SFA in The Wall Street Journal

The next generation with PowerMe at Future Street.

See a pdf of the Wall Street Journal article, ‘There Are Park Benches. And Then There Are Smart Park Benches.’

Street Furniture Australia’s new Aria Smart Bench with PowerMe™ Table is featured in The Wall Street Journal as part of an article on the Smart Social Spaces project.

Georges River Council with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) will investigate how data collected by smart furniture and sensors can be used for urban management and the local community.

New furniture including Aria and PowerMe has been installed at two locations in Georges River: a plaza, Memorial Square in Hurstville, and two sites in a suburban green space, Olds Park in Penshurst.

UNSW will collect the data and work with Georges River Council on responsive asset management. Street Furniture Australia is the industry partner for this project.

Wall Street Journal, Street Furniture Australia article-sc

Excerpt from the article, written by Mike Cherney:

SYDNEY—The bench in your local park may soon know that you’re sitting on it.

“Smart” benches are popping up in cities and suburbs around the world. In a Sydney suburb, a town is about to install park benches and tables with sensors that track when and how often residents are using them. Town officials say the data will tell them whether a bench or table isn’t being used, or is broken, thus helping them redesign public spaces and speed up repairs.

The nearly $500,000 trial, funded in part by an Australian government grant, is one of many projects in different countries deploying smart furniture in parks and public spaces. A U.S.-based company, Changing Environments Inc., offers a solar-powered bench that comes with phone chargers and sensors that measure nearby activity. A British company, Strawberry Energy, has installed similar benches around London.

Future cities will use sensors on everything from parking spaces to water meters to “crunch numbers on big items like utility consumption, traffic, public transport, power use,” says Christian Tietz, senior lecturer in industrial design at the University of New South Wales, and co-leader of the Sydney suburb trial. “We don’t want to look at the big stuff. We want to look at microenvironments.”

In the past, to measure how many people use a particular area of a park, officials have typically relied on surveys or dispatched observers—methods that are time-consuming and expensive. In contrast, the sensors will use mobile networks to automatically send data to park managers in real time.

The Sydney suburb’s local government, the Georges River Council, will test two types of sensors supplied by a private company, Street Furniture Australia: One type of sensor will count foot traffic using Wi-Fi to determine how many devices are in the area; the other will measure vibrations on a bench caused when someone sits on it or moves it.

Both methods have their advantages. Counting devices in an area will miss children or anyone else not carrying a smartphone or tablet. But the vibration sensor, affixed under a bench, will register not just if someone sits on it but also if a heavy bag is set down on it. Researchers plan to gather data for six months.

Other items in the trial include internet-connected trash bins, which will signal when they are full and if there is a fire inside, and a bench and table that will include phone-charging and power outlets.

“It’s about making public spaces more enjoyable for people and communities,” says June Lee Boxsell, design and marketing manager at Street Furniture Australia. “You could have an outdoor meeting room where business people come out of their offices and have a chat,” she says.

Kevin Greene, mayor of the municipality, says the local government has a general idea of how many people use its public spaces, but it’s “based on anecdotal evidence rather than good statistical data.” Mr. Greene says he would like to use the technology in other public areas when this trial is complete.

He says the data collected won’t identify individuals, just raw numbers, so residents shouldn’t be concerned about privacy.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s me, you or Billy Bob sitting on the seat,” he says. “There’s no private details involved in this.”

See a pdf of the Wall Street Journal article, ‘There Are Park Benches. And Then There Are Smart Park Benches.’

You can also read an ABC Radio Drive interview transcript between Richard Glover, Georges River Council Mayor Kevin Greene and UNSW’s Dr Nancy Marshall.


