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Sofia-based ‘Playground Energy’ Develops New Technology for Smart Urban Environment

 

The innovation allows real-time data transfer from playground facilities and outdoor gyms

The Sofia-based Playground Energy is working on a new technology that will send data on child activity on playgrounds to a server that visualizes the data directly on the location in Google Maps.

The innovation is another motive for children to play more in the open because it introduces a competitive element. For urban institutions, the new technology is another step towards building a smart urban environment. The up-to-date and completely objective information from the facilities will be accessible at any time and will facilitate urban planning and decisions on where more playgrounds or site maintenance are needed.

The new technology allows information to be sent through a built-in GSM device that requires neither batteries nor external power supply, but only the physical activity of children that playground facilities transform from kinetic energy into electrical. The innovation passed the initial tests and is to be developed in a real environment.

Playground Energy was founded in 2012 as it patented the implementation of its first innovation for Europe and the United States – a kinetic generator built in playground facilities, park equipment and outdoor fitness facilities that the company produces entirely in Bulgaria. The generator is present as an invisible addition to the design of the seat, step, or other part of the facility and transforms the physical energy into electrical energy. In turn, it can activate other installations on the playground, including light, sound, fountains, etc. For example, while a child is swinging, the swing can light up, trigger a fountain, or turn on a loudspeaker that plays a favorite song through a cell phone via a Bluetooth connection.

Six years after its establishment, the team introduced its second innovation – the use of the energy from the kinetic generator to transfer data. The innovation has been developed by an engineer from Bulgaria and does not require a mobile phone or download of a specific application and no personal data is collected. Data access is possible without registration from any device to a direct web address where data is visualized on the playground’s location in Google maps as a number of “Lumi points” (named after the flagship product of the company – the Lumi Plus spring toy).

The Lumi points aim to stimulate collective play or use of the competitive element as an additional motivation for children to play more. For example, two neighboring playgrounds can compete with each other.

Another valuable aspect of the innovation is the development and deployment of new smart urban technologies. The data delivered by each facility, regardless of its location in the city, will provide the city authorities with objective information about the play areas. The places with the highest number of Lumi points will indicate that the playgrounds in that neighborhood are too busy and the area needs additional play areas. Data will also facilitate the maintenance of municipal playgrounds as it will immediately show if a device is not sending signal and where it is located. Access to such real time data means better urban planning, faster response and reduced costs for activities for municipalities.

The next move of Playground Energy is to agree on the implementation of pilot projects to work in a real environment in 2019. The company is actively looking for institutional partners, sports organizations, private or budget educational institutions, private organizations and companies interested in building and maintaining children playgrounds and outdoor gyms for all ages.

More about Playground Energy and team contacts are available on the company’s website.

 

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More about Playground Energy

Sofia-based Playground Energy was established in 2012 with a simple but important goal – to motivate children to spend less screen time and more time in games and on playgrounds. With the use of the kinetic generator that transforms children’s physical activity into electricity, activating other fun installations on the playground, the company practically “rediscovers” the playground – the first and the oldest gaming platform.

The kinetic generator in the facilities of Playground Energy does not cause additional resistance and does not require children to make additional efforts while playing. The generator is completely safe and practically does not require any maintenance.

Six years after its founding, the company has hundreds of components and complete facilities for playgrounds sold in more than 25 countries across five continents. The facilities are in three main product categories: facilities for children (swings, spring toys, trampolines), park equipment (benches, as well as bins that are in process of development) and outdoor gym facilities.

Playground Energy has its own sales office in Australia, which is also in charge of the Asian markets. Institutions and private organizations from Western Europe are the company’s largest market. The core business model of the team is to work with partner manufacturers or companies active in playground and facility construction, to which Playground Energy provides the technology to be integrated in their models or manufactures in Bulgaria and delivers ready-made products for installation and maintenance by the ordering company.

Since its foundation, Playground Energy has attracted an investment in the amount of EUR 425 000. A total of EUR 225 000 of this amount came from the venture capital fund Eleven (through the European Investment Bank). In addition, the company also received financial support for growth of EUR 200 000 under the UniCredit Bulbank program for start-up businesses.

Awards:

Ilian Milinov, the industrial designer in the team, is a four-time winner of RedDot – the world’s most prestigious industrial design award.

Hristo Aleksiev, the company’s co-founder, won Activate tech talent day in 2014.

Over the years, Playground Energy has attracted the attention of The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and Reuters.

Furthermore, the company also won a place in the Springboard acceleration program in Cambridge, which focuses on supporting companies with Internet of things (IoT) developments.

In August this year, Playground Energy was the winner in the Smart City category in the pitching competition for Bulgarian startups organized by the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and was admitted to the five-day program of Start.up! Germany 2018 in October.

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