise: Our biggest challenge is that our product is capital intensive and requires a lot of cash upfront in order to ensure smooth production and installation. We are currently in a capital raising process now which should secure the roll out of 50 new smart benches across South Africa – but the process is slow and means we aren’t moving as fast as we would like to.
Nic: Who do you look to for inspiration?
Louise: Inspiration comes in many forms. Seeing free Wi-Fi in a park in a neighbourhood called Miraflores in Lima, Peru in 2012 gave me inspiration to take this sort of thinking back to South Africa and apply it in a way that would redefine our public spaces in our cities. Of course, seeing young entrepreneurs like myself scaling their businesses from startups to financially stable businesses is also incredibly inspiring and gives me hope that we can do the same with Isabelo. Friends and family continue to support and inspire me through this roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship!
Adams & Adams are delighted to be involved with this project.
Visit www.isabelo.co for more information.