Keep up with the news by joining StreetChat, our monthly e-newsletter. Join our Build Aria app competition for your chance to Win a Drone!

make an enquiry

Opening hours are from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

enquire now

recent news

SFA Wins First Smart Cities Award

Street Furniture Australia is honoured to be named winner of the Built Environment category at the inaugural Australian Smart Cities Awards in October 2018. These are the country’s first awards recognising leadership, best practice and action to advance the smart cities movement, evaluated by a seven-person jury chaired by David Singleton AM. The winners were announced at Smart Cities Week in Sydney, organised by the Smart Cities Council Australia New Zealand. Street Furniture Australia received the Built Environment award for #BackyardExperiment, an eight-day activation of Garema Place, Canberra, which took place in October 2016. It was a small project that made a big impact. By adopting a people-first approach and quantifying the impact of design, the method of activation became an international case study. #BackyardExperiment was one of Australia’s first …

  • 15 nov 2018
read more

Win A Drone Competition

As only around ten people have entered so far, we have extended the deadline till December 3rd 2018. To celebrate the launch of our first app, we are giving away a DJI Spark Drone valued at $630. This hi-tech drone will take beautiful footage of your projects in style. The app, called Build ARIA uses photorealistic Augmented Reality technology to visualise your furniture creation in your office or at the actual project location. To enter, simply download the app and publish your Aria on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #BuildARIA. Video: How to Win A Drone To get the app, search for Build ARIA in the App Store for iPhone and iPad, or scan this QR code: DJI Spark is a mini drone with intelligent flight control options that will help you film and show …

  • 17 sep 2018
read more

Augmented Reality is Here

What if you could stand onsite at your next project and explore how furniture could be placed, with your phone? A new way to envision and experiment with configuring the Aria Seating System – in situ or from your office – is here, with the Street Furniture Australia Build ARIA app now available in the App Store for iPhone and iPad. Watch the step-by-step guide on how to use the app: To access, search for Build ARIA in the app store, or scan this QR code: The app aims to make specifying and sharing concepts easier and more enjoyable, says Design and Marketing Manager June Lee Boxsell. The latest Augmented Reality (AR), technology is now capable of realistic and accurate virtual renderings that spring to life on your phone or tablet. “When we saw the first …

  • 17 sep 2018
read more

related news

SFA in Company Director Magazine

See a pdf of the Company Director article, ‘This urban space designer attributes 3 factors to its 30-year success’. The July 2018 issue of Company Director Magazine features an interview with Street Furniture Australia founders Bill Morrison and Darrel Conybeare. The article looks at Street Furniture Australia’s continuous development and innovation over our 30-year history and today with smart city projects and additive manufacturing. The digital version begins, “This urban space designer attributes three factors to its 30-year success: keep your focus on the customer, make the most of data and commit to R&D.” The magazine is published by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. ‘Word on the Street’ article in the print edition of Company Director Magazine, published July 2018.   See a pdf of the Company Director article, ‘This urban space designer attributes …

  • 16 jul 2018
read more

Smart Furniture Project Launches with Georges River Council

Georges River Council with University of New South Wales (UNSW) has launched the Smart Social Spaces Project, an investigation into smart furniture, communities and urban management. Street Furniture Australia is the industry partner for this project. The $658,000 project will see smart furniture installed in a busy plaza, Memorial Square in Hurstville, and a green community space, Olds Park in Penhurst. Sensors on the furniture will monitor how the space is used, providing data on how it may better serve the community. The project is an opportunity, says Georges River Council Mayor Kevin Greene, to lead the exploration of smart public spaces that directly benefit the community. “Council is keen to explore the role technology can play in connecting the community to public spaces, how it can help us to …

  • 14 mar 2018
read more

Smart Social Spaces on Radio

ABC Radio Sydney’s Richard Glover chats with Georges River Council Mayor Kevin Greene and Dr Nancy Marshall from UNSW about the Smart Social Spaces project. The following is a transcript of the program, which aired on April 10, 2018. You can also listen to the conversation on the ABC Radio Canberra website, at 2:10:40. RG. A new policy of embedding sensors in everything from barbeques to park benches. Fans say it helps Councils know what’s needed, but how do the public feel? How often does someone sit on the bench in your local park? How often is the playground equipment used? How often does a family turn up and use the barbeque to have a picnic on a Saturday afternoon? The Georges River Council is working to find out the answer …

  • 13 apr 2018
read more