The worst of Hurricane Sandy is behind us, but the aftermath is still affecting many New Yorkers. With half a million residents still without power since the hurricane hit on Monday, many people are in Manhattan are travelling to areas of the city lucky enough to have electricity to seek power sources in order to charge their devices. For those unable to travel, like people in New Jersey and Staten Island, Verizon also rolled out mobile device charging stations.
Brightbox, an NYC-based startup that creates mobile charging stations, realized that people in the city without power needed a way to charge their phones. Though a brightbox charging station usually charges users a fee between $2 to $4 per use, the company brought three of its units outside the Ace Hotel on 29th street in Manhattan, free of charge. Needless to say, people checking out the unusual-looking devices began juicing up their phones and taking over the sidewalk in front of the hotel’s Stumptown coffee shop.
Adam Johnson, co-founder of brightbox, said he realized people needed his product when he walked into his office the day after the hurricane hit and saw people in the lobby charging their phones. That day, Johnson set up five of his mobile units in front of the Ace Hotel, enough space to charge 60 phones, and continued to return each day after. We checked out the brightbox setup today, the fourth day of the charging pop-up, and saw people who had come back multiple times that week. Johnson said the Ace Hotel station has charged more than a thousand phones in the past few days.
One man, Nestor Munoz and his aptly named dog Sandy, is one of those returning visitors. Munoz, who lives in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, an area hit hard by the storm, said he came to the area a few days ago to use the outlets on an outside wall at the restaurant next to the hotel. The restaurant blocked off the outlets, but, fortunately, Munoz noticed the brightbox stations. Munoz has been also been visiting hotel lobbies to charge, which he says many people are doing in this time of need.
Though brightbox was able to serve this area of the city, many other restaurants and bars with power and Wi-Fi are offering their business to the people who need it. We passed one restaurant that set up multiple power strips and surge units around the restaurant for people to charge their devices while grabbing a bite. One table of young professionals whose office lost power during the storm had been there for most of the day working on their laptops. The hostess told us that the restaurant is happy to help in any way, even if the customer just buys one drink and uses the Wi-Fi and power for the rest of the day.
As for brightbox, users can find the mobile charging stations in bars in the Tri-State area. Available in 50 locations now, the company is expanding and will be adding a hundred more by the end of the year to other hospitality businesses. To use the station, a user swipes his or her credit card, which acts as a key. The box opens, they connect their phone – brightbox has micro-USB, iPhone, and iPhone 5 chargers – and then the door closes, keeping the phone safe for as long as the user wants to keep it in there. To retrieve the phone, the user simply swipes the credit card, and the door opens.
Thankfully, much of Manhattan is said to regain power by late tonight, but brightbox said it’ll remain posted in front of Stumptown until power is restored. The stations are usually set up between 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Curious about how brightbox works? Ryan Johnson, brightbox ambassador, explains in the video below.