London is a very exciting city for new technology. After researching digital and technical places worth visiting, Bird Street came up as ‘The new eco-friendly smart street in London’. It claims to have tiles that generate energy, a bench that surrounds you with clean air and pop-up shops that showcase the future of technology in retail. Sounds like it’s worth checking out, right?
Arriving at Bird Street, it was not what I had envisioned, I had expected it to be longer and more like a real street, instead of a sort of a very wide alleyway. Apart from this, I thought the ‘energy generating tiles’ would run across the whole length and that the whole area would be covered with these tiles. This was not the case, with only a small strip in the middle of the street being lined with the tiles designed by Pavegen. When walking on the tiles during the day, the energy that you generate makes the sound of birds chirping and at night it will make the street lights ignite.
Pavegen is a technology developed in 2009 and has since been improved. It was installed for periods of time in several locations in London, such as Heathrow, Canary Wharf and Harrods. The technology was primarily created to generate electricity by stepping on the tiles. To further the product, Pavegen also created an app for customer loyalty rewards. The more a customer walks on the Pavegen tiles in a shop, the more reward points awarded, which can translate into discounts or other offers. Pavegen also provide shops with a heat mapping, revealing exactly where customers walk most, the idea being that retailers can use this to their advantage by placing advertisements, popular items or promotions in these places as a way to generate more awareness for certain products and thus more sales.
Another interesting feature of Bird Street was the bench that emits fresh air, I sat on there for a few minutes observing the people in the street (not very many admittedly). This could be because I was there on a Friday at 11 am, but when I walked past there on a busy Saturday afternoon the street still wasn’t what I would call packed. As for the bench itself, other than the fact that the supposedly cleaner air that came out of it was very cold, I did not notice anything different from the ‘normal’ air anywhere else. I’d say this bench was a tad gimmicky!
Finally, the cool technical pop up shops…….. They were closed.
The overall experience of Bird Street was not really what I had expected. I had imagined a bigger street and cool technological pop-up shops. This however, was not the case. Despite that, I became quite interested in the Pavegen technology and what it may mean for the future. After doing some more research, I found that the technology itself and the idea behind it are quite fascinating, at this stage however, Pavegen is not really as useful as it sounds. The tiles generate only 0.002 watt hours per step and one person could not generate more than 28 watts, in a day if even that (Powering an average lightbulb for about 20 mins). This then means that 5000 people are needed to walk on the tiles for 4 hours a day in order to accommodate the energy used per day by one single human. A good start, but in order to make a real difference, Pavegen will have to be able to scale up massively.
Isabella is interning at Aqueduct in the marketing department until January. Over the next few months she will be writing reviews on everything from the latest tech to marketing pop-ups.