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As invaluable as solar energy is from an electricity, financial and environmental perspective, it is starting to become clear that its full power lies in how it can help us work, socialize and live in far more convenient ways, sustainably. In a sense, therefore, the spread of solar energy can also be a beneficial way to help us stay connected and enjoy other social amenities.
Given the prevailing ‘always switched on’ lifestyle that most of live these days, with our mobile phones and other portable devices always at the ready, standalone solar charging stations can be a great enabler to allow us to live that life without the problem of running out of power for those devices.
A Central Issue for All Town Center Business Leaders
Imagine you’re one of the leaders of your Chamber of Commerce, where you’ve got a central role in stimulating business in the middle of your city or town, and you’ve just received the following thorny challenge from a delegation of local business owners: find a new, innovative way to divert shoppers away from ‘edge of town’ shopping malls and back into the center of town.
And whatever you do, they say, don’t just resort to ad hoc special promotions, because, as they explain, the public gets event fatigue after a while. No, these business leaders say, we need something that makes our city or town center inherently more attractive on an ongoing basis.
Of course, whatever you come up with has to make financial sense. If it does, as business leaders, we may even be open to paying for it, or at least, paying a share of the costs. But if we do, we need some way to link this solution back to our individual businesses.
So let’s review what we’ve got. You’re being asked to somehow do something to reverse a trend that has been ongoing (many would say irreversibly entrenched) for decades, i.e. the exodus of shoppers from town and city centers to the perceived improved convenience of out of town shopping malls. And your business leader friends aren’t interested in what they would see as ‘yet another’ one-off promotion (“How many Oktoberfests can we have in one year, anyway?”)
- Image Source: http://sol-energy.at/
So almost by definition, that rules out events as the solution these business owners are seeking. (And anyway, you know from experience that as powerful as local events can be, they are expensive, time consuming and stressful to plan and run. Plus, it’s really challenging getting sufficient buy-in and energetic participation from enough businesses.) So the ideal solution is something permanent, something that draws people into town.
In the old days, i.e. from the Middle Ages up until say the 1950’s, most villages had one feature that proved an irresistible draw for people living not only within the village or town, but also for miles around: the local town square. Typically, the town square had a water well, which was a natural and powerful draw for visitors and locals. And overall, the square was otherwise set up deliberately to encourage people to congregate, mingle and catch up on local news and gossip there. And last but far from least, it was where the young (and perhaps not-so-young) would show up to look for potential romance.
Of course, this is where business was conducted also, or very nearby. So the bottom line was that no matter if the rest of the town was quiet, the town square was the place that could be relied on to always have the most activity and energy, with few exceptions. And if you needed to find someone to give advice or otherwise provide help, that was a great place to start. In short, it was where you went to do business, see others and be seen, and to borrow a modern term, ‘plug in’ to local life.
So whatever your proposed solution is for your local business leaders, the method of getting shoppers to return to the town centers as a matter of habit (rather than just in response to one-off events) would probably do best if it could somehow mimic the attractions of a town center of old. But we have one big problem: the water well is no longer a big enough reason to show up. And more broadly, everyone is so busy these days, or they’re glued to their mobiles and many of them have their headphones on most of the time, so they’re clearly not up for socializing.
Hang on a minute; what about that idea of ‘plugging in’? Nowadays, we almost all live a lifestyle that’s ‘always on, always plugged in’, that is, our mobiles are always on and with us, and we’re almost always connected or available to our friends and other connections. Putting to one side the merits of this lifestyle, that’s the reality for most.
Who Really Ever Switches Off These Days?
- Image Source: http://sol-energy.at/
As a consequence of this digital lifestyle, we are in constant need of a ready electricity to top up or recharge our mobile phones and other portable devices. Therefore, as big a draw as free wifi is, anywhere that offers a place to recharge our devices is providing a service that is potentially even more valuable than free wifi, certainly when your mobile battery is running out of juice and your phone is about to go flat.
The problem is, out in public, it can be really hard to find a place to top up or recharge your mobile, especially when there are a lot of other people around (just try this at a busy airport). And rather like free wifi, the businesses like coffee shops who offer it find that it can be a mixed bag: yes, it brings in customers, but some of them stay there for hours without freeing up the seat for someone else. What if there was a much more sizeable supply of charging points in town and city centers? And what if those charging stations also had a social function?
Imagine how relieved people would be, knowing they could just step over to the convenient charging station in the middle of the pedestrian precinct for a quick mobile top-up, just outside the shop where their partner was browsing? Or on your way to meet friends, when you suddenly discover that your mobile battery is about to die and you need to keep reading that Google map? Or what if your ebike needs a vital recharge on your way home? Or when you’re on your way home at night and you need to let your loved ones know you’re safe but your phone is dangerously low on charge?
It quickly becomes apparent that such a network of charging stations could be highly valuable, and could be a major attraction for people in a variety of settings. These charging stations could thus be socially as well as commercially valuable, provide a priceless safety function by enabling people to stay in touch with their loved ones, and enhance the aesthetic appeal of your city or town.
Well, Here’s the Good News
Thanks to recent innovations in the application of solar power, there are now standalone solar charging stations that do provide these features:
- Simple, convenient and highly affordable
- Generates solar power year-round, and stores it in an integral battery, so the power is also available at night
- Has a built-in LCD screen so that public service or marketing messages can be displayed
Upon discovering this, you would now be able to deliver some very exciting news to your business leader Chamber of Commerce members. This type of solution is highly attractive, utterly practical and delivers a strong return financially. As a result, the odds are pretty high that they will not only be very pleased, they will quite likely want to know how they can put such stations to use for their own businesses. And that would be a great win-win all around…
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