Solar kiosks soak up Florida sun

 
Jan. 23, 2013 | by Natalie Gagliordi

The Sunshine State's abundant natural resource is now powering a wayfinding kiosk deployed at the University of Florida. With the help of strategically placed solar farms around campus and the Irish company EcoTech Computers, a solar-powered touchscreen kiosk is reducing UF's carbon footprint while assisting students and visitors outside of the school's college of engineering.

The Eco solar kiosk is a self-contained system that draws its power requirements directly from a solar array and stores the collected energy in its 135AH deep cycle battery bank, allowing kiosk usability even in times of little to no sun exposure. Even the kiosk's fanless Intel Atom N270 processor and 21-inch LED high contrast monitor operate without the need for a traditional power supply.

The university gathers information from each solar farm and displays it directly on the kiosk, refreshing it every 15 minutes. The kiosk also provides wayfinding to each of the solar farms, along with access to the university's website.

The kiosk deployment was part of solar array project at the university, said UF's physical plant department director, John Lawson, and is the first of its kind on the campus. To date, Lawson said that UF utilizes 185 kW worth of solar on campus, with another project in the works to add an additional 100 kW.

"In the future we may add more kiosks, but we are still gauging the reaction," he said. "So far it has been positive as far as the user interface and not adding any burden on the system."

Lawson explained that the project was an attempt to communicate with the local public, to provide information on how much energy the project produced and to offer more education on solar power.

"We searched the Web and as soon as we came across [EcoTech] it was the solution," Lawson said. "It met our needs of not requiring power and offering weather proofing. On the second note, it turned out to be a great way for wayfinding."

Peter McManus, owner and director of EcoTech Computers, said it was "refreshing to see an infrastructure like [UF] embracing new technology in the green kiosk sector."

The first Eco Kiosk was installed in July 2010, at the entrance to Western Europe's largest Norman castle, Trim Castle in Ireland. It provides 60,000 annual visitors with information about the castle and its surrounding areas.

Last year EcoTech partnered with Zivelo, an American kiosk manufacturing company, to distribute the Earth-friendly devices in the U.S. Zivelo CEO Ziver Birg said at the time of the partnership announcement that EcoTech's kiosks were at the "apex of green self-service technology, with each deployed terminal saving an average of 9.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year."

The bulk of EcoTech's deplyments remain close to its headquarters in Ireland, but McManus expressed confidence in his product's ability to crack the increasingly green American market.

"We are just touching on the U.S. market," McManus said, "but the feedback I received when I went over to UF for the installation has been fantastic. The Gainesville tourist office expressed an interest in installing solar kiosks for visitors, as well as a utility company looking to deploy solar kiosks to provide information for renewable energy to schools. I think the U.S. market is willing to accept the use of solar kiosks as a solution to installation and running costs, as well as for reduction in carbon emissions."

Read more about outdoor kiosks.


Topics: Hardware , Interactive / Touchscreen , Kiosk Design , Kiosks , Outdoor Kiosks , Wayfinding / Information


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