Solar panel powered-palm tree inspired Wi-Fi stations have become the latest addition to the smart city technology of Dubai.
Umm Suqeim Beach and Za’abeel Park are the first two locations for the Smart Palms which provide free wireless internet access. They also give information on the weather, local attractions and have facilities for charging up mobile devices.
The initiative - part of the UAE Cabinet Year of Innovation project - has been jointly put together by Dubai Municipality, Smart Palm creators D Idea Media, Du, Sun Tab Solar Energy and Promo Tech Gulf Industry.
Hussain Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said: "Under the guidance of our leaders, Dubai has developed an international reputation as a place for technology and innovation. Through Smart Palm, the public will be able to benefit from free direct access to the Internet while providing valuable public information covering a range of topics including weather forecasts and orientation guides.”
He added "most importantly, these structures are entirely self-sufficient thanks to their mono crystal solar panels, which provide up to 21 percent efficiency."
The Smart Palm’s fronds are topped with photovoltaic panels which take in and store energy from the sun during the day. As well as powering its facilities each palm lights up at night. The stations runs entirely on solar power and offers high-speed Wi-Fi up to a range of 53 meters, supporting up to 50 users at a time. It also has phone and tablet charging points offering two-and-a-half times faster charging speeds than a regular plug.
Two screens on each palm offer weather details, local news, a navigation application, general Dubai information — and even a selfie camera. Other venues soon be included in the scheme include Dubai Creek Park, Al Mamzar Park and Al Barsha Pond Park.
D Idea Media said: “The Smart Palm Project is an iconic fusion of easy access information, accessible Wi-Fi and green technology.
“In order to achieve the idea behind the project, we designed and developed a product that couldn’t be realized without a unique invention process which brought together multiple disciplines including industrial design, custom built hardware solutions, software engineering and precise construction work.”
Tourists said using the “trunk” of the Smart Palm to access information was an “only in Dubai” experience. “Palm trees with info-screens, that’s really cool” said Jason Hurst who is visiting the city from Boston USA. “And you can take a selfie and send it home.”
Other cities have also ventured into the realm of public solar-energy charging stations. In 2013, New York City collaborated with AT&T to install 25 free, solar-powered charging poles around the city, while San Francisco now has its own solar energy stations.