The Shared Economy: Access Beats Ownership

Charging anxiety is something we can all relate to. In fact, according to multiple surveys, 9 out of ten of us experience ‘low battery anxiety’ when it comes to our phones. And the research around this topic reveals some interesting behaviors around charging anxiety: on average, people own three or more smartphone charging cables, they will secretly borrow someone else’s charger, they will order something in a bar or restaurant just to use a power outlet, one in three will skip the gym if it means they would have to forego charging their phone, and nearly half of us have gotten into an argument with a significant other as a result of unanswered calls or texts due to a dead smartphone.  So, is there a solution that can get our romantic lives back on track while also making sure we hit the gym a few times a week? There is indeed and its name is Brick, the fast-growing Swedish startup that makes sure you can charge your phone no matter where you are – and you can do it on the go. 

Back in 2019, Brick CEO Emil Esselin came home from a night out with his girlfriend and couldn’t open his front door because his phone was out of power and that meant he wasn’t able to access his digital home lock.

“I’ve always been a tech kind of guy, but when I couldn’t get into my own home because my phone was dead it sparked the fundamental idea behind Brick: you should always be enabled by technology, not disabled,” says Emil Esselin. “But ownership is not the solution to the problem – it’s about tapping into the shared economy, which is what we are doing with Brick.

Access beats ownership – it’s better that you have things when you need them, rather than carrying things around for that moment when you might need them.

Emil Esselin CEO Brick

People have been lending, borrowing, and sharing things since time began, but the modern concept of the sharing economy – or collaborative consumption – is being enabled by new technologies and apps. According to PwC (Price Waterhouse Cooper) the shared economy is set to reach $335 billion by 2025 and companies working with sharing economies will grow by 2,333% over the next twelve years. But while many of us think of Uber or Airbnb when we think of the shared economy, it’s spreading to many other business models and turning some of them on their head. Why? Consumer expectations and demands play a big role, as do sustainability and cost.

Unlike earlier charging station solutions, you don’t put your phone into a Brick station and wait for it to charge. Instead, you scan the Brick station with the app on your phone and a power bank pops out. It has all the cords you need, no matter what kind of portable device you want to charge. And you can take the power bank with you as you go about your day, returning it to any Brickstation anywhere.

“The Brick  station solution is there for people when they need it – we’re your reliable partner,” says Emil Esselin. “We have Brick  stations installed in grocery stores, department stores, hotels, bars and restaurants, shopping malls, office spaces, and even on buses. For example, Stockholm invested millions installing USB chargers on buses. Now that they’re there everyone is moving away from USB ports. This points to a big problem: when it comes to technology and large corporations, if you want to do installations you’re always going to lag behind. We’re now working on the Stockholm buses and offering a retrofit, so they don’t need to invest during the production phase. Instead, we are installing Brick stations and tech-proofing their investment. But we’re not competing with the cord – we’re the solution when you have 15 percent left and you are running to an appointment or a meeting and need juice. We’re your lifesaver on the move.”

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The Brick solution not only answers to consumer demands – it does so in a sustainable way.

“If you look at a car, it’s not even used 95% of the time. If you look at a power bank you might carry in your bag, it’s probably not used 99% of the time,” says Emil Esselin. “We’re doing away with all of that extra electronic waste by making power banks available where and when you need them. I think the mindset is shifting and the shared economy is going to come to everything, which will boost sustainability and reduce e-waste.”

And if people don’t return the chargers to the same or another power bank? Not a problem. Brick charges a small deposit so if you don’t return the charger, it’s yours to keep and you will lose your deposit.

“We do want them returned, though,” laughs Emil Esselin. “We are developing an ecosystem with stations everywhere so that you can take a charger from one station and return it to another. You can even grab one in Stockholm and return it to a Brick station in Australia because the ecosystem we’re building is global.”

Brick developed its concept in Sweden, building up the technology – both the software and the hardware – so that they are able to scale quickly.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing is that of building infrastructure for the shared future. We are on the path of making our ecosystem expand rapidly and just signed Nigeria, Poland and Panama, so now we have 8 different network partners signed in the last eight months. All of the network partners have individual challenges in terms of IoT and connectivity so we are grateful for the expertise from Tele2. Soon we’ll be available on every continent in the world – our ecosystem has become global”

Tele2 IoT, connectivity & data

Most Brick stations are connected with Tele2 IoT SIM cards using 4G and LTE, although for some countries where there are regulatory challenges the setup is slightly different. The SIMs are managed with 2CONTROL (Cisco IoT Control Center).

“2CONTROL has been great – we have nothing to complain about at all,” says Emil Esselin “And without reliable connectivity our solution literally won’t work. If the connectivity isn’t working then no one can rent a charger and no one can return one because the app won’t be able to speak to the station.”

The Brick stations themselves don’t require much data – around half a megabyte a day –  but they do require constant communication, so Brick is taking advantage of roaming.

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