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Earthquake-proof, public smartphone solar charging stations are being built in Tokyo

The boring, one-function streetlight is slowly being reinvented. Free, solar powered smartphone recharging stations that double as streetlights are appearing around the world, with Tokyo the latest to announce a pilot scheme. However, while they’ll help us all out in an everyday battery-related emergency, these new Tokyo versions also have a more serious purpose.

Tokyo City ChargeThe Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s eco-friendly solution to this problem of ensuring our phones are powered up when we need them consists of LED street lights with solar panels, that are also used to also charge up a phone. It’s part of a new initiative called City Charge, that while great news for smartphone owners, also has a role to play in the event of a city-wide disaster.

Related: Japan is turning its disused golf courses into huge solar power farms

The solar charging stations are designed and built to withstand earthquakes, and will function as emergency power should a quake knock out primary sources of electricity. Each stand has a simple, easy-to-understand sign to make the charging spot recognizable, and are made to accommodate any mobile device — suggesting both microUSB and Lightning connectors will be provided. The stations are also weather proof, and function day or night.

Recharging speed is expected to be equivalent to that seen using a normal wall charger, but a spokesperson for the Tokyo Environmental Public Service Corporation told Japan Times that the stations will probably only end up being used for 10 to 20 minutes maximum. It’s not stated how many cables will be available for use.

Initially, two stations will be made to test the idea, and will be built by October at the latest. Should the scheme prove successful, a wider launch will go ahead. The Tokyo government has worked with Sharp to build the recharging stations, and it follows similar tests elsewhere in the world.