The blazing Dubaian sun, enemy of moisture, comfort, and energy-sucking A/C units, now powers the city's public spaces in nature-inspired style. A series of solar-powered "Smart Palms" have cropped up in parks and beaches, bringing with them an oasis of free public Wi-Fi and charging stations—it's basically like finding an oasis when your phone dies in the middle of a night out.
The smart tree idea was planted by entrepreneur Viktor Nelepa and designer Petar Lakovic, whose comapny D Idea Media developed the invention with the intention of getting kids to stay outside using things kids ostensibly love: nature motifs, a selfie camera, and—we cant reiterate this enough—FREE WI-FI. The Smart Palms got off the ground by taking advantage of Dubai's "Smart City" initiative, which encourages innovators to find solutions to the many problems with building a technocratic supercity in the middle of the desert.
"We had to come up with materials which are resistant to the extreme weather conditions in Dubai during the summer time, from sun to humidity to salt," Nelepa tells The Creators Project, adding that the design will be, "maintanence-free for years." He has plans to build 103 more smart palms in Dubai by 2016, and then take them all over the region and beyond. "I made sure my patent covered the USA as well, and I did that with the intention of seeing our Smart Palm spread throughout that country too."
It's worth noting that, unlike other solar-powered tech like Pauline van Dongen's wearable solar clothes or the Drzach and Suchy's own Solar Palm design, the Smart Palms also come with CCTV cameras and real-time analysis of the data they produce, so they're by no means immune from the darker side of Big Data and the Internet of Things. The trade-off is for a public, eco-friendly space, with free internet access.
The Smart Palm absorbs roughly half an American household's electricity usage (15 kWh per day), and can store the power to stay running at night. The first two Smart Palms launched in April, but over 100 more are planned for streets, beaches, and parks throughout Dubai—including an adorable-sounding line of Baby Palms, and Mini Palms—and may very well appear in neighborhood parks soon.
For more information, visit the official Solar Palm website.