(Editor’s note: Dispatches inadvertently misidentified Ivan Mrvoš in a photo. That error has been corrected.)
Today I sat on a smart bench in Split, Croatia. Its urban design and charging icon drew me in.
The sleek black surface reflected the sunlight like a beacon inviting passersby to rest for a minute. As I waited for my Uber, I read the plaque attached to the wall (photo at right) above the bench.
I learned that the bench was not only good looking but hard working. Embedded with photovoltaic modules that harness the power of the sun, this energy-efficient technological marvel serves as a wireless charger, a WiFi hotspot, a data collector, an ambient light source, and even a place to cool off on a hot day.
Invented by Ivan Mrvoš, a twenty-something Croatian entrepreneur, the Steora smart bench is the flagship product of his award-winning company, Include.
Mrvoš understands that smart technology makes smart cities. The data collected from the benches can help commercial businesses and local governments evaluate traffic patterns, provide information to residents and consumers, and light public spaces using renewable energy.
Mrvoš is one of the rising stars of Croatia’s booming technology industry. China has recognized its potential. It plans to invest billions of euros over the next two decades in Croatian technology as well as in the country’s construction, shipbuilding, and film industries.
It seems like everywhere you look lately, you see signs of Croatian ingenuity.
The country has its aesthetic appeal, no doubt. But it also has a highly skilled workforce and low production costs, making it the perfect place to develop technological innovation that can be pushed to global markets cheaply and efficiently.
Seven Croatian companies were included on Deloitte’s 2018 Technology Fast 50 list for Central Europe including Steora. These companies represent the best and brightest of the future of innovation in fields such as software design and development, data capture, electric hypercar technology, internet marketing, and mobile and web development.
The next time you visit Croatia, look beyond its historic sites, stunning natural beauty, and movie tie-ins. Sit on a smart bench, drive a Rimac hypercar, or meet with a software developer to get your project off the ground.
About the author: Beth Hoke rejoined the expat life after spending her childhood in Europe and the United States, then settling in Chicagoland to raise two daughters.
Now an empty nester, she is roaming Europe, armed with a TEFL certificate and an online position teaching English for EF.
Beth has been traveling around Europe for two years. She’s filed posts for Dispatches Europe from at least six countries including Italy, Germany, Croatia, and Madeira, Portugal.
You can see all her posts here.