Tech-packed Pluto pods offer new working NEAR home solution

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Popping into a Pluto is now in full swing in St Albans, Hertfordshire, the start-up’s first store that features five pods for customers plus a pilot one for research and Purifi, its own air cleaning decontamination system.

Charges are pay-as-you-go or from £29 a month for two hours a week and first adopters are young professionals, parents and entrepreneurs such as coaches and consultants.

“We’re not just building furniture but a proprietary platform. This is tangible tech for local use adjusted to individual needs,” says chief executive and co-founder advertising tech expert Luke Aviet.

“People can just unlock a pod through their mobile phone and we’ve extended our opening hours from 6am to 10pm after seeing a lot of people wanting to use the pods to work on side hustles or for studying at weekends.”

With childhood friend and furniture designer Greig Fensome, the two joined forces three years ago to solve a property mismatch “between what individuals want and what was available locally to them, and address not only how space is being used, but time too and make it more efficient,” they explain.

“Our skills blended well and we decided to focus on the changing nature of high streets, the decline of physical retail and workforce mobility. That was pre-pandemic, now the market has moved to us. 

“Our pods’ plug and play modular design makes it easy to transform empty retail units and help drive trade back to high streets, giving home workers a change of scene.” 

Unlike pods in offices, Space Republic‘s tech-packed Pluto store is designed for public use from booking software to control safety. 

When lockdown first happened the pair saw that as a threat, then they realised how relevant it was to what Pluto was already configured to offer.  

“In our controlled environment, there is only one person inside a pod at a time, it’s completely sealed,” adds Aviet. 

The London-based company now has a team of six while investment, incorporating angel backing, has been £500,000 plus. It is now embarking on a further raise. 

Funding includes an Innovate UK grant for a project to support development of its Purifi decontamination system. Carried out in collaboration with Brunel University it tested Far-UVC’s light technology’s ability to destroy pathogens such as coronaviruses in indoor spaces while people are present.

Full results are expected later this year, but ones so far “are very encouraging,” say Aviet and Fensome who are now talking to other universities about further research on different aspects of the pod and its functionality.

“This will continue to be very relevant as the world starts to re-open,” they explain as they also focus on launching in more locations including public buildings, offering corporate subscriptions and developing a concession model.

“We don’t despair for the high street, it has huge potential as behaviour changes,” they declare. “It’s perfect for today’s new hybrid life.”

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