We rip on AT&T around here a bit. OK, a lot. But far be it from us not to acknowledge when a company has a good idea, and in fact, AT&T’s new Street Charge initiative is pretty close to brilliant.
If you’ve ever had your phone die while you were out, the idea of being able to just walk up to a station, plug it in, and get some juice is spectacular. Yet it doesn’t really exist. You either need to have a charger on you and hope a Starbucks is nearby, or you’re screwed until you get home. AT&T’s Street Charge systems fix this problem in a simple and elegant way.
Essentially, all a Street Charge station really is is some solar panels on a pole with batteries and a multitude of connectors. But that’s all it needs to be:
Packed to the gills with batteries, one station is designed to provide three to four days of continuous charging if holding a full charge. While the station can still absorb ultraviolet rays during cloudy or even rainy days, it can get fully charged up after four hours in direct sunlight.
It doesn’t need to be connected to the city’s power grid; the solar panels take care of all of that. There’s no infrastructure involved. You can charge anything with a USB port or an iPhone connector. It doesn’t cost anybody any tax money and by all accounts it barely costs AT&T anything; the systems were developed as part of the company’s Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. It’s just AT&T, sinking a pole into the ground, and making life a lot easier for everybody.
Currently the program is being tested in New York City, but if it works out well, AT&T may take it to other cities by year’s end. We hope it expands fast; it’s hard to think of a place where this wouldn’t be welcome